Shirley’s Story from Hamilton General

When Shirley Rowe began having intense and unusual pain in her chest and right arm, she knew for sure it was her heart. The Mt. Hope resident and retired nurse of 30 years, who worked at two Toronto area hospitals, was already taking heart medications after an angiogram a few years earlier had revealed a narrowing of a main artery in her heart.

HGH patient Shirley Rowe

Shirley Rowe

“Thinking the worst, my husband rushed me to the Emergency Department at Hamilton General Hospital,” recalls Shirley. “Even though it was really busy when we got there, they got me into a bed right away and began running tests and blood-work.”

Thankfully for Shirley, tests revealed that she had not suffered a heart attack, but doctors felt the blockage in her artery required further investigation. An appointment was arranged for her within 72 hours to meet with specialists in the Hospital’s cardiac clinic who informed her that she would need an angioplasty and possibly stents to open the clogged artery.

Shirley’s procedure was scheduled for six weeks later, as her case was non-emergent, but when a cancellation created an opening a week later, she jumped at the chance and agreed to come in that day.

“I had a lot of cardiology knowledge from my time as a nurse, but like anyone else was worried about having a heart attack before my scheduled surgery. The procedure itself didn’t scare me – I knew the benefits and the risks. I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible.”

Though she spent just a day in hospital, Shirley was impressed by the teamwork and seamless care in the Heart Investigation Unit, where she spent the night in recovery, before being discharged the following morning.

“They operate like a well oiled machine,” she says. “I was so impressed with the level of knowledge that the nurses had. I was told the core staff had been working together since the Unit opened in 2005 and that experience really showed.”

Following the successful procedure, Shirley was referred to The General’s Cardiac Health and Rehabilitation Centre, which helps cardiac patients recover from heart attack or surgery and reduce their risk for future heart problems. Staff at the Centre designed a custom program and helped her work to regain her previous fitness level.

“Working with specialized trainers really gave me confidence to push myself, which helped me recover faster. You don’t have to be afraid to exercise because they work you slowly up to your limit.”

After visiting the clinic twice-a-week for three months, Shirley was discharged from the program and has since made a full recovery.

“I am incredibly grateful for the care I received at Hamilton General. I cannot speak highly enough about the Cardiology program, the amazing staff and the way they care for their patients.”