Gerry Everett of Ridgeway had no idea that her very life was in danger.
“I was having trouble breathing and I frequently felt exhausted,” says Gerry, recalling the start of her patient journey in 2000. “My local doctor suspected I had asthma and gave me an inhaler, but it didn’t help.”
After her condition failed to improve, Gerry underwent an x-ray at her local hospital in 2002.
“Based on what he saw from the x-ray, my doctor thought I was experiencing heart failure,” she recalls. “He decided that I should undergo cardioversion treatment.”
Cardioversion involves treating the heart with electrical shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm. At one point during the treatment, her heart stopped beating and she was resuscitated with chest compressions. When cardioversion proved ineffective, she was transferred to McMaster University Medical Centre and then to Hamilton General Hospital (HGH) for extensive testing.
“Without the proper diagnosis and the defibrillator, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.”
“They determined that I had both an irregular heartbeat and tachycardia, which is a heartbeat that’s too fast. The combination made my condition difficult to diagnose and it was potentially deadly.”
Gerry was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, which helps to normalize her heartbeat. The defibrillator helped with her breathing and exhaustion. The device would occasionally “fire,” delivering an electrical shock to restore her heart rate when it grew dangerously fast.
“I could predict when it would fire within about a minute of it happening,” she says. “My heart would start racing and it would feel uncomfortable, then I would feel a sudden pain in my chest as it fired. Others have described it as feeling like you were being kicked by a mule. It happens very quickly and then I feel much better.”
Although the experience of having the defibrillator fire was always an unpleasant one, Gerry realized that it was necessary to save her life.
“Without the proper diagnosis and the defibrillator, I probably wouldn’t be alive today. That’s how my mother died and it’s possible that I inherited my condition from her.”
Gerry’s defibrillator has been replaced several times over the years and she still receives follow-up care at HGH. Grateful to the cardiac team at HGH for saving her life, she decided to “pay it forward” as a 2017 Strides for The General patient ambassador and support the important work being done at the hospital.
“I’m feeling good nowadays thanks to the wonderful care I received,” she says. “My time at The General was a super positive experience. I think that people should support The Foundation because something could happen to you unexpectedly and you want to have the best health care possible.”
Register and fundraise for Strides for The General at www.hamiltonhealth.ca/strides.