Allan Binning’s heart stopped four times in one day.
That was last November, and he was brought to The Scarborough Hospital’s (TSH) Emergency Department (ED) after collapsing at his home. That was the first time his heart stopped, although he didn’t know it at the time. His wife, Elaine, insisted on calling an ambulance; she was concerned that he hit his head quite hard with the fall.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Allan was promptly registered and took a seat in the waiting room. That’s when his heart stopped for a second time, and he passed out again.
“I remember everything up to the moment when I passed out, and then when I came back around,” says Allan. “That dark time in between was an experience. It was like stepping into a dark room, falling backwards and realizing there is no floor – you just keep tumbling.”
Allan was taken to the resuscitation area and began a series of tests to determine what was causing him to pass out. During his CT scan, his heart stopped for a third time, and then a fourth time back in resuscitation. It wasn’t long before he was given a temporary pacemaker and transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). After two days, he received a permanent pacemaker.
A series of check-ups, one dizzy spell and a subsequent trip to the ED later, Allan was once again referred to the pacemaker clinic for a follow-up appointment. But he is happy to report that within 10 days, he was back to his old self and has been up and running ever since.
“In terms of emergency treatment, a lot of people are reluctant to go to the hospital because they expect to encounter long wait times. But if you need help, go,” says Allan. “The hospital is true to its word; they triage patients and give priority to those who need it in a hurry. Until this experience, I’ve never been in a situation like that so I appreciate that we were dealt with properly when my symptoms were getting worse. My experience (at TSH) couldn’t have been better, really.”
Although it was a stressful time, he calls it a privilege to have met many of TSH’s doctors, nurses, technicians and support staff in the ED, ICU, Diagnostic Imaging, registration and clinical areas. He says he and Elaine were both met with kindness, thoughtfulness, reassurance, confidence and professionalism.
“Not only were staff considerate of patients, they were also collegial and supportive of one another, and often quick to praise the qualities and skills of their colleagues,” says Allan. “This goes a long way in instilling confidence in a patient.”
Allan appreciated the medical staff introducing themselves, as well as providing himself and Elaine with clear explanations and reassurance regarding his condition, and describing the tests and procedures that would follow. Elaine was grateful to be kept informed at all times.
“Everyone was very considerate of me,” says Elaine. “When we got to the ICU, I literally got the tour. Even though she was busy, the nurse showed me where everything was, from the pop machine to the chapel. And she made sure I knew how to contact them 24 hours a day. We were taken care of very well.”
Looking back, Allan recalls it wasn’t until two days after he was discharged from the hospital that he began to realize how much trouble he was in at the time his heart had stopped. He recalls asking his cardiologist, Dr. Sherryn Roth, about what makes the heart restart. She told him, simply, that sometimes, it doesn’t. Allan and Elaine are incredibly grateful that his did.
“We wanted to share all the good things you are doing,” they say. “Thank you to all.”