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N.S. couple shares health-care experience after suffering heart attack

While doctors, nurses and paramedics were all working hard, the Haydens experienced some potentially dangerous holes in the province's health-care system
(file photo)

The last time Ronald Hayden was preparing to sail alone to Halifax, things started to go south.

It was Aug. 13 when Hayden was packing supplies and getting ready to leave on his docked sailboat in Musquodoboit Harbour. However, he suddenly began feeling a shortness of breath.

It progressively started to worsen and he began feeling like he was about to pass out.

"I needed to call my wife and that's all I remember," Hayden told NEWS 95.7 fill-in host Todd Veinotte. "I don't even remember what I said to her, and I woke up to sounds of sirens and ambulances."

Hayden's wife, Lana Wood-Hayden, also told Veinotte that Hayden said two words to her on the phone: "help me."

Wood-Hayden didn't even want her husband to sail to Halifax all alone from the start, and she was wondering what kind of help he needed. It eventually dawned on her that he was asking for a different kind of help.

She jumped in the car, drove to the dock and used a paddle board to get to the anchored sailboat. She knew something was wrong and once she reached the boat, she saw Hayden had collapsed, was pale grey and unresponsive.

After she called 911 and rowed him back to shore, Hayden was taken to the Dartmouth General Hospital and it was confirmed he suffered a heart attack.

He survived. But the couple faced holes in the health-care system, some of which could be seriously dangerous to other Nova Scotians who experience health issues.

Hayden notes the efforts of the health care staff he encountered during his visit. He said the doctors and nurses were working extremely hard and the paramedics were following their procedures.

But it was clear the system was being stretched thin.

When the his ambulance arrived at the Dartmouth hospital, he had to wait one hour before getting inside. During that time, the paramedics had to wait with him until a bed became available in the emergency room.

At the time, the paramedics said there were no other ambulances available between Dartmouth and Sheet Harbour.

Hayden was in the hospital from Friday afternoon until the following Tuesday. Part of that is because he had to wait until the following week to get a series of tests, such as a stress test and cardiogram, which couldn't be conducted over the weekend.

After being discharged, he was provided with prescriptions and was told to see his family doctor.

However, Hayden hasn't had a family doctor for years. He instead relies on walk-in clinics, but he said it's now become difficult to get an appointment since they're so overburdened with patients.

"To tell you the truth, it was quite terrifying to even take him home because the four days that he was in there, ... they only just did the tests," his wife, Wood-Hayden, said. "We didn't really talk to the doctor and find out what was wrong with him. We knew all these different pieces but we didn't know what they meant."

She said the day Hayden was discharged, there were 13 people waiting for beds — and they were all in worse shape than him.

"I think if it wasn't for that, they would've kept him and fixed him because we realized once we got home and looked through the discharge papers, that he actually has a dilated aortic root on his heart," she said.

The experience is undoubtedly something numerous Nova Scotians have gone through.

According to Nova Scotia Health figures released this month, 75,180 Nova Scotians are on waiting lists for a primary care provider.

Emergency rooms in rural Nova Scotia also often close due to staff shortages. Even when they're open, they're often overwhelmed with patients.

Now, Hayden is trying to take it easy; he's back to work and he's scheduled to see a specialist in October.

But the couple still remains cautious, and Hayden — like the tens of thousands of other Nova Scotians — remains on the provincial wait list for a primary care provider.


Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as's weekend editor.
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