Behind the Scenes of Diane & Garry’s Story

Dr. Daniel Ovakim

“Our hospitals have the services and specialists here to help.”

The number of things that can go wrong with somebody is extraordinary. Yet, it’s important for the public to know that if you’re really, really sick, you will be taken care of.

Vasculitis is not the first thing that comes to mind for an urgent care physician. It is very rare, in the order of one in hundreds of thousands. It’s an autoimmune condition, attacking the blood vessels and damaging them so badly that, in some cases, blood leaks into the lungs.

Diane arrived at the Royal Jubilee Hospital with what’s called “acute hypoxemic respiratory failure:” essentially not enough oxygen in her blood, because of the bleeding into her lungs. The vasculitis was also causing serious kidney failure and the most immediate threat to her life at that point was suffocation from the bleeding into her lungs. She needed a breathing tube and was put in a medically induced coma (general anaesthesia).

To stop the vasculitis, we gave Diane really potent medication to knock down the antibodies causing the problem. Diane was also placed on very high doses of steroids to reduce inflammation. These strong medications can have bad side effects, so we’re always leery to provide them, but grateful they work so well.

Throughout Diane’s treatment, we relied heavily on medical imaging to answer diagnostic questions. CT scans were essential in pinpointing where the bleeding was occurring. She had at least three CT scan of her chest, as well as her legs. And MRI gave us a clear picture that her brain—which can be another target for vasculitis—was healthy.

During one of the CT scans, we found she had blood clots in her lungs. Because of the ongoing bleeding, a special filter was placed below her heart to prevent clots from passing into her lungs and causing a blockage.

Thank you to supporters of Victoria Hospitals Foundation for ensuring we have the best of this vital technology, so we can better help our patients get back to their real lives. The first time I saw Diane outside of the ICU, I actually didn’t recognize her as I’d only seen her with several devices hooked up to her. It gives us purpose to see our patients make a strong recovery.

In Victoria, we are lucky to have the services and specialists available to treat pretty much anything that can happen to you, regardless of how rare of a condition it might be. If you need care, you will get it.

—Dr. Daniel Ovakim

ICU Physician, Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals