A Matter of ‘Heart’ Part I

February is Heart Month and the Health Care Foundation needs our help. To ensure the safety and well-being of event participants, volunteers, supporters and staff, the Row 4 Heart fundraiser has been cancelled. 

Need for Donations

That doesn’t mean the need for donations have lessened. Access to the best cardiac care and technology has long been critical to the well-being of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians throughout the province. 

In fact, we lead the country in rates of heart disease, with one in three people impacted. While the pandemic has created fundraising challenges, it has also demonstrated how important it is to support the work of our health care heroes, those who keep us safe and well in our moments of medical need.

Throughout February, The Health Care Foundation will continue fundraising and public education efforts to support cardiac care right here at home.

Cardiac disease can impact anyone. It can creep up or be a sudden life or death emergency. A cardiac emergency can cause a big detour in retirement plans or we can be affected in our youth, as Amanda Saunders of Grand Falls-Windsor knows all too well. Saunders, at just 24 years-old, just celebrated her third anniversary since her heart transplant. 

Her condition “just creeped up on her” she shared, and she spent the early weeks “in denial.” “I just wanted to continue on and not let my heart ruin things for me or get in the way. But that didn’t last.”

‘Full-blown Heart Failure’

At 21, she had to withdraw from university from a hospital bed in St. John’s. 

“I was admitted to the Health Sciences in November 2018 after I met with my heart specialist and was told I was in full-blown heart failure.” She required a heart transplant. But Saunders isn’t alone. With so many impacted, it’s important to have confidence in the care received during that time of need. This is where we all come in!

 Having quality cardiac services is crucial, and technology is always changing and donations help improve the care of patients like Saunders and equip local health care professionals with the tools they need to save lives. The Herald spoke to Dr. Sean Connors, Clinical Chief of Cardiac Surgery for Eastern Health, and Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk, the first Inuk cardiac surgeon in Canada, someone Dr. Connors says is an incredible addition to the team. To attract the best and the brightest in health care requires having access to the latest tools and technology, he said. 

The Quality of Life 

“Recruitment is our lifeblood. The way we continue to provide excellent care is to attract the best trained physicians and by providing the best equipment and putting it in the hands of those physicians in order to help here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. Dr. Kimmaliardjuk agrees. “Using devices and instruments and tools helps improve the quality of life and it helps us save people’s lives. To be able to offer the best is what every person deserves,” she said.

The Health Care Foundation are raising funds for a tool used for coronary artery bypass graft surgery. It makes smaller incisions, resulting in reduced infection rates, pain and scarring. 

Tools like this lead to faster recoveries so cardiac patients can get back to doing the things they love – and return to those they love – sooner. 

Donations will help keep this province’s Cardiac Care Program on the cutting edge, which, in turn, helps save lives

If you’d like to help the Health Care Foundation purchase the VirtuoSaph Plus Endoscopic Vessel Harvesting System and support cardiac patients here at home, visit healthcarefoundation.ca.

Next week, hear more from our conversation with Dr. Connors and Dr. Kimmaliardjuk, plus find our more about Amanda Saunders and her inspirational story. 

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