Heart Our Patients

$1 Million donation to St. Paul’s Foundation will bring more life-saving cardiac equipment to St. Paul’s Hospital

Cardiac team.
ED physician Dr. Brian Grunau, cardiac surgeon Dr. Jamil Bashir, perfusionist Amy Chu, patient Dr. Chris Dawkins, paramedic Tom Watson, BCEHS call taker Anne-Marie Forrest, and paramedic Ben Johnson with the LUCAS automatic chest compression device in foreground.

A $1-million donation to the St. Paul’s Foundation means St. Paul’s Hospital will receive more of the specialized cardio equipment that saved the life of a Vancouver man who suffered a cardiac arrest in February and was clinically “dead” for 52 minutes.

A donor came forward after seeing news reports of how Vancouver doctor Chris Dawkins’ life was saved thanks to a first-in-Canada protocol involving St. Paul’s Emergency Department, cardiology doctors and clinicians, and B.C. paramedics.

Dr. Dawkins, 55, had just finished a workout on his home rowing machine when he suddenly collapsed. Using the protocol, called ECPR and involving specialized equipment and highly trained staff, paramedics performed CPR and rushed him to St. Paul’s Emergency Department. There, he was placed on an ECMO, or external pump-like machine that does the work of the patient’s heart and lungs. Doctors could then identify and fix the cause of the arrest with surgery.

Dr. Dawkins’ full story is here.

At the donor’s request, the funds are to be specifically earmarked for the equipment that saved his life:

  • Three new ECMO heart/lung bypass machines that act as a person’s heart and lungs while medical teams diagnose the cause of the cardiac arrest. These can cost up to $250,000 each;
  • Seven LUCAS Chest Compression Systems – attached to the patient, these perform high-quality, mechanical chest compressions while paramedics attend to the patient and get him or her to hospital as quickly as possible;
  • Three TEE probes inserted into the patient’s mouth to assess airways;
  • One Blood Gas Analyzer to measure oxygen levels in the blood.

“The great part of this story is that this protocol, started about four years ago, has come full circle with this donation,” says 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.”

ECMO heart-lung bypass machine and LUCAS are both cardiac equipment used in St. Paul's ER.

Foreground: ECMO heart-lung bypass machine; background: LUCAS mechanical chest-compression device.

Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Survival chances are one in 10 if an otherwise healthy patient experiences the event outside a hospital. Vancouver paramedics treat about 400 arrests each year. Many are prime candidates for the ECPR program between St. Paul’s and the BC Emergency Health Services.

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