A Victorian woman almost died from a rare health condition – now she’s named her newborn son after the doctor who saved her

A Victorian woman who lost her baby and almost died on the operating table two years ago has surprised the healthcare workers who saved her life by naming her newborn son after them.

Nicole Gallacher was 22 weeks pregnant when she had a stroke in 2020. She collapsed at home and almost died.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Melbourne mum reunited with the medical miracle workers who saved her life

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When she was reunited with the health care workers who saved her life, Gallacher and her husband Dave Gallacher couldn’t thank them enough.

For healthcare workers, saving Gallacher was no easy feat.

“We had not just one patient to care for but two,” said paramedic Cullen Hamilton.

“To hear Nicole survived has made my Christmas,” he said.

Nicole Gallacher, who lost her baby and almost died on the operating table, has reunited with the healthcare workers who saved her life. Credit: Austin Health

Gus Gonzalvo, head of the Neurosurgery Unit at Austin Health, said “the surgery was very challenging because of the long time with no oxygenation”.

It took a team of 19 from Austin Health and Mercy Hospital for Women nine hours to perform the brain, lung and obstetric surgery that saved her life. Gallacher was in the ICU for two months.

Her baby boy, Ned, didn’t survive.

“All I was thinking about was the baby,” Gallacher said. “I kept gesturing to my stomach.”

For her husband, telling Gallacher that they had lost Ned when her breathing tube came out was “the hardest moment”.

A special honour

Two years on, Gallacher has now given birth to her second child.

Angus (Gus) Gallacher is named after Associate Professor Augusto (Gus) Gonzalvo, the neurosurgeon who brought her back to life.

Gonzalvo said he was very honoured by Gallacher’s decision and didn’t expect it at all.

His middle names, Michael and Andrew, honour the paramedic who brought Gallacher to hospital and Associate Professor Andrew Hilton, the former deputy director of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Austin Health.

Hilton sadly passed away in February 2022.

Two years on, Dave and Nicole Gallacher have welcomed their second child, Angus. Credit: Austin Health

Dave Gallacher told Austin Health the decision to name Angus the way they did was an easy one.

“Just into the pregnancy, I said to Nicole I know we’ve had some names there, but how about this. Nicole agreed straight away, she absolutely loved the idea. Baby Gus wouldn’t be here without any of them, so we thought it was fitting to honour them in his name,” Dave says.

“For Mike to get her to the hospital, and for Gus to work on her for so long in pretty dire circumstances, and then what Andrew did in ICU … the fight they put in for Nicole was just incredible.”

Gallacher said she’s incredibly grateful for the healthcare workers, “because without them I wouldn’t be here”.

She was discharged in 2020 and said she knows she’s incredibly lucky to be alive.

A miracle she’s alive

Now, she wants to raise awareness for the rare but very serious condition that almost claimed her life.

Steven Warrillow, Director of ICU at Austin Health, said “Nicole had what we call an arteriovenous malformation which is a tangle of blood vessels and veins which a person wouldn’t even know that they had”.

“It’s not a common condition,” he said. “It is absolutely a miracle that she is alive.

“(Andrew) would have been so happy for them.”

– With Kathleen O’Connor

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