Ann Wilkinson never saw it coming. A former nurse with a healthy, active lifestyle, she never thought a heart attack was something she had to worry about.
In fact, when it happened after a swim at a local recreation centre, she dismissed the dizziness as another bout of the vertigo she’d been dealing with for years. Looking back, she is grateful her friends and staff at the pool didn’t hesitate to call 911.
Ten minutes later, she was in an ambulance and 15 minutes after that she was in our catheterization lab at St. Mary’s. The speed with which she was transported and treated is a testament to the partnership between the cardiac team at St. Mary’s and the paramedics of Waterloo Region. They activated a ‘Code STEMI’ from the poolside and bypassed our emergency department altogether, accessing the cath lab directly where the emergency response team was waiting for her arrival. For patients like Ann who are treated under a ‘Code STEMI’, the speed with which our cardiac team responds not only saves their life, but gives them the best shot at recuperation by limiting the amount of muscle damage caused by a heart attack.
Today Ann is not only recuperating, she’s thriving thanks to our team at the St. Mary’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre.
With the help of our staff, Ann is working hard to regain her strength and stamina while also working through the self-described “shell shock” of having a heart attack in the first place. The centre provides a safe environment for our patients in the aftermath of such a life threatening event. Our mission is to care for the whole person – mind, body and spirit – to give them the best chance to recover and go on leading healthy productive lives. For Ann, that means more quality time with her husband, two children and four grandchildren.
Ann and her family found out what many people don’t know – that heart disease is highly prevalent in women and sadly, is the number one cause of death of women in Canada. At St. Mary’s, our primary job is to treat our patients when they need us most but we also feel it is our responsibility to educate our community about the realities of heart disease and the frequency with which it affects women. We’re asking everyone to learn about the prevalence of women’s heart disease and to tell the women they love to keep their hearts healthy and safe.