Marci Warhaft sits in her living room flipping through two thick hospital files, 19 years after they were written up.
The GTA mother of two is searching desperately for a nurse in British Columbia who cared for her during her darkest days.
“I have never forgotten her,” she said.
Warhaft was five and a half months pregnant with her second son after multiple miscarriages, when she went to hospital feeling sick in January 2000.
Eventually she was rushed to Vancouver General Hospital where she would remain for weeks.
“I remember the doctor saying that when they cut me open, I looked like a tiger because my insides were black and orange with bacteria,” she explained. “It was something called clostridium difficile, which is C. diff for short.”
Warhaft was gravely ill.
One particularly difficult night remains a vivid memory all these years later.
“I turned to my husband at the time and I said, ‘Kiss Dylan goodbye for me,’ which was my older son at home, and we think that’s the night I lost Jackson,” she said quietly.
The baby was healthy but her body was shutting down, and the pregnancy was lost.
Warhaft was in such bad condition she was in and out of consciousness.
“I would wake up and ask ‘how’s the baby’ and they’d say ‘you lost him,’ and then I would go out again and then I would wake up again and say ‘how’s the baby’ and they would say ‘you lost him,’ and this continued and continued,” she said.
Seventeen days in intensive care felt like a lifetime for the young mother who was attached to a ventilator and couldn’t speak.
“I’ve never been that scared for that long a period of time,” she said.
“I was terrified; I was sure I was dying.”
Then, Warhaft said, something extraordinary happened.
“In walks this sunshine.. I remember she bounced in and I remember her being kind of blonde and bouncy and I think her name was Deb,” she remembered. “But she came in with tonnes of energy.”
Warhaft said the doctors and nurses who cared for her were amazing, but this one nurse went above and beyond.
After two months of neither seeing nor speaking with her young son, she was desperate to be moved to a different hospital unit.
But each day when doctors checked to see if she could be taken off the ventilator, she would fail the test.
“She (the nurse) goes, ‘Do you curse? When you talk do you curse?’ and I nodded yes and she goes, ‘Ok, then I’ll swear for you. It was just this beautiful symphony of holy F-word,” said Warhaft, laughing.
For the first time in two months, her body shattered, her baby gone, Warhaft smiled.
“That was something funny, that was something that was positive,” she said.
And there was more.
“She was really talking to me as a person because especially when you can’t talk, you lose your identity,” noted Warhaft, adding “I had dried blood on my hands and on my arms, my nails were all broken, my skin was peeling off dry and she said ‘we have got to fix this’ and she cleaned my arms and my hands.”
Deep in hospital files, Marci Warhaft searches for clues about the mysterious cursing nurse and remembers all the others who helped to get her through.
“I will never be able to properly express how much respect I have for nurses — you just can’t,” she said.
What would she tell the one special nurse if ever she finds her?
“‘Thank you!,'” she smiled. “It’s like the obvious thing, but it’s more than that.”