Nicole, Dave and their dog Lassy

Saving Nicole Gallacher's life

Content warning: This article discusses stillbirth and might be triggering for some readers. 


“It happened on March 19, 2020. You never forget the date,” said Nicole Gallacher’s husband Dave.  

Dave was at work teaching at the local primary school, and Nicole was home alone with their dog Lassy.  

Nicole was 22 weeks pregnant with their first child, a baby boy they’d decided to name Ned.

Suddenly Nicole had trouble with her vision and speaking. She called her parents for help and they called an ambulance.  

“Two ambulances rushed to our place and broke down a door to get to her. They then rushed her to Austin Hospital for emergency surgery,” Dave said.  

Director of Neurosurgery, Augusto Gonzalvo was one of Nicole’s surgeons.  

“Nicole had a brain haemorrhage and while she was unconscious, she aspirated her vomit. Her lungs were not in a good state and this meant poor oxygenation.” 

“The first operation we did was the evacuation of the clot from her cerebellum in order to reduce the pressure inside her head. However, we had to abandon the operation halfway because of her poor lung function.

“The thoracic surgery team came along and ‘washed her lungs’ in order to improve it. We then transferred Nicole to the CT scanner to check what we’d achieved with the operation and decide if further cranial surgery was needed. There was approximately 30% of the clot left behind but we decided that it was ‘good enough’.

“We took her back to the operating theatre to place a drain in her head in order to monitor her intracranial pressure and connect her to the ECMO system to help with her blood oxygenation,” Augusto said.

Neurosurgeons, thoracic surgeons, anaesthetists, interventional radiologists, the intensive care team, nurses and obstetricians from Mercy Hospital for Women worked tirelessly together throughout Nicole’s 9-hour long surgery.

“This team of highly trained people was assembled without any notice and highlights the role of public hospitals in looking after our community in critical situations,” Augusto said.

Tragically, Nicole’s baby boy Ned passed away.

“First time I saw Nicole, was when I brought Ned in and laid him on her stomach. She was hooked up to so many things and was in a coma," Dave said.

“The team at Mercy did an incredible job, they supported us and gave me, Nicole and our families the opportunity to meet and say goodbye to our precious little boy Ned,” he said. 

“After 32-hours without any sleep in this little room outside ICU, a nurse named Zoe Nicholas got us blankets and pillow and made tea. She was one of Nicole’s nurses, and is one of the most caring people I’ve met. She was so gentle and delicate when tending to Nicole, all while having to work around distraught family members. We’re so grateful for her kindness and the way she looked after my wife,” Dave said. 

After a few weeks in ICU, Nicole was out of the coma and miraculously no longer needed ECMO. She was then transferred to Neurosurgery Ward 6 West.  

Nicole survived, but her journey of recovery had just begun.

This is a two-part story. The second part of this story will be shared on iNews tomorrow.

If you or a loved one has experienced stillbirth, newborn loss, pregnancy loss and would like some support you can contact SANDS Australia on 1300 072 637.