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LETTER: Grateful for second chance at life


At 77 years old I survived a heart attack. I didn’t know I had severe aortic stenosis, I had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease two years previously and many of the symptoms presented the same.

I had gone for a biopsy on my right upper lobe for a possible cancer which was complicated by a massive pulmonary hemorrhage requiring ICU admission and had to be resuscitated. My ribs were fractured and I was in intensive care at the Royal Jubilee Hospital for 22 days. When in intensive care, the doctors and nurses operated like a well-oiled machine. They took care of my every need for 21 days and took care of one another. I could hear the conversations outside my door when my dedicated nurse would brief the next nurse for their 12-hour shift on how I had responded and what I said. They cared for me, body and soul, and I felt safe and heard.

Our health-care system has cracks as one in five Canadians has no family doctor. I lost mine this year and was left to sort it all out myself. On this journey, I am working with a neurologist for my autoimmune disease, a thoracic surgeon for my cancer and a cardiologist for my heart. Specialists who are in contact with me make appointments and follow up with results. My job is to follow instructions, ask questions and keep everything straight.

You see I received a gift. A new heart valve by way of a procedure called a TAVI, a transcatheter heart valve. It saved my life.

I am convalescing at home presently with my immediate support system: husband of 56 years, daughter and her husband. They attended and heard what was said at every step of the way up to coming home to rest up for my cancer surgery.

I’ve been given a second chance to live the rest of my life in gratitude. Gratitude for the system that does exist and for being in the right place at the right time. Gratitude for my ability to advocate for myself. We have hope.

Isobel Jarema