Rhonda Greig

Living with a form of central sleep apnea, Rhonda Greig says it causes her great anxiety. But “If I have problems, West Park is the first place I call.”

Rhonda Greig

Rhonda Greig’s journey with West Park began on March 4, 1987.

The student was transferred to the Centre from Toronto General Hospital after falling extremely ill over Christmas break. She experienced heart failure at 19 and was on life support for seven days, with the doctors telling her parents she might not survive.

Doctors weren’t quite sure what was wrong with Greig, but when she got to West Park, she met with a direct, skilled doctor who told her, pointedly, that she had a plan, but that Greig was going to have to step up.

“I credit West Park with saving my life,” she says. Dr. Monica Avendaño “was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Greig has an undiagnosed form of neuromuscular sleep apnea, where the brain doesn’t send the proper messages to the body instructing it to breathe. During her four-month stay at West Park she was set up with a non-invasive ventilator –  which she has been using for the past 34 years –  and she was able to pack some weight onto her 95lb frame.

Just seven months later, Greig was back in school full-time.

Now 54, her health issues have continued, and so has her relationship with West Park.

“I consider West Park like my second home,” she says.

Greig has participated in a number of sleep studies, but she lost touch with the Centre for several years until her health worsened in 2013 and she found herself back at West Park. When Greig met with Dr. Avendaño again, she says the doctor stood up and hugged her – and then put her foot down to make sure Greig got immediate care in a private room.

Having been coming to the Centre for about 35 years, Greig says it has become like family, and that she has made great relationships with several staff members.

“One of West Park’s greatest gifts is their compassion,” she says.

Dr. Roger Goldstein, who has worked with Greig over the years, says “One of the privileges of being in healthcare is that one sees great bravery in the midst of adversity. These unsung heroes are a humbling lesson in character that lifts us from the mundane day-to-day decision making. Rhonda is such a person.” 

“Facing the adversity of a medical condition, coping with it and maintaining health is a great tribute to Rhonda's character and determination as well as her great healthcare team,” Dr. Goldstein says.

Dr. Goldstein says Dr. Avendaño saved Greig’s life “when she successfully treated her respiratory failure using a non-invasive method originally designed for polio survivors. This technique avoided Rhonda being attached to a machine via an invasive tracheostomy tube, which would have so limited her mobility and quality of life.”

Greig says her health has been declining over the past few years, and she has been living with the loneliness of never fully having her condition diagnosed. Recently she was a guest on a podcast about sleep apnea ( Listen to the podcast HERE) to not only share her experience, but also in hopes of finding others who may share some of her symptoms.

Living with this form of central sleep apnea, Greig says it causes her great anxiety. But “If I have problems, West Park is the first place I call.”