When Lynda Diamond woke up late to play her regular game of pickle ball two years ago – she had no idea it would be the day she died.
Usually the Ladysmith resident wakes up around 7 a.m. – waking up late was her first indication something was amiss. She felt reluctant about going to pickle ball, but decided she had better go. Then, she made her regular morning coffee, and it just did not taste right.
“I felt a little bit off, that’s all I can say,” Diamond said. “I went back into my room and thought, ‘oh, I’ll just lie down for a minute to see if I’ll start to feel better’. I felt anxious, and that feeling wouldn’t go away.”
“I felt at that point there was something else at play, and I didn’t feel that I was in control in making the decision to go out the door. Then I felt kind of nauseous and I thought, ‘oh boy, something’s not right’. I’m generally a healthy person, and thankfully I don’t get sick very often. Something was definitely not right.”
Diamond tested her blood pressure with her husband’s blood pressure cuff to try and get a feeling for what was wrong. Her reading was 140 over 89 – which for her was high. She wasn’t experiencing any pain, but the warning signs were growing.
“I had this guidance that came over me, I heard, ‘be aware of who’s around you. Unlock your doors. Look out the window, see who’s out there. Do not be alone’. I made a phone call to see if a friend could come up and just sit with me for a bit. The friend was not able to come over and suggested that I phone an ambulance,” Diamond said.
Diamond didn’t phone an ambulance. She says she was then guided out the door to get help. She asked her neighbour to take her to the Ladysmith Community Health Centre, (LCHC) because she thought she was having a heart attack.
“He said, ‘you’re not having a heart attack – you’re too young and healthy’. I said, ‘well, let’s go and find out, because I don’t feel right’.”
Diamond’s neighbour drove her up to the LCHC. He dropped her off at the front doors, around quarter after nine. Diamond walked right up to the front desk. She told the nurse she wasn’t feeling well, and the nurse told her to go sit in the waiting room. Instead of going to the waiting room, Diamond walked straight into the emergency room where she found Dr. Graham Brockley.
Dr. Brockley said that when someone comes into LCHC and they look sick, staff drop everything and attend to that person.
“They put me on a bed, and hooked me up to an EKG. They kept assuring me everything was fine,” Diamond said. “I felt like I was disconnecting from the room. I could hear voices, and see what was going on, but I was not present on that bed. I thought I heard something like ‘code blue’. Next thing I knew, I had this thought like ‘huh, I’m going to die’. It felt like a suspended state between the bed and somewhere else.”
Diamond had just welcomed a new grandchild into the world. As she grappled with her imminent death, Diamond thought of her granddaughter, and how she wanted to be there to watch her grow up.
Then at 9:52 in the morning, Lynda Diamond died of cardiac arrest.
Dr. Brockley sprang into action immediately. He followed his training, commenced CPR and brought Diamond back to life using a defibrillator.
“Years ago before they had defibrillators, people just died. She can say that we saved her life, but really it was the technology in the defibrillator that saved her life. We just had to follow a simple protocol that even an EMS, or paramedic could have done,” Dr. Brockley said.
Once she was stable, Diamond was moved to Victoria. The medical staff didn’t know why Diamond suffered a cardiac arrest. She was 59, active, and healthy – it just didn’t make any sense.
Diamond was given an angiogram, and a young doctor at the hospital discovered that the cause of her cardiac arrest was a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, (SCAD) – a rare condition where a tear forms in an artery in the heart. SCAD can reduce or block blood flow through the artery, which can cause heart attacks. SCAD most commonly affects women in their 40s and 50s, although it can occur at any age, and can occur in men.
She remained in hospital for four days. Diamond’s husband had been at school and got the call to inform him his wife had gone into cardiac arrest and had been transferred down to Victoria Hospital at 3:00pm the same day.
“When he came in I just cried. I felt grateful that I was alive,” Diamond said. “The wild part was my daughter walked in with her baby, and her husband. It was just surreal as four days prior to this I was visiting her at the hospital to welcome my granddaughter into the world.”
Once she was discharged from the hospital, Diamond’s recovery journey began. She had two elements of recovery: the emotional and the physical.
The emotional healing for her was ‘huge’. Diamond discovered CBT training in Victoria that taught cognitive behavioural skills to deal with trauma. Her near death experience helped Diamond come to terms with emotional traumas that she had carried with her for years.
“The physical recovery – in my mind – is way easier because there’s more practical tools,” Diamond said. “I had to slow down. I also took an extensive cardiac rehab program.”
Diamond returned to the pickle ball court nine months after her cardiac arrest. Her skills were a bit rusty as she learned to trust in her body again. Now she’s back to playing at her normal level.
Eight months after her cardiac arrest, Diamond returned to the LCHC to thank Dr. Brockley for saving her life.
“That was pretty special,” Dr. Brockley said. “It’s rare for someone to do that. It was heart-warming. It made me really thankful that she was smart enough to come in, and she arrested where she had, so that we could respond quickly.”
Dr. Brockley implored anyone experiencing chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath to immediately seek medical help, as 80 percent of people who go into cardiac arrest in a medical setting survive. If Diamond had been anywhere else, she may not be here today.
Diamond now advocates for women to speak up about their health issues when they know something isn’t right.
“People said to me afterwards – especially women – ‘oh I would have gone right back to bed’, or ‘I wouldn’t want to be a bother when I walked into the wait room’. I’m normally like that too. That’s more my personality. But that day I felt I had no choice, zero. I was guided by something outside of myself, perhaps it was my intuition but what ever it was it saved my life. It has given me my second life to spend with my grand daughter and family,” Diamond said.
“What I want to tell women is that in my case there was no pain, no discomfort. If something’s happening to you, and you think it’s going on – it is. Even if you have an inkling of a doubt – you’re not going to inconvenience anyone by getting it checked out. When you feel something is out of place and does not feel quite right, please pay attention to it because it could save your life.”
Diamond said she is grateful to live in a country with access to a medical system that a lot of other countries do not have.
“I will be forever grateful to the staff and the doctors working at LCHC,” Diamond said “Thanks to them my grand daughter and I now celebrate the same birthday and we will both be turning two in May.”