On a typical weekday morning Simon Smith headed to work. He had no idea that in a few hours’ time he would be fighting for his life.
“I remember going up the stairs and feeling winded, and it was only two flights,” says Simon. “It was unusual because I go up those stairs almost every day.”
Although his shortness of breath went away, his throat felt uncomfortable. So, he called his wife, Dr. Raewyn Broady, Director of the Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant (L/BMT) Program of BC at Vancouver General Hospital.
She advised him to get medical attention right away. Simon went straight to the VGH Emergency Room. He exchanged texts with his wife, telling her he was OK.
She thought everything was alright.
A few minutes later Raewyn got a call from the ER staff saying, I’m really sorry to tell you but your husband has gone into cardiac arrest and we haven’t been able to resuscitate him. She hung up and rushed down to the ER.
Life-saving technology at VGH
When she arrived, the medical team told her that Simon’s heart had stopped and he was a candidate for ECMO — a portable heart-lung machine that circulates and oxygenates a patient’s blood and then re-infuses it. This life-saving technology allows the heart and lungs to recover, and keeps organs functioning while medical teams continue their work.
Within 10 minutes of cardiac arrest Simon was in the cath lab where ECMO was initiated and blood-flow to his heart was restored. Forty-eight hours later Simon woke up with his heart beating on its own.
“The secret is a high functioning team that can provide a coordinated and critical level of care,” says Dr. Don Griesdale, the critical care medicine physician who along with the medical team made the request for ECMO. Over the years, through VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation donors have funded several ECMO machines.
Because of the medical team’s quick, decisive action to put Simon on ECMO, he is back to living his life with no lasting effects.
“I can’t thank them enough for their dedication and professionalism, it’s just amazing,” says Simon. “I feel like I have a second chance at life.”
Supported by a community of philanthropists
VGH and UBC Hospital are filled with world-renowned cardiothoracic specialists who are focused on providing the best possible care today while undertaking innovative research to improve the care of tomorrow. VGH was the site of BC’s first open heart surgery more than 50 years ago and, from then to today, the team continues to push the boundaries of cardiac care.
And with a community of generous philanthropists like John Tsai behind them, we are improving cardiac care every day.
It is because of philanthropists like John that Simon Smith received the vital care he needed — from the best medical team utilizing state-of-the-art technology. Today, Simon has returned to his normal life with no lasting effects.
“It is my privilege to be able to contribute to a cause that has deeply affected my life. My father passed away from heart disease, and I want to give the medical teams at VGH the equipment, tools and resources they need to best help patients like him in the future.”
— John Tsai, Donor