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St. Paul’s Hospital receives $1-million gift to buy life-saving equipment


St. Paul’s Hospital has received a $1-million gift to buy special equipment that saved the life of a clinically dead man in February. From left to right: Dr. Jamil Bashir, patient Chris Dawkins, paramedics Thomas Watson and Benjamin Johnson, dispatcher Anne-Marie Forrest are pictured at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC, April 8, 2019.


Arlen Redekop / PNG

St. Paul’s Hospital has received a $1-million gift to buy special equipment that saved the life of a clinically dead man in February.

The dramatic story of Chris Dawkin’s rescue was a front-page story in a Postmedia paper last month. Among those who read the article was an anonymous donor.

On Feb. 5, Dawkins, a 55-year-old Vancouver physician, had just completed a workout on his rowing machine when he suffered cardiac arrest. His heart had stopped beating at 6:04 p.m. after a piece of plaque broke off a coronary artery and stopped the blood supply – Dawkins was considered clinically dead.

But his wife was present and able to perform chest compressions. The paramedics who arrived – Tom Watson and Ben Johnson – happened to be trained in a special emergency protocol for treating cardiac-arrest patients and were able to use a Lucas machine – one of six on loan to B.C. Ambulance Services by the manufacturer – to continue chest compressions while transporting Dawkins.

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When he arrived at St. Paul’s, a team of 15 specializing in cardiac arrest not treatable by standard therapies had been notified and was waiting. Dr. Jamil Bashir, a cardiovascular surgeon, had already performed two surgeries and was preparing to head home when he was called into emergency.

Dawkins was hooked up to a heart-lung bypass machine while Bashir operated. The machine is one of five at St. Paul’s.

But even after being clinically dead for 52 minutes, Dawkins survived the heart attack and surgery in great health.

The rescue story was written by Postmedia reporter Gord McIntyre and ran on the front page of the paper on a Tuesday morning in early April. After reading the article, an anonymous donor immediately picked up the phone and called St. Paul’s Foundation, said hospital spokeswoman Ann Gibbon.


A heart-lung bypass machine is pictured in the foreground and a Lucas chest compression machine is pictured in the background.

St. Paul’s Hospital / Handout

The gift would be $1 million and must only be used to purchase the machines and equipment that saved Dawkins’ life, the donor instructed.

“The great part of this story is that this protocol, started about four years ago, has come full circle with this donation,” said Dick Vollet, president and CEO of the St. Paul’s Foundation.

“It’s a great example of how innovation and donor support can come together to save lives.”

The $1 million gift will purchase three new heart-lung bypass machines at a cost of $250,000 each, seven Lucas chest compression machines, three TEE probes used to assess airways and one blood gas analyzer.

Paramedics treat about 400 cardiac arrest cases each year. Survival chances are one in 10 if an otherwise healthy individual suffers the arrest outside of a hospital.

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