The birth of a grandchild is one of life’s greatest blessings. It’s the very reason Mary took a month off work to support her daughter during this new chapter.

It’s also the reason Mary rationalized that the symptoms she was experiencing for two weeks — shortness of breath, her heart fluttering and an unpleasant feeling in her stomach — would go away on their own. But that simply wasn’t the case. 

After the birth of her granddaughter at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, Mary couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. So, she visited the Emergency Department where an ECG was performed right away.

Mary was then admitted to the ICU before going into cardiac arrest and her heart stopped beating. ICU physician Dr. Eyal Golan was at the helm and acted immediately.

Unlike anything Dr. Golan had ever seen before, Mary was fully awake when he and the ICU team took turns performing CPR. More than that, she was able to communicate with them but then unresponsive when they stopped CPR. This continued to happen for over an hour and a half.

“Mary’s heart was beating just long enough for me to call her husband and four children to come say their goodbyes,” says Dr. Golan.

While CPR was performed, each family member took turns speaking to Mary, holding her hand and saying how much they loved her — knowing that this was likely the last time they could.

Incredibly, after over 90 minutes of CPR, Mary’s heart started beating again and for a long enough period of time that she was placed in a medically induced coma to protect her brain. Dr. Golan warned her family that she may not make it through the night.

But, as Mary puts it, she was way too stubborn to let that be the end. “Dr. Golan is my hero, my guardian angel,’’ says Mary. “Dr. Golan never gave up on me, telling his team to keep going while performing CPR. Because of their persistence I defied the odds.”

Once stable, Mary was transferred to the Regional Cardiac Care Program at Southlake Regional Health Centre where tests showed that Mary had a heart infection, which most likely developed during the two weeks she felt unwell. Doctors also worried she could have brain damage. But once again Mary defied
expectations, and after waking from her coma, she immediately recognized her husband.

After a 10-day stay at Southlake Regional Health Centre, Mary returned to Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital for follow-up care, spending three days in the cardiac inpatient unit before returning home to continue her recovery.

“I shouldn’t be here, but I am,” says Mary. “I want my health care team at Mackenzie Health to know that they gave me my life back.”

As she was recovering, Mary was determined to find a way to thank her real-life superhero, Dr. Golan. She and her husband visited Dr. Golan and presented him with a plaque in honour of his dedication — a powerful, visual reminder that he’s the reason Mary is alive today.

While Mary’s recovery journey is far from over, she looks forward to spending time with family and friends, and eventually returning to work, all with one goal in mind: to live each day with purpose, like it’s her last.