Carolyn Vallejo's story

When Carolyn Vallejo began to experience dizzy spells and feel tired all the time, her doctor wasn’t sure what was wrong. A teacher and mother of two, Carolyn was physically active and up to this point had been very healthy. When her doctor sent her for further tests, an echocardiogram revealed a life-threatening problem. Carolyn had a tumour in her heart, called a myxoma.

I credit the people of St. Michael’s with giving me my life back.
– Carolyn Vallejo,
Teacher and Mom

As a patient of Dr. Robert Hyland, her father recommended she come to St. Michael's for care. Within hours of coming to St. Michael’s, Carolyn was diagnosed and surgery was scheduled. On September 11, 2007, Dr. Lee Errett performed open-heart surgery. In the process, he discovered that the problem was bigger than expected.

Carolyn’s dad had been a patient of Dr. Robert Hyland at St. Michael’s, and recommended that she come here for care. He called Dr. Hyland to get his advice, with the result that Carolyn was referred to Dr. Tony Graham.

Within hours of arrival, Carolyn was diagnosed and open-heart surgery was scheduled. Dr. Lee Errett performed the operation.

Once surgery was underway, Dr. Errett discovered that Carolyn’s situation was more serious than expected. The tumour had attached itself to a large part of an inner heart wall, making its removal more difficult.

Dr. Errett now faced the challenge of removing the damaged heart tissue with the tumour, then patching the area with normal tissue taken from the sack that surrounds the heart.

The procedure was successful, but Dr. Errett was worried that it had disturbed the electrical signals of Carolyn’s heart. A week later, Carolyn had a second operation to install a pacemaker to regulate her heartbeat. The next day, she went home.

It took a while for Carolyn to get used to the pacemaker, but it’s enabled her to go back to her normal activities. She’s now teaching, doing yoga and walking her dog – and most importantly, looking after her family.

Carolyn is very happy she listened to her dad about St. Michael’s.

“Words can’t describe how I feel about the Hospital,” say Carolyn. “The doctors did everything they could. The nurses were so sweet and caring – they were always there. I felt really safe. I credit the people of St. Michael’s with giving me my life back.”

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