St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation

Patient Stories: Nikki Bakes

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

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.
Nikki Bates with her son.
Photo: Cayley Black Photography
Inside, paramedics worked 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 for her. 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 strike women, seem to come out of nowhere. They happen when a blood vessel suddenly tears and flaps down 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, but she attributed the pain to carrying around a heavy diaper bag and car seat. Hours later, she started feeling pressure building in her chest.
Nikki downplayed her symptoms, telling her husband she was fine. But when he saw her grimacing in discomfort on the bathroom floor, he called an ambulance.
Nikki, now 39, credits three things with saving her life: her husband’s insistence on calling 911, the quick-acting paramedics, and the excellent 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 do in our community,” she says.
More memories to make
Nikki recently celebrated the second anniversary of her SCAD heart attack on Oct. 6 – a date that aptly coincided with Thanksgiving weekend this year.
Nikki remains thankful for the life-saving care St. Mary’s provided her two years ago, and for the holiday memories her family got to make because of it.
“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


Charitable Registration No. 119189017RR0001


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