“Paul, you are going to be here for the birth of your daughter. You are going to see your children grow up.”
Those were the words Paul Fontaine’s cardiologist at St. Boniface Hospital told him on the morning after he received his pacemaker.
“They still echo in my mind to this day,” said Paul. “I will get to see my children, Emmett, who is 4, and Elena, who is 1, grow up.”
Paul came close to death one week before his 33rd birthday. At the time, his fiancée, Shay, was eight months pregnant with their second child.
He has a rare inflammatory condition called cardiac sarcoidosis. His white blood cells are more aggressive than normal. Over time they can form clusters like scar tissue, called granulomas, in his lungs and heart.
Bad end to the workday
On June 7, 2021, Paul was at work, and started to feel as if he had tunnel vision, or his eyes were struggling to focus.
Thinking he was overtired; he got in his car and started his drive home. Bad idea. His vision was so unfocused, he realized that he needed to get off the road. He pulled over and called Shay to pick him up.
On the way home, the couple stopped to pick up their son, Emmett, at her parents’ house. Shay’s mom is a former nurse and retired St. Boniface Hospital phlebotomist (a technician who draws blood) with experience that was about to save his life.
The moment Paul walked in the door, Shay’s mom looked at him and said, “You need to sit down.” She took his pulse; it was 34 beats per minute – dangerously low.
She urged him to go to Manitoba’s Cardiac Centre of Excellence at St. Boniface Hospital. Paul and Shay raced to the Hospital.
Pacemaker put in
When Fontaine arrived, they took his pulse and did an EKG test. He learned he had a complete heart block and would require a pacemaker.
Fontaine’s health-care team told him that had he gone home after work, he would not have woken up the next morning. He would have gone into cardiac arrest, or he would have had a stroke.
He was in St. Boniface for three more days. They put in his pacemaker on June 9, 2021, and released him the next day.
“Coming out of the Hospital, I didn’t want to be like, “Why me?” Feeling sorry for myself would have been a waste of my energy,” he said. “Instead, I keep a positive attitude about being given a second chance by Foundation donors who supported my care at St. Boniface Hospital.”
Fontaine is 34 years old now, and currently on medication to reduce inflammation in his body and manage the heart problems caused by his condition. His daughter, Elena, was born that same summer on August 16, 2021.
“Life is awesome,” he said. “I get to spend as much time as I can with my family. That is what I was put on this earth to do. I’ve always considered myself a family man, and I get to live that through now.”
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