Luke Brockholm is thanking Kelowna General Hospital from the bottom of his heart — a heart saved by KGH’s cardiac care team in the first open heart surgery operation performed at the hospital last week.
Brockholm, 54, was introduced to the media Wednesday, nine days after receiving quadruple bypass surgery at KGH.
As first reported in the Capital News last week, the surgery marked a historic first for the hospital, which is now the only medical centre outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria where full cardiac care services are offered.
The operation was conducted in one of two specially refitted operating rooms at the hospital, rooms that will be used for cardiac operations until the new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre opens at KGH in 2015. An area for the new heart centre is currently being cleared at KGH and construction is expected to start early next year.
As for Brockholm, who lives in Okanagan Falls and works in the maintenance department at the Penticton Airport, he said while he was happy to be the first open heart surgery patient at KGH, he is even more happy with the result.
“I’m feeling really good and I’m surprised I have recovered as quickly as I have,” said a smiling Brockholm during a new conference to announce the historic first for KGH Wednesday.
He was discharged four days after his surgery and returned to KGH Wednesday to thank the medical staff that cared for him.
He said he does not have a history of heart disease in his family and only became aware he had a problem earlier this year. He said he had the opportunity to be flown to Victoria for the surgery but said he opted to have it done here because his condition was stable enough to wait. He learned in late November that he would be the first patient to have open heart surgery at KGH.
And, it appears, the cardiac team at the hospital is not resting on its laurels following that first success.
According to Dr. Guy Fradet, KGH’s medical director of cardiac surgery and the surgeon who performed the procedure on Brockholm, in the nine days since, 11 more open heart surgeries have been performed, including an emergency procedure and one that involved bypasses of all six arteries of the heart.
“We did surgeries every day last week and as of Monday, we are now doing two a day,” said Fradet.
KGH estimates that once the cardiac program is fully up and running, as many as 630 procedures will be performed at the hospital every year. That will be on top of the existing angioplasty program, which has been operating ay KGH for the last three years.
The introduction of full cardiac care services at tKGH,lauded by Health Minister Dr. Margaret McDiarmid at Wednesday’s news conference, means residents of the Interior will no longer have to travel to Vancouver or Victoria for operations.
Brockholm said that was a relief, especially for his wife, who was able to be with him prior to and after his surgery.
Fradet said the arrival of open heart surgery has also helped the hospital in many other ways to, thanks to improvements in a number of areas including a bigger pharmacy, and larger blood bank, as well as improved x-ray and laboratory services.
“This will be a real game changer for the hospital,” he said.