Michele’s Story: How Critical Care Changed her Life

Critical care is most important when you least expect it. When your life can depend on it.

Michele Davis, spokesperson for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical
fundraising campaign.

Michele Davis has made a business of sharing what makes her grateful to live in Victoria through her venture That Girl in Victoria. Leading tours for Island visitors, she shared in her guests’ enjoyment as they took in the beauty of our part of the world.

But Michele knows that even in a place as idyllic as Victoria, “things can go sideways, really fast.” That’s just what happened this spring, when COVID-19 upended her summer business outlook in a matter of weeks.

Even before that, something else was happening that would change Michele’s world—cancer.

“It’s a big scary moment when you get the news: it’s carcinoma.”

It started with irritation under Michele’s tongue. It would end a lot more dramatically—in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

A day-surgery biopsy this past spring—one of the first resumed surgeries after COVID-19—revealed the need to remove more of her cancer. Michele’s care team suggested an overnight stay in the hospital for her second surgery in August. It’s a good thing, because her recovery would be anything but ordinary.

Shortly after her surgery, Michele noticed a swelling in her tongue. Soon, it was becoming difficult to speak … then difficult to breathe.

Michele was rushed into emergency surgery only hours after leaving the Operating Room (OR). The swelling threatened to block her airway entirely.

The stakes were high. If her surgeons were unable to ease the swelling and intubate her, Michele would need an emergency tracheotomy. Fortunately, that was not the case.

From the OR, Michele was admitted to the ICU. She spent the next two days there, breathing with the help of a ventilator. Michele remembers looking out from behind tubes, unable to speak. Breathing felt laboured and heavy, but she concentrated on staying calm.

Michele’s ICU experience was followed by five more days of recovery in the hospital. What began as an overnight stay for observation turned into a life-changing experience. A poignant reminder that having the help we need can be critical to our survival when we least expect it.

Today, Michele has a unique perspective on the importance of our access to critical care. Speaking as a champion for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation fundraising campaign It’s Critical, she knows how lucky she was. “I always assumed that the government paid for everything,” Michele says. “Now I know how important it is to help fund this equipment, and to have it right here at home.”

It’s Critical aims to raise $7 million to nearly double critical care capacity at Royal Jubilee Hospital (RJH), so that patients like Michele never have to worry about receiving the care they need, when they need it, without fear there’ll be no space in the ICU for them.

“You never know when you or someone you love will need something you can help make possible,” says Michele.

Visit http://www.victoriahf.ca/critical for more information on the campaign and how you can help.