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New cardiac program ‘phenomenal experience’ for Penticton woman

New cardiac program ‘phenomenal experience’ for Penticton woman
Patient Betty Lou Thomas after her procedure in the KGH electrophysiology (EP) lab.

When Penticton resident Betty Lou Thomas woke up in her local hospital’s intensive care unit, she had no memory of what had happened. The last thing she remembered was sitting in a waiting room at her gym on a fall November day. She had suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed without warning. Twenty-four hours later, she was transferred to the cardiac care unit at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH).

Luckily for Betty, just a few days earlier the new Marshall Eliuk Cardiac Interventional and Advanced Heart Rhythm Program had opened at KGH, meaning she did not have to travel any farther for care. The advanced heart rhythm program is a partnership between Interior Health, Cardiac Services BC and the KGH Foundation, which raised $7 million for the program.

After a series of tests, Betty had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) surgically inserted in her chest in the newly completed lab, which opened as part of the advanced heart rhythm program. The ICD is designed to shock her heart back into normal rhythm if necessary. The day after the procedure, she was back home in Penticton, resting and recovering.

“Honestly, it was a phenomenal experience,” said Betty. “Even though it was a scary procedure and scary what happened, I felt very comfortable. Everyone was so knowledgeable. We are lucky to have this in Kelowna. Now, for everyone who needs this in the Interior, it’s so close, rather than us going to Victoria.”

Opening the Electrophysiology Lab at KGH allowed Interior Health to add the advanced heart rhythm program to other specialty cardiac services at the hospital, including medical cardiology and cardiac surgery inpatient units, a coronary care unit, a cardiac surgery intensive care unit, cardiac imaging and an intervention lab. Patients from across the Interior region who need higher-level cardiac care can now access the full range of services in Kelowna.

As well, services are available at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, where there is a coronary care unit, medical cardiology inpatient unit, and cardiac outpatient clinics. In addition, internal medicine specialists provide cardiac care in Cranbrook, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Penticton and Trail.

Community support for the program was critical and the KGH Foundation’s call to raise money for advanced heart rhythm services struck a chord with donors. In less than a year, the foundation raised $7 million for the needed equipment in the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab.

The establishment of the EP Lab at KGH not only enhances care for patients in IH, it contributes to an expanding network for cardiac services within the province. Patients across B.C. will benefit because of an overall increase in capacity for the management of heart rhythm disorders.

For cardiac patients like Betty Lou Thomas, having services closer to her Penticton home made a hard situation that much easier. Betty is grateful her experience took place just about an hour from her hometown instead of having to travel much farther.

“It’s wonderful for our community that we have this service because heart problems are something so many people have. This can happen to anybody and we are lucky to have such an efficient and effective service so close to home,” she said.