Karanjit Singh and William Wong argued over the phone this week, with one accusing the other of tricking him into running the Urban Cow half marathon this Sunday in Sacramento.
Singh is a doctor, a Dignity Health cardiologist in fact, and Wong, his patient. In their jousts, however, they looked like friends.
Wong, 71, survived a heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery in 2013 and soon after another cardiac episode that required a stent. An avid runner since his twenties, Wong said his genes or eating habits — snacking on giant bags of Costco corn chips — likely caused issues with his ticker.
He knew he had to stay on top of his heart health, so when he moved from the freezing winters of suburban Detroit to the warmer climes of Sacramento in 2017, he signed on as a patient of Singh. Since then, he has put the cardiologist to the test, constantly asking for tests and examinations.
“Mr. Wong is a lovely guy, but he’s very persuasive,” Singh said, prompting a chuckle from Wong. He “thinks if his running time drops, it’s because his heart isn’t working properly.” This man has been bugging me since 2017, and I’ve now done many stress tests on him to prove that his heart is fine.
The doctor, 59, said he decided to take a different approach to show Wong he could be confident about his heart health this year, by offering to run a half marathon with his patient.
“It was one of those moments,” Singh said. “I looked at (Mr. Wong), and he looked at me, and he just jumped on it and said, ‘Do you want to run with me?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, 100% I’m going to run with you.’ And that’s how it started.
The offer meant a lot to Wong.
“Dr. Singh convinced me to do this. I will not take 100% credit. Certainly not. I have to say I tell Dr Singh that I will be 72 soon and I have seen many doctors in my time but I have never had a doctor who invited me to physical events or a activity. like that. And, Dr. Singh’s answer, ironically perhaps, was, “Well, I’m not a doctor.” … I agree 100%.
Singh was so inspired by the idea of running with one of his patients that he decided to see if others would like to join. He wrote a message on a whiteboard in his office, inviting patients to run with their doctor.
Fourteen other patients signed up for the Urban Cow Half Marathon, and two other people from the Dignity Health team did as well. Each will do it at their own pace, but Singh invited them to his home on Saturday for a pre-race dinner.
How a Cardiologist Stays Healthy
Singh, who also swims and rides a bike as part of his weekly exercise routine, said he also plans to hold events with patients who regularly participate in these sports.
Even in his personal life, Singh said, he always tried to model healthy choices. As a doctor, he knew that the high-calorie American diet led to increased rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Then he read about how the American diet was also pushing girls to hit puberty at increasingly earlier ages, increasing their risk of breast cancer.
He had two daughters and a son and wanted them to live long and healthy lives, and he felt he had to set an example for them. He gave up meat and adopted a vegetarian diet in 2003.
“I’m a big believer in a whole plant-based diet,” Singh said. “Now it doesn’t make you bulletproof, but it does improve your chances of survival and disease regression in many cases. … These are very important things that are integral to your overall health. .
Singh also returned to the exercise of running, something he had enjoyed as a child. He completed a marathon every year for about 10 years, finishing the California International Marathon here in the Sacramento area in 2011.
It makes sense for a cardiologist to get into this sport. Research has shown that running regularly reduces the risk of heart disease and helps prevent blood clots from forming in arteries and blood vessels. Walking, swimming and cycling provide similar benefits.
Singh has been successful at home in getting his kids to adopt heart-healthy habits – he recently completed a half-marathon with his daughter – that he’s also encouraged his patients to make lifestyle changes that will help them. help to stay healthy.
“MMedicine is a calling,” said Singh, who practices at Dignity’s Spanos Heart & Vascular Center, “and … you have to treat your patients like you would treat your family.
Running further at 71
Since Singh and Wong agreed on June 3 to race the Urban Cow Half Marathon, Wong has been testing his heart in a new way. Rather than just focusing on how fast he runs, he focused on how far he can run.
“When Dr Singh suggested I run a half marathon, I said, ‘Boy, the longest I’ve run was a 10,000 km since my heart attack. I thought that was my limit “Wong said.”I wasn’t really convinced that I would be able to do it, but I persisted.
Wong pushed himself, “like runners tend to do,” he said. He’s done seven miles, eight miles, 10 miles, and he’s now run the 13.1 miles required for a half marathon twice on his own.
“I know I can go the distance,” he said. “I feel confident about it.”
Wong’s son Michael is flying to Sacramento on Saturday from New York. An avid cyclist, he took up racing so he could race alongside his father in the Urban Cow event.
When Singh saw patients, Dignity workers, and even patients’ relatives sign up, he began to realize that this event was going to be just as special as the moment he and Wong agreed to do it.
“A lot of my patients become my friends, and I openly joke with them that at some point I think I should pay you to come see me rather than be the other way around,” Singh said. “It was one of those times.”
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