According to the Roman Senator and philosopher Seneca, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I am living proof of that centuries-old adage.
At 56, when I experienced persistent discomfort across my shoulders and ribs, I put it down to a recurrence of acid reflux, which I had experienced years ago prior to my permanent move to Salt Spring Island. But when the pain persisted during that September of 2016, I asked my brother and sister-in-law, who—fortunately—were visiting us from Toronto, to drive me to Lady Minto Hospital to get checked out. In retrospect, I thought at the time that I might be overreacting and wasting valuable emergency time and resources on a minor inconvenience. Little did I know I was on the verge of death.
Days later, lying in the ICU cardiac wing of the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, the puzzle pieces slowly came into focus. When I exited the vehicle in front of the Lady Minto Hospital emergency doors (my brother, Jim, thankfully insisted on driving), I collapsed onto the pavement. A nearby nurse coming off shift immediately sprang into action, administering CPR and calling for a crash cart. Fortunately, a paramedic team had just dropped off a patient and was nearby with a mobile crash cart, which pumped currents through me not once but twice, to restart my heart.
Once I was stabilized at the hospital, using a procedure that saved not only my life but also most of the function of my heart, a helicopter transported me to Victoria where hours later an operation inserted two stents into my artery.
A widow maker. That’s what they call the type of cardiac attack I experienced. Aptly named, it is a sudden blockage of the left anterior descending artery, stopping almost all blood to the left side of the heart and causing sudden death. As a pollster, a statistician, I rolled around in my mind the odds of survival as I recovered over the next few months. My research suggests only about 7% of people survive such an event. One in fourteen. I was one of the lucky ones, due to the skill, training, quick response and life saving equipment at Lady Minto Hospital.
Four years later, after a rigorous heart and blood examination, my cardiologist said rather matter-of-factly that I was lucky (there’s that massive little word again) that CPR was administered so quickly and that the blood thinning procedure was enacted right away at Lady Minto. Going forward, with a healthier diet, exercise and some heart protective drugs, he said, the initial quick response had been fortuitous: I still had some scar tissue on the left side of my heart, but its function remains surprisingly good given the trauma of a widow maker attack.
Luck had something to do with my survival, but I would have been one of the thirteen out of fourteen that didn’t survive if not for the dedication and preparation of the staff at Lady Minto Hospital Emergency Department.
Join me in supporting the campaign for the new Emergency Department at Lady Minto Hospital Foundation. You can safely and easily donate online at ladymintofoundation.com/donate