‘Lucky to be alive’: Heart attack survivor Scott Wallace shares his story

Almost every day, someone in Northwestern Ontario needs life-saving angioplasty. The faster the treatment, the better the results – that’s why having local cardiac services is so important. Your donation to the Northern Cardiac Fund today will help save even more lives. You can make your donation right this minute online at healthsciencesfoundation.ca or call Deborah and Kerri at (807) 345-4673. Thank you!

I was like many people – I never thought much about angioplasty before my heart attack. But the fact that we have it right here in Thunder Bay probably saved my life…

I am not your typical heart attack patient. I was only 50 years old at the time, and in fact I had just gotten back the results of a complete physical that showed I was in excellent health. But here’s what happened. One night I was working late trying to catch up after a ski trip with family in British Columbia. Later that night, I was hungry and ready to call it a day. I was on my way out for a quick bite when I started to feel light-headed. I pulled my truck over and sat down on the curb. Sure enough, a wave of nausea swept over me and a hot flash rose from my feet to my chest before the world started spinning.

Afterwards I felt fine except for the cold sweats. At that point, I wasn’t too worried – I had fainting spells before, though admittedly not out of the blue like that. I went home, had a shower, and went to bed. But I couldn’t get to sleep. I just kept sweating. My two daughters were away that night so I was home alone. I called the paramedics, telling them that I just didn’t feel right. The last thing I remember clearly is going down to the landing at the back door, unlocking it, and turning on the light for them.

After that, it’s a jumble. Images were blurry and confusing: in the back of the ambulance, bright lights of what must have been the Emergency Department, my mother and my sister standing over me crying, a woman holding my hand.

I woke up a few hours later, and I felt completely fine again. But they wouldn’t let me get up. I was surprised to find that I was in the ICU recovering from a heart attack, caused by a clot which had completely blocked blood flow to my heart. That woman holding my hand turned out to be Dr. Andrea MacDougall feeding the catheter through a vein into my arm to get rid of the clot. I didn’t feel a thing except comforted.

It hit me how lucky I was to be alive.

A really close friend of mine had the exact same kind of blockage a few years earlier. That was before we had the Angioplasty Program here in Thunder Bay, so he was flown out to Toronto. Except that he never made it. The artery to his heart was so completely blocked (exactly like mine was) that his heart just gave out. I realized that I probably wouldn’t have survived the trip either. It was – and still is – an emotional experience, feeling like the luckiest man alive but at the same time wishing desperately it could have worked out the same for him.

Our local Angioplasty Program saved my life, plain and simple. The staff at the Cath Lab, the nurses in ICU, the incredible doctors we have here – I’ve seen first-hand how they go above and beyond for their patients. The whole procedure from calling the ambulance to recovering in ICU took less than three hours. What I learned later was that Cath Labs and the equipment in them were funded in large part by donors through the Northern Cardiac Fund.  Thanks to donors, we now had round-the-clock angioplasty care here in Northwestern Ontario so people can get this life-saving procedure closer to home.

If you were one of those donors, I can’t thank you enough. You helped save my life. I’m telling my story because there are more lives to be saved. I want to do everything I can to make sure the next heart attack victim who comes through those doors gets an even better chance of survival. Your donation today will help fund the equipment and programs to help provide better and faster care to cardiac patients, right here at home.

Your donations save lives. I’m living proof. Thank you for supporting the Northern Cardiac Fund.