The pain in her abdomen started on Jan. 20, 2022.
It came on suddenly.
“I was going to blow it off,” Victoria Beauregard, 56, said. “I’m a healthy person. I walk 3 to 5 miles a day. I thought, ‘Maybe it’s something I ate?’ The pain was on my right side, in my abdomen. I went for a walk but it only hurt more.”
But the Spring Lake, Michigan, resident couldn’t walk it off.
As the pain increased, she developed a low-grade fever, then vomited.
“Vicki thought it might be gas, but you don’t get a fever from gas,” Greg Beauregard, her husband, said. “I insisted on taking her to the emergency department.”
After a visit to a hospital near home, they were referred to a liver oncologist at Spectrum Health.
“They sent an ambulance,” Greg said. “I tried to follow that ambulance to Grand Rapids, and I’m a good driver. But the woman driving that ambulance was faster than I could keep up.”
Straight to surgery
By the time Greg reached Spectrum Health, his wife had already been admitted.
“I was tired, I was lost,” he said. “I was in the parking ramp and had no idea where to go. A woman saw the look on my face in the parking ramp—she was off shift and heading home, but she turned around and offered to walk me all the way to Vicki’s room.”
Greg later learned the woman was a doctor at Spectrum Health.
“It was incredible. Everyone there—from housekeeping to security to the medical team—was so kind and helpful,” he said. “And then I met Vicki’s doctor. He came up to me, shook my hand, and said, ‘I’m Paul Wright.'”
G. Paul Wright, MD, a surgical oncologist at Spectrum Health, explained the treatment plan for his wife.
“I knew we were in good hands,” Greg said.
“We had already received digital transfers of images for Vicki,” Dr. Wright said. “I could see it was a life-threatening situation. We had a surgical critical team ready when she arrived, and we went straight to surgery.”
Vicki’s tests showed she had internal bleeding and her blood pressure had dropped dangerously low, while her heart rate was elevated.
“Blood pressure tends to drop under anesthesia, so our surgical team was prepped,” Dr. Wright said. “We wouldn’t put her under until the point of incision. There is a risk of even more severe instability when opening the abdomen in these situations, so we had to be very efficient to control more blood loss”
As surgery began, Dr. Wright found that Vicki had lost 5 liters of blood. The average human has a total of 5 liters of blood.
She had survived the blood loss only because of several transfusions.
The good news? The mass on her liver was not cancer.
“Vicki had a hemangioma,” Dr. Wright said. “That’s a benign tumor made up of blood vessels, and hers had ruptured. There was nothing to stop the bleed. Once we removed the tumor, the blood loss stopped.”
A swift recovery
When Vicki awoke, she found herself in the intensive care unit at Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, where she received more blood transfusions.
“I woke up and was greeted by a host of people,” she said. “I had all these emotions. I realized how fragile our lives are. I still catch Greg looking at me at times and tearing up.”
By the next morning, a Sunday, Vicki got the OK to leave the ICU and move to a room at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.
“By Sunday evening, I was able to get out of bed and walk,” she said. “By Wednesday, Jan. 26, I was able to go home.
“It was only later that I learned all the details of what had happened—and I was so grateful,” she said. “My heroes: Greg and Dr. Wright. And the critical care team that saved me.”
At a follow-up appointment two weeks later, she was doing well.
“These types of tumors don’t usually come back,” Dr. Wright said. “Because Vicki was otherwise a healthy person, her recovery was fast.
“My advice for anyone in a similar situation: Pay attention to pain. If it’s not right, it’s wrong. Vicki’s was a time-sensitive issue.”
Vicki also gained lessons from the experience.
“I learned that I should never brush off symptoms,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to say you’re in pain.”
Seek treatment, she said. “It’s worth your life.”
“It was a hard experience, followed by great people,” Greg said. “Dr. Wright is aces to me.”