Saving a Life: From 30 days to 30 seconds

Thanks to your donations to the Northern Cardiac Fund over the past several years, our interventional cardiologists, like Dr. Bagherli, are able to treat heart attacks right away, providing the best possible care for our hearts at home.

The thing about heart attacks is that they affect everyone, not just the patient. Nobody knows that better than the Andrews family. When Tom Andrews had his first heart attack in 2000, his wife Beth was frantic as he was rushed to McKellar Hospital.

“I can honestly say it was the most frightening experience I’ve been through,” Beth said.

What made it worse was having to leave town for care – and waiting a month to do it. The cardiac team there quickly got him stabilized. But we didn’t have angioplasty services in Thunder Bay back then, so he had to be flown out to Toronto.

“They explained to us that there were actually people sicker than Tom, if you can imagine,” Beth said. Tom ended up spending 30 days at McKellar before being flown out. “I’m sure he woke up each morning, wondering if he would get the angioplasty he needed or if maybe that day would be his last.”

He finally had his angioplasty and a stent put in at Toronto General Hospital. Since then, Dr. Chris Lai has closely monitored Tom. He had a few scares, but it was always something minor. Always, that is, until 2013. During a routine checkup, doctors found a problem and Tom needed another angioplasty immediately.

“All the emotions I had felt 13 years before flooded back,” Beth said, who was at work when she found out. “I told the nurse I’d be right there – I wanted to see Tom before he went in. But she said, ‘Oh, he is just going in now so no need to rush.’ I wasn’t sure what to feel. I was a little panicked that I couldn’t see him, but at the same time I felt overjoyed that we had gone from waiting 30 days for angioplasty to waiting 30 seconds. It was like going from the Flintstones to the Jetsons in just over a decade.”

Beth arrived at the Health Sciences Centre shortly before Tom got out of the Cath Lab from his procedure. This time, Tom stayed just one night and was home the next day. And they didn’t have to travel anywhere.

“Can you begin to imagine what a difference having angioplasty here in Thunder Bay meant to our lives?” Beth asked.

In fact, our local Angioplasty Program has helped improve the lives of thousands of patients and their families. During angioplasty, doctors use what is called a C-arm fluoroscope, an X-ray machine that allows them to see their way through the arteries to the blockage.

Thanks to your donations over the past several years to the Northern Cardiac Fund, we’ve been able to purchase a new C-arm that provides 3D images, which give doctors a better picture and uses low-doses of X-rays needed to get pictures without sacrificing image quality.

And now we’re embarking on an exciting future where we’ll soon have access to life-saving cardiac and vascular surgery right here at home.

Beth, Tom, and their family know firsthand how important it is to have cardiac services right here in Thunder Bay. The difference between 30 days to treatment and 30 seconds can be a lifetime.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your continued support of our Cardiac Care programs! Let’s continue to take care of our hearts at home.