When Dave Kendall and his wife Lori left their home in Niagara Falls in August 2007
for a fishing trip in Peterborough, one they’ve taken several times a year over the
past 10 years, they never expected Dave wouldn’t return home until November.
Today, he’s grateful he was able to return at all.
The last thing Dave, 52, remembers was feeling dizzy as he got ready for bed at the
cottage. He suffered a heart attack and collapsed on the bed. The cottage is in a
remote location with limited cell phone reception. While his wife desperately tried to
call 911, two of his neighbours - a firefighter and a nurse - performed CPR for 45
minutes while waiting for an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, Dave was
defibrillated five times and had two more cardiac arrests during the 30-minute drive
to the Peterborough Regional Health Centre where he stayed in an induced coma for
more than a month.
In the month of September, Dave came close to dying several times. He had a blood
infection, lung infection, bladder infection and tracheotomy infection. He developed
an allergy to the antibiotics and his arms, legs and torso were covered in bumpy red
blotches. At one point, his doctor asked his family to discuss medical directives. It
was possible he would suffer severe brain damage and live the rest of his life in a
vegetative state. His family stayed positive and his brother-in-law was determined to
see him golfing and fishing again by the next Victoria Day long weekend.
In October, Dave was brought out of sedation and taken off the ventilator. He
appeared to be recovering and began talking and walking again. However, shortly
after, he suffered another cardiac arrest. His doctor determined he required an
emergency angioplasty and immediately transferred him to St. Michael’s Hospital in
Toronto where an angiogram indicated Dave had severe coronary artery disease and
at least one of his arteries was blocked 100 per cent. Doctors at St. Michael’s
Hospital recommended bypass surgery, however they felt there were far too many
risk factors for him to have the surgery at that time. Dave was still far too weak. He
already had a brain injury, had been intubated a number of times and had a
Dave was then transferred back to Peterborough to get stronger for surgery. But
given he had suffered two more heart failures in the past two weeks, his doctor in
Peterborough knew he had to have surgery immediately.
A week later, on October 15, Dave was transferred to Hamilton General Hospital, a
regional cardiac centre of excellence that specializes in complex and high-risk cases.
Dr. Victor Chu, a specialized cardiac surgeon, agreed to assess him. Dr. Chu
determined that Dave needed straightforward bypass surgery but that it could be
challenging because of his complicated condition.
“As a referring centre for tertiary cardiac care, we see patients like Dave every day,”
said Dr. Chu. “Even when cases seem tough, we do what we can to facilitate their
recovery. It’s gratifying to help people, make a difference in their life and give them
a chance to get better.”
On October 22, Dr. Victor Chu performed quintuple heart bypass surgery. Dave came
through the lengthy surgery very well, both physically and mentally. Remarkably, he
has recovered completely from his ordeal without injury to his brain.
“The Hamilton General saved my life,” says Dave. Dave returned home on November
1, only 10 days after his surgery. Today he has all of his cognitive functioning, is
back to work full-time and enjoying life again the way it once was. He has now taken
responsibility for his health and is learning more about his disease. He no longer
smokes, he eats fish five times a week and walks five kilometres a day.
This past Victoria Day long weekend, Dave and Lori returned to the cottage in
Peterborough for his first fishing trip since his heart attack. “My vacation was cut
short last time,” said Dave. “I had a fishing trip to make up for.”