St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation
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Patient Stories: Nikki Bakes

A sore shoulder, a heart attack and an unforgettable holiday season

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Sirens blared as flashing lights illuminated the dark October sky. An ambulance sped down Highway 85, bolting to St. Mary’s General Hospital from Nikki Bakes’s home 20 kilometres away.
Photo: Nikki Bakes and her son
Photo: Cayley Black Photography
Inside, paramedics worked diligently on 37-year-old Nikki, trying hard to keep her alive before St. Mary’s cardiac specialists could take over.
Nikki, a new mom to then four-month-old baby Mitchell, had experienced spontaneous coronary artery dissection, more commonly referred to as a SCAD heart attack.
It caused her heart to stop for nine minutes – about as long as it takes to cook a hard-boiled egg.
“The paramedics had to use defibrillator paddles on me three or four times; they kept getting me back and losing me,” Nikki recalls.
When she arrived at St. Mary’s, staff were ready. Nikki was rushed to the catheterization lab where she had an angioplasty – a tiny tube inserted into a vein in her leg and up through her body to find the problem.
The unexpected culprit
SCAD heart attacks, which disproportionately affect women, seem to strike out of nowhere. They happen when a blood vessel suddenly tears and folds into itself, blocking blood flow. Certain conditions can increase the likelihood of a SCAD heart attack, including hormonal fluctuations that come during and after pregnancy.
Nikki's symptoms began with shoulder soreness, which she attributed to carrying around a heavy diaper bag. Hours later, pressure began mounting in her chest.
Downplaying her symptoms, Nikki insisted she was fine. But when her husband saw her grimacing in discomfort on the bathroom floor, he called an ambulance.
Nikki, now 39, credits three factors with saving her life: her husband’s insistence on calling 911, the swift response of the paramedics, and the exceptional care she received at St. Mary’s.
Nikki Bates with her son at SMGH.
“We are so fortunate to have the cardiac services that we have in our community,” she says.
More memories to cherish
Nikki recently celebrated the second anniversary of her SCAD heart attack on Oct. 6 – a date that aptly coincided with Thanksgiving weekend this year.
She remains thankful for the life-saving care she received at St. Mary’s, and for the holiday memories her family got to make and cherish afterwards.
“I experienced my son’s first Halloween, my son’s first Christmas, my first Mother’s Day – all because of St. Mary’s,” Nikki says. “I get to keep making beautiful holiday memories today because of the care I received there.”
Nikki Bates with her son at St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation's Hike for Heart event in 2023.
Nikki Bates with her son at SMGH Foundation's Hike for Heart event, 2023.
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St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation

Medical Centre 2
435 The Boardwalk, Suite 300
Waterloo, ON, N2T 0C2

519.749.6797
foundation@supportstmarys.ca

Charitable Registration No. 119189017RR0001

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