Prevea Health’s Dr. Ashok Rai opens up about recent health scare

The head of a health care organization, and an M.D., Dr. Ashok Rai felt he was too busy to get his annual checkups.
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 2:44 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2022 at 4:39 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Over the past few years, Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai has been a very public figure in his efforts to keep communities throughout Northeast Wisconsin informed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During Men’s Health Awareness Month, Dr. Rai is opening up about his own recent health scare and the steps he wishes he had taken to prevent, or at least lessen the severity of his condition.

“You never know what your body is going through until you actually get it checked, but I think I and a lot of people around me were pretty shocked at how bad my health had become,” says Dr. Rai.

After feeling a little discomfort in his chest in November 2020, Dr. Rai saw a cardiologist.

“He put a stethoscope on my chest and heard a blaring murmur consistent with mitral valve regurgitation, did an echocardiogram pretty soon after that, said I had some issues, probably surgery maybe 5-10 years from there because the heart was tolerating it well, but I needed to have an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart once a year to follow up,” explains Dr. Rai.

A year later, and busy with another surge of COVID cases in Northeast Wisconsin, Dr. Rai blew off his check-up.

Finally this February, after constant hounding from his doctor, he went in.

“And it showed that I really didn’t have a whole lot of time to wait for that surgery, that the heart was being affected by the mitral valve issues and I needed to start to schedule something,” says Dr. Rai.

It wasn’t the diagnosis Dr. Rai expected to hear.

“There was a lot of fear, and anger, you’re mad that here I am about to turn 50, what part of life is going to be affected and to be honest with you, I was mad at myself too because a lot of this I had to own at that point,” says Dr. Rai.

And here’s why, leading up to surgery Dr. Rai underwent a health assessment and received more troubling news.

“One of the biggest issues they found is I was a type 2 diabetic, and not a borderline, not a controlled diabetic, but a severely uncontrolled type 2 diabetic, my fasting blood sugar was over 300, my hemoglobin A1C, which is a measurement of how your blood sugar has been running for over 90 days, was over 10 which is a really bad number, so a lot of shocking news all at once to be honest with you,” explains Dr. Rai.

Like a lot of men, Dr. Rai had avoided the doctor.

His last annual physical was 10 years ago.

“And it’s not like my physicians weren’t trying to get me to follow up, but I have the advantage of saying I’m good, I’m ok, I think I was dumb enough, I really want to stress dumb here, to think I would know what’s going on with my body and in all honesty I should’ve known better as a physician, but there were a lot of things distracting me over the last few years especially, but pre-COVID I didn’t have a really good excuse,” says Dr. Rai.

In late April, Dr. Rai underwent open-heart surgery to repair his mitral valve.

Eight weeks later, he’s on the road to recovery, able to play a little golf this past weekend, and now back to work.

But due to his diabetes, Dr. Rai’s daily life now includes wearing a glucose monitor, medications and significant diet modifications.

He is grateful, though, and urges others not to take their health for granted like he did.

“You won’t know when you’re sick, you won’t know it, you got to let people who do know to see you, the simplest thing that would’ve made this better for me was to go to the doctor once a year, the one thing I encourage patients to do and encourage my community to do, I didn’t do. Everything that happened to me outside of the valve decompensating was under my control and I did not control it,” says Dr. Rai.

To learn more about the importance of annual physicals, and common men’s health concerns, visit www.prevea.com/MensHealth

Dr. Ashok Rai, president/CEO of Prevea Health, talked about his condition and recovery

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