Sandy is just one of our many Heart Institute Ambassadors. She actively promotes the Institute’s great work on Twitter. Actually, that’s how we found her.
“You guys are that bright light that we’re all looking for,” says Sandy. “Not only did you save Mike’s life, you also saved mine.”
Mike is Sandy’s best friend. They met in their apartment duplex 15 years ago. Mike had just moved alone into the apartment upstairs and Sandy had been living in the apartment downstairs for two years. Food brought the two together.
“I would often cook food for myself and bring him some leftovers,” she says. “From there, we became great friends.”
Three years later, they decided to move in together. As they were moving into their new place, Mike began to experience some slight discomfort on the left side of his body. “He was putting some pictures up and he turned to me and said ‘I can’t feel my left side, I’m going to fall’ as he fell to the ground.”
Sandy held him so that he would not hit his head. She knew he was having a stroke. She laid his head on the ground and rushed to find some aspirin. As he regained consciousness minutes later, Sandy’s troubles had just begun: Mike did not want to go to the hospital.
“He didn’t want to go to the hospital. I begged him but he wouldn’t budge. I called a friend of mine who’s a doctor who told me to drag him to the hospital, but I couldn’t get through to him. I brought the phone to Mike so that he could speak to my friend. They spoke for ten minutes and when they finished and Mike put his coat on, I knew the doctor got through to him.”
They made their way to the hospital and met Dr. Benjamin Chow who confirmed Sandy’s fears. Mike had had a stroke. Dr. Chow referred Mike to Dr. Haissam Haddad who Sandy calls a true gem. Dr. Haddad gave Mike the right medication to increase the amount of blood going to both his heart and brain. Initially, only 22 per cent of the blood was pumping out of his heart. Medication improved the blood flow by 26 per cent. More needed to be done. Dr. Haddad then referred Mike to Dr. Calum Redpath who suggested that Mike should get an implantable defibrillator. The surgery was set. Mike would receive an implantable defibrillator no more than a few months after the stroke. Dr. Michael Gollob was responsible for the surgery which left, according to Sandy, barely any scar. She says that once Mike got out of the operating room, he looked brand new.
“It wasn’t just the doctors who did an amazing job, the nurse Marie-Josée was just an absolute doll. The volunteers went out of their way to help Mike.” Mike was walking in a matter of hours. He walked so much he was “using up the floor”, Sandy says.
These days, Mike is at home recovering. Sandy says that he had to quit his job but he’s looking at life in a positive way, something he never did.
“He tells everyone how happy he is,” says a tearful but joyful Sandy. “He was a poor eater, he worked far too much, and he was always stressed. But he is alive and that’s all that counts.”
Since this experience, both Sandy and Mike encourage everyone to get a physical, get active and pay attention to the stressors in their lives.
Learn more about physical activity and reducing the stressors in your life at the Heart Institute’s Prevention and Wellness centre.