For more than 30 years, Dr. John Fleetham has taken care of patients as a dedicated physician at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and UBC Hospital. But in the spring of 2016, the roles were reversed when he found himself waiting for surgery to remove a large cyst from his spinal cord.

“I noticed that when I jogged or when I was at the end of a golf game, I was hurting,” he recalls. “About three or four months later, I started to develop pain in my back and pain going down my leg.”

The cyst was pressing on a nerve and affecting blood flow. VGH surgeon Dr. Marcel Dvorak performed a three-hour operation on Dr. Fleetham with impressive results.

“I was in the hospital for three or four days and off work for a few months while recovering,” Dr. Fleetham says. “However, the morning after my surgery, I was able to walk — it was incredible.”

Unfortunately, months after the successful spinal surgery, he was diagnosed with arthritis in his left hip and it would need to be replaced at UBC Hospital.

“My recovery was remarkably fast [after hip surgery] and I was back in the office the following week,” he says with a smile. “I’m delighted to say I’m back on my bike now too.”

He says the positive experiences as a patient were eye-opening. He is reflective of his time in the hospital.

“My recovery from both surgeries has been tremendously successful because I was treated by the right teams and in the right place,” he says. “I saw a different side to health care.”

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