Two-time Cancer and Breast Cancer Survivor Credits McLaren Staff With Saving Her Life

Author: Sarah Barber

"It was the right moment, the right time, and we all worked together to help the patient."



Deborah Guilford woke up on a rainy spring morning thankful that on that day she would head to McLaren for her final mammogram needed to complete her treatment plan for the breast cancer in her left breast. Just six years prior she was diagnosed with cancer for the first time, in her right breast.

She felt some pain in her chest, but nothing she hadn’t felt before as she has a narrow esophagus opening and suffered from GERD in the past which led to scar tissue that sometimes causes discomfort in her chest.

After her appointment she looked out the window of the new Karmanos Cancer Institute and decided to make a run for her truck in the rain.

“The last thing I remember is dashing to my truck and putting the key in the door,” said Guilford. “I woke up eight days later in the ICU at McLaren and the doctor was asking me if I could wiggle my toes and move my fingers.”

Someone saw her fall and rushed into the cancer center looking for help. Guilford had suffered from back-to-back heart attacks in the parking lot that day. Three McLaren staff members answered that call, including nurse Cynthia Keyton, RN, in the Karmanos Cancer Institute Infusion Center.

“It was the right moment, the right time, and we all worked together to help the patient,” said Keyton. “When I heard the code blue in parking lot C I went right down because I thought it was one of the patients from our clinic. When we went out to the parking lot, we found Deborah and knew she needed help right away. I just finished my CPR certification and I jumped right in without hesitation.”

The McLaren team needed to lift Guilford onto a gurney since it couldn’t fit between to cars in the parking lot where Guilford was laying. The team started chest compressions and began life saving measures.

“That was the worst part of the recovery, the broken ribs, but I have been told you aren’t doing it right if you don’t break ribs,” said Guilford. “I have nothing but high praises for McLaren. “They saved my life in the pouring rain in the middle of the parking lot, and I am eternally thankful.”

Guilford went into emergency surgery and McLaren Greater Lansing Cardiologist, Dr. Gherebb, placed stents into her arteries to prevent future heart attacks.

Guliford said that looking back she did have symptoms leading up to the heart attack and described them as mild, annoying symptoms that she didn’t attribute to her heart.

“I had recently had cataracts removed, so I thought that was why my vision was blurry. I was tired all the time, but I was finishing up radiation for breast cancer,” said Guilford. “Every symptom I had I explained away, but looking back and talking with my cardiologist confirmed these were early symptoms of a heart attack.”

Guilford encourages women in the community to get regular mammograms and educate themselves on what heart attack symptoms to look for. Learn more about the differences in heart attack symptoms between men and women.

“I’m definitely here for a reason,” said Guilford. “I may not know what it is yet, but I do know I am grateful and thankful to be here.”

Learn more about oncology services at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing.

Learn more about cardiology services at McLaren Greater Lansing.

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