Patient Betty Lou Thomas after her procedure in the KGH electrophysiology (EP) lab. (Interior Health)

Patient Betty Lou Thomas after her procedure in the KGH electrophysiology (EP) lab. (Interior Health)

Penticton woman collapses at gym, gets life-saving care at Kelowna hospital

A new $7M Electrophysiology Lab at KGH saved her after suffering cardiac arrest

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. That was when she 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 Thomas, 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, Thomas had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) surgically inserted in her chest in the newly completed KGH Electrophysiology 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 Thomas. “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.”

“Bringing services closer to residents is a key priority for our government and the opening of the new heart rhythm program at Kelowna General Hospital will benefit patients in all parts of Interior Health. I’d like to thank everyone involved for their dedication and hard work, and the community for their tremendous support with their donations to the KGH Foundation,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

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.

“Congratulations to everyone involved in this effort to enhance cardiac services for residents of Interior Health,” said IH Board Chair Doug Cochrane. “The partnership between Interior Health, Cardiac Services BC and the KGH Foundation demonstrates how collaboration can be the basis of enhancing patient care. This new program will benefit many people in our region.”

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.

“We are grateful to be the bridge between such an incredibly generous community and our regional partners in health care,” says Doug Rankmore, CEO of the KGH Foundation.

For cardiac patients like Thomas, having services closer to her Penticton home made a hard situation that much easier.

“It’s wonderful for our community that we have this service because heart problems are something so many people have,” she said.

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