Stacey Brohman knew right away that something was wrong.

It was 10 years ago, just days after the birth of her son, and she woke up with what she describes as “incredible” pain in her chest.

“It was a massive heart attack caused by coronary artery dissection,” she recalls.

“I was a healthy 30-year-old with a baby at home, and there was really no reason for me to be having a heart attack.”

An ambulance was quickly dispatched to take Brohman to St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, which had opened a cardiac care unit just weeks before.

“We knew that it was essential that we get her into the operating room and get her on the table, get her chest opened and get her on the heart lung machine,” says registered nurse Trish Futher, who began doing just that.

Dr. Claus Rinne, who assisted in Brohman's diagnosis, was one of the unit’s original cardiologists.

He remains there to this day.

“The outcomes are binary – good or bad,” he says of cardiac procedures.

“There’s not much in-between.”

In Brohman’s case, surgeons found a torn artery – a rare condition that can afflict women shortly before or after they give birth.

“Her heart wasn’t able to pump blood to the rest her body to keep her alive on its own,” says Futher.

Rinne, Futher and their team got to work and were able to save Brohman’s life.

“It was a very heartening thing to have happen with someone who literally wouldn’t have survived,” says Rinne.

Brohman’s heart attack was one of the first tests for the St. Mary’s cardiac care unit, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, but hardly the last – since 2003, hospital cardiologists have performed more than 7,000 surgeries.

CTV’s David Imrie is looking at cardiac care in Waterloo Region in a special series airing this week on CTV News.