Mary-Gayle’s Story

A life saved by the power of imaging

Grateful Patient Mary-Gayle

My health has been incredibly complicated, to say the least. With that said, I have felt very lucky to have access to the hospitals in Victoria, even from my home in Campbell River. More than once, they have saved my life.

For decades, I have lived with a ballooning bulge on the main artery from my heart; a congenital aortic aneurysm, as it’s known medically. Since being diagnosed in 1997, I have had a CT scan every year to monitor its growth and ensure that the bulge is not at risk of bursting. Eventually, about four years ago, my vascular surgeon, Dr. Shung Lee, operated on it in hopes of reducing any further growth. I was not a candidate for open heart surgery, but C-Arm scanning technology allowed Dr. Lee to insert a stent into my aorta through another accessible artery instead, providing a minimally invasive alternative.

This helped for a time, but in spring of last year, things took a turn. I was in desperate shape. I couldn’t walk from the living room to the kitchen without having to sit down and catch my breath. Looking back, it’s no wonder why: medical imaging scans revealed that my aneurysm had burst, and I had five litres of fluid in my chest which had partially collapsed my left lung.

Dr. Lee called me and asked that I come down from Campbell River to Royal Jubilee Hospital right away so that my chest cavity could be drained, and more stents could be put in place. I remained there for most of the month of June, undergoing numerous scans and procedures. By the end of my third surgery that month, I had many more stents inserted into my artery; but there were still two leaks which the doctors had not been able to locate.

As a former professor of biology, I often make my caregivers laugh because I find my own health problems so interesting; I can separate myself from my situation and marvel at the medical complexities. I really do wish that I could have watched the next procedure I underwent, because it was truly fascinating.

Using extensive CT & MRI imaging, Interventional Radiologist Dr. Vamshi Kotha was able to see how blood was flowing through my aorta, and thus locate the leaks. This allowed him to inject a special medical “glue” through a precise incision in my back, directly into the aneurysm, sealing it off. After this procedure was complete, one more MRI scan confirmed what we were all hoping for: the leak had stopped. This year, on the anniversary of the procedure that saved my life, a follow up MRI scan showed that everything remains stable, and, in fact, has improved!

The hospital saved my life. I am so grateful for the care I received: the kindness of my caregivers, and the incredible technology that allows them to do their work.

Our hospitals touch each one of us on Vancouver Island.  It benefits us all, up and down this beautiful island of ours, to participate in making them the best that they can possibly be. I hope you will join me in supporting our Island community in this way.

— Mary-Gayle
Campbell River Resident & Grateful Patient