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Survivor shares experience at RVH Cardiac Care Unit after heart stopped 50x

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Just over a year ago, Don MacCallum's life nearly flat-lined.

The Muskoka resident said what he mistook for indigestion for three days turned into a near-death experience.

"It hit like a ton of bricks," he recalled.

MacCallum was rushed from the hospital in Huntsville to the Cardiac Care Unit at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie as his heart threatened to give up.

"His heart actually stopped 50 times," said Dr. Tony Lee, the interventional cardiologist at RVH who played a pivotal role in saving MacCallum's life.

"I've never even come close to that number of shocks that we had to administer in this kind of scenario before," Dr. Lee added.

On Thursday, RVH celebrated survivors like Don MacCallum, who shared his experience and emphasized the program's critical role.

"This hospital is amazing," he said. "If this would have happened anywhere else, I'm not sure what would have happened. A lot of people would have given up - they didn't."

The cardiac program, which is operational 24/7, was established at the hospital five years ago, enabling prompt and effective treatment for patients experiencing heart-related emergencies.

"The fact that we can offer this treatment closer to home is a huge win for our patients. We can treat them earlier in the process of their heart attack, and get their care back closer to home, and help them recover faster," noted Dr. Stephen Pizzale, RVH cardiovascular program medical director.

MacCallum said he's doing well now and living each day to the fullest.

"I owe my life," he teared up. "When people say it's nice to see you, it's nice to see everyone. You just don't take any days for granted."

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