Home for the holidays

Home for the holidays

Jim was home for the holidays in 2015 after a devastating medical emergency that could have claimed his life.

“I don’t remember having the heart attack,” says Jim Francey of Burlington, who was off-road biking with friends in August 2015. “I passed out and fell off my bike without warning.”

Luckily two of Jim’s biking friends were paramedics and they performed CPR until the ambulance team arrived. After locating Jim, who was deep in the woods, the team carried him to the ambulance by stretcher and rushed him to Hamilton General Hospital (HGH).

“Especially because of the prolonged time it took to reach him in such an isolated area, there was a strong chance that he wouldn’t wake up,” says Jim’s daughter, Heather. “If he did wake up, he might have significant neurological deficits.”

Jim was placed into a medically-induced coma for a week to help his body heal. After an angiogram revealed that one of his arteries was 95 per cent blocked, a stent was inserted to allow blood flow through the artery.

Although scans indicated serious brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain from the heart attack, Jim defied the odds when he awoke and spoke for the first time.

“His voice was unrecognizable,” remembers Heather. “It was flat and weak, the complete opposite of the booming voice we were familiar with. He was confused and had no recollection of the past year, but it was promising when he was able to move his arms and legs.”

After spending a month in the Coronary Care Unit, Jim was transferred to the Regional Rehabilitation Centre for ongoing care. With intense physiotherapy and occupational therapy, he slowly began to regain strength and functionality throughout his body.

“The therapists taught me how to walk, eat and bathe again,” says Jim. “I slowly recovered over the next few months and was back home in December, just in time for Christmas. It felt great being home with my family again.”

“I don’t remember having the heart attack.”

Although he still struggles with short-term memory, Jim’s recovery has been extraordinary. He is back to many of the regular activities he enjoyed before the heart attack, including regular hikes through Burlington and long-distance bike rides.

“We’re so grateful that he’s here with us today,” says Jim’s wife, Hilary. “The alternative would have been too terrible to imagine.”

The family is thankful for the specialized cardiac care available at HGH.

“I’ve learned from this experience that life is so fragile and you can’t take anything for granted,” says Heather. “Please support the Foundation and make a difference in the lives of families like ours this holiday season.”

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This holiday season, you can give the greatest gift of all – the Gift of Health – by supporting Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation. Donate at giftofhealth.ca.