Omer and Helen Dorion live in London, Ontario, and up to a few years ago, had never considered themselves especially lucky. Happy? Yes. Fortunate to have loving children and grandchildren? Definitely. Enjoying their semi-retirement including many rounds on the golf course for Omer? Without a doubt. But they had certainly never been lucky enough to win the “big one,” as they say in the lottery world.

That sentiment changed on October 24, 2007, when Omer suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm (a sudden ballooning and tearing of a section of the main artery in the body) while preparing for a round of golf at his local club in Woodstock.

“I can still remember the wave of pain, like an electrical jolt, that went through my body when the aneurysm ruptured. It dropped me to my knees,” says Omer, looking back. “It was the worst day of my life, but in reality, it is also the day that I won the lottery. That’s what a physician told us afterwards. Very few people survive what happened to me. He told us my chance of dying was about 99.99 per cent that day.”

That day on the course, “winning the lottery” came down to perfect timing. Luckily, Omer had arrived at the course just before his aorta ruptured so his golf buddies called 911 immediately. Although the nearest hospital, Woodstock General Hospital, immediately diagnosed the aneurysm, they did not have the capability to do the surgery. The closest centre that could was in London, 25 minutes away.
While Woodstock physicians alerted London Health Sciences Centre-Victoria Hospital, Omer was racing to them by ambulance, bleeding internally and in critical condition. Meanwhile in London, a surgical team and operating room were readied in an all-out effort to repair the tear in Omer’s aorta before he bled to death.

It worked. The surgical team met him at the door, and after receiving more than 50 units of red blood cells, plasma and platelets over 12 hours of surgery to repair the tear, Omer was finally wheeled into the Intensive Care Unit, where he would remain for the next five weeks. His wife, Helen, was later told by doctors that they weren’t sure at some points if they were going to “get him off the table.”

“I’m very thankful to everyone who donates blood,”

reflects Omer. “If the blood hadn’t been available, none of the timing would have mattered. Blood donors kept me alive long enough for the surgeons to save my life. I really did ‘win the lottery’ that day.”

In fact, one of the donors he is thankful to is his wife Helen, a long-time blood, platelet and plasma donor. She recently celebrated her 370th donation at the London Blood Donor Clinic. She likely wasn’t one of his donors, but as a family, they personify a very poignant “vein to vein” tale of survival.

After months of recovery over the winter, Omer returned to the golf course in May of 2008 and continues to golf an average of three times each week. It really is all in the timing—but today that phrase is more aptly applied to Omer’s golf swing.