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New mom gets life back after ultrasound, diagnosis

In January 2005, Catharine Martin awoke to labour pains. Shortly after delivering a healthy baby, Martin was struck by a very rare and life-threatening disease called acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) which caused all of her major organ systems to begin to shut down. Martin lapsed into a five-day coma and suffered multiple organ failure.

"Basically you name it and it was wrong with me," Martin says.

She awoke to find herself in the Intensive Care Unit at VGH. After several weeks in hospital, Martin was able to be reunited with her son Dylan but the battle was far from over. For the next year and a half, she struggled to hold down food, let alone enjoy life.

In May 2006, Catharine suffered an acute pancreatic attack, which brought her back to VGH to see gastroenterological specialist Dr. Michael Byrne. Amid fears that Martin's attack was caused by pancreatic cancer, Dr. Byrne obtained a scan using an Endoscopic Ultrasound System (EUS) at another hospital and made the diagnosis that determined what Martin was actually suffering from.

"EUS is the state of the art investigation tool for a lot of gastrointestinal cancers and chest cancers," said Dr. Byrne. In Martin's case, EUS really helped us fine tune the diagnosis and be reassured that it was not cancer."

Dr. Byrne diagnosed Martin with pancreatitis, a severe inflammation that failed to show up on previous scans and tests. Relieved her condition was not cancer, Martin decided to help fundraise for an EUS at VGH through social media and by rallying her community together behind this important cause. Now, more patients with complex conditions are benefitting from this technology more quickly. The EUS was purchased from the hospital's lottery ticket sales proceeds, Martin's fundraising efforts and other donations.

"The specialists at VGH literally gave me my life back," says Martin. "To get almost completely healthy within a few months after being sick for a solid year and a half is just amazing."