Sir: On July 9 at 5 p.m., my wife went to the fitness center for one of her weekly workouts. She left the gym before the cool down began. My son observed her going to the washroom and sent my niece in to make sure that she was all right. She was very unstable on her feet and a little delirious. My son was called, and he carried her into the change room. He called me and told me to come quickly because Mom was not doing well.
In the meantime, he called 911 and the paramedics were wheeling the stretcher inside when I arrived. She was placed on the stretcher and was complaining of chest pain. What started out as a routine check for heat exhaustion quickly escalated into a heart attack and then into cardiac arrest.
My two sons and I witnessed her die on the stretcher. “Is this really happening?”
The mood quickly changed from treatment for heat exhaustion to getting her heart started again. CPR was administered by a nurse, who was attending class, while one of the paramedics was intubating her and the other got the defibrillator ready.
The minutes that it took from the time her heart stopped and the paddles shocked her heart back to life seemed like hours. The paramedics rushed her to the hospital and a team was assembled there to stabilize her and get her ready for transport to London. She was placed on life support and iced to bring her body temperature down.
About three hours later in London, we were allowed to go into the room in ICU. There were tubes sticking out all over, ice under her armpits and a blanket on her with refrigerant lines built into it. She was in an induced coma with a ventilator breathing for her and a balloon pump inserted at her groin to help her heart beat.
A clot buster had been given to her in Chatham, but the night was very unstable. First thing in the morning, two stents were put in and once the flow of blood was improved, her heart began to stabilize.
That evening the ice was removed and the anaesthetic was stopped. Within an hour, she began to move but we went to the quiet room and collapsed because of two days without sleep. The nurse came down twice through the night to tell us that she was resting comfortably.
Even before the cooling blanket came off, her temperature and heart rate began to increase. It was as if she was saying, “Let’s hurry up and get these things off me.” Everything began to improve rapidly. The ventilator was turned down and eventually taken out. The balloon pump followed and her vitals just kept getting stronger.
The first thing that she signalled before the breathing tube came out was a cigarette between her fingers and shaking her head, “no more.” A week later, she was moved from ICU to CCU and then was moved again to another room. On July 18, she was discharged with a list of medications and instructions for the coming days.
The sun never looked brighter and the grass never greener on the trip home. Leaving the hospital, Yvonne was told that she not only suffered a heart attack that resulted in death, but that not many women survive those types of heart attacks. She was one of the few that got a second chance. It was not her time and she received a newfound appreciation for life.
We were told that this event in her life was inevitable and it was not the fitness training that brought it on. Ultimately this could not have a happened at a better time or a better place. In 15 minutes, she would have been on her way home and I would have been leaving the house. I could have come back to an unpleasant situation. Instead, there were people there that observed there was a problem. Professional and trained people were on the scene to spring into action.
I want to thank everyone that was involved. We can find a lot of reasons to criticize our health professionals and yes, there are some things that need to be tweaked in the system, but my gratitude and the gratitude of our family goes out to the health care professionals of the 911 call centre, the EMS, and the emergency teams at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and University Hospital in London.
We will forever have a debt of gratitude for the quick response and the professionalism that you have administered during this time of trauma. We thank you all and thank God for helping to pull it all together.