Atrial Fibrillation: Monica’s Story


November 14, 2018

Monica was home alone when she suddenly felt a searing pain in her arm and chest.

By 41 years old, Monica was used to her “episodes” – shortness of breath, chest pain, and sometimes even passing out – that had started when she was a teenager. Years ago, her episodes had been diagnosed as panic attacks associated with anxiety and depression. She was used to them. She knew what they felt like.

In January 2018, Monica was home alone, making dinner for herself and her husband Pablo when an episode started that caught her completely off guard. She suddenly felt a searing and shooting pain in her arm and chest. Overwhelmed with the sensation, she fell over. When Pablo returned home and saw the state she was in, he insisted they go to the hospital, despite her protests that it was probably just another panic attack.

At Humber River Hospital’s Apotex Emergency Department, they discovered that Monica’s heart was beating at a rate of 250 beats per minute – more than double a normal heart rate. She was triaged into the acute care section and seen quickly. Her care team used a series of medications to slow her heart rate right down and then gradually brought it back up to normal.

Monica was admitted as a cardiology inpatient of Dr. Irving Tiong, who discovered that she was suffering (and had likely been suffering her whole life) from Atrial Fibrillation and Supraventricular Tachycardia. Untreated, her episodes could have continued and she was at risk of a stroke. With her diagnosis, Monica was able to schedule and receive two ablations at Sunnybrook Hospital to correct the problem. If all goes well, she will be monitored and have follow-ups throughout her life, but will be able to live without any more of her episodes.

Atrial Fibrillation

“My diagnosis and treatment at Humber has been life-changing,” says Monica, “I finally feel like my episodes aren’t just in my head. I feel listened to. The staff here are amazing.”

“My diagnosis and treatment at Humber has been life-changing,” says Monica, “I finally feel like my episodes aren’t just in my head. I feel listened to. The staff here are amazing. Just super, super, super great.”

Recently while visiting Humber, Monica decided to become a monthly donor.

“I am confident that without the financial and emotional support from donors and supporters to Humber Hospital, I would not have had the positive experience I have received in the last 8 months.” Says Monica, “My family doesn’t have a lot but we have always felt it was important to give what we could. It means a lot to me, it’s important.”

Monica and Pablo are now empty nesters, and are looking forward to the next chapter of their lives.