Saint John Regional Hospital – Michelle’s Story

Michelle Price didn’t pay much attention to persistent aches in her legs, back and chest, assuming she had pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle during the ordinary course of her work with a moving company.

It wasn’t until last December when she found herself on the floor of her bedroom late one night, gasping for breath, that she realized she may have been wrong about the pinched nerve. In fact, Ms. Price, 53, was having a massive heart attack – the kind that’s almost always fatal were it not for the advanced technology and care available at the New Brunswick Heart Centre at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Rushed from Fredericton to the Heart Centre, Ms. Price was in a coma for two weeks and doesn’t know many of the details about the medical struggle to save her life. She only knows that cardiac surgeon Dr. Christopher White and the medical staff at the Regional fought to keep her alive. She will be forever grateful.

“I count my lucky stars every day that I’m still here,” Ms. Price says in an interview from her mother’s home in Doaktown, where she is recovering. “The hospital, the staff – they were perfect. Everyone was so kind. And if it hadn’t been for Dr. White, well, I don’t think I’d be here today.”

She’s also thankful for something called ECMO – a key factor in her survival.

ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. It’s a therapy that adds oxygen to blood and, like a heart, pumps it through the body. It’s similar to the heart-lung machines used in surgery but it can be used at a patient’s bedside for longer periods of time. ECMO temporarily takes over the work of the heart and lungs so they can rest and heal.

Dr. White stresses that a mechanical circulatory support program is a major undertaking requiring teams of highly-trained individuals.

“It takes a lot of input and support from a variety of programs to make the technology successful. As the saying goes, it takes a village….”

He says the technology is a huge investment and the patients require intensive care in hospital and on discharge. But it is life-saving.

“It is hand-picked therapy for patients who can really benefit from it.”