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Saving Peter's Life: How Donations Make a Difference

Local donations helped save Peter's life. After 43 days in Sault Area Hospital, Peter MacPhail was amazed by the outstanding care he received.

It was the holiday season, and Peter MacPhail was getting ready to head on a trip. After a dinner with friends, he wasn’t feeling well – so he laid down to rest... and he didn’t get up for 3 days.

Peter thought he had a bad flu, but his wife – Val Evans – noticed he wasn’t himself. “I was starting to make silly mistakes, like I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the TV with the remote,” Peter shared. Val encouraged him to get checked out, and they went to the emergency room at Sault Area Hospital.

“We had no idea how sick I was,” he said.

Peter moved quickly through triage, and a blood test identified an infection. Blood infections, like Peter’s, can be fatal if left untreated. The source of the infection was traced to Peter’s knee – which had been replaced 9 years prior. After another test, Peter’s Orthopedic surgeon decided the knee would have to be replaced. Less than 24 hours after being admitted, Peter was in surgery.

The procedure went well. With his knee replaced, and antibiotics in hand, Peter was discharged to recover at home – but after a week or so he noticed he wasn’t feeling better. His family physician ordered another round of blood tests, and when the results came back they called him quickly. “It was 6:30 in the morning and they said ‘get back to the hospital right away!’”. Peter’s sodium levels had dropped to a critically low level.

An older man (Peter) sitting on a chair, petting a golden retriever
Peter is pictured with his dog, Elsa. While pets are not normally allowed at SAH, Peter was granted compassionate exemption.

Peter was admitted again, and ran through a battery of tests. The low sodium made him very tired. “I could hardly open my eyes,” he added. The team would give an IV, and Peter would feel a bit better, but by the next day the levels would drop. There were infections all over his body.

As part of the tests, Peter had a specialized ultrasound on his heart. This test only recently became available at Sault Area Hospital thanks to new ultrasound equipment. The ultrasound identified an issue – what looked like a growth. There was talk of sending Peter to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto for surgery, and arrangements for flights started. Then, the surgeon at St. Michael’s advised Peter’s care team that they needed to clear the infection first – or Peter could die on the operating table.

Peter was given a strong antibiotic. After time and monitoring, eventually the infection cleared and it seemed like the heart issue had resolved. While Peter was relieved to not need surgery, he was still having issues with sodium.

“It seemed like every doctor under the sun came into my room. Nobody could figure it out. It reminded me of a medical drama on TV – surrounded by 4 doctors talking about, ‘What do you think? It could be this, it could be that’. It was really refreshing to see them trying to solve it!”

The case was finally solved by a locum physician, who ordered a series of blood tests and a brain scan. They discovered Peter’s pituitary gland had stopped working and his thyroid was under active.

Peter was set up with an Endocrinologist – a specialist in the body’s hormones. Medications were prescribed, and Peter was given a high dose infusion of sodium to help rebuild the stores in his body. It took nearly a day and a half to complete the infusion, but once it was done Peter felt better than he had in a long time. “I was dreaming that I’d gotten out of bed and gone for a run – I couldn’t believe how good I felt!”

During his stay, Peter was amazed at the kindness of the staff who cared for him. The cleaner who found extra blankets, and brought comfortable chairs for his family. The food services workers who made up plates of veggies and dip for him to snack on. The nursing staff who checked in at the beginning and end of each shift, and let him know when they were planning to be away. “They’d tell me ‘I’m off for a week. I hope you’re OK, and you’ll be out by the time I’m back.’ It was so nice.”

Peter will be on medication for life to manage his symptoms. He is still having regular tests and appointments to monitor his condition, but he is feeling much better these days.

The lab equipment that found Peter’s blood infection was funded by gifts from donors. The surgical tools that were used for his knee replacement were supported by donations. And the specialized ultrasound machine that found the issue in Peter’s heart was purchased just last fall, thanks to community support.

“I just think, if I had gone on that trip with this infection, and had gotten sick while I was away, I don’t know that I would have made it home again,” Peter said. “I had such good fortune to come here first [to Sault Area Hospital].”


Donations to SAH Foundation make a huge difference - they saved Peter's life! Join our donor community today to make an impact at our local hospital.




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