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Two Brothers Tales of Travelling for Cardiac Care

Rod Caughill went for a nap on a busy Saturday afternoon. When he woke up he noticed some pressure in his chest. His immediate reaction was just indigestion, but an incident that occurred to a family member 367 days ago had his wife Susan worried it could be much more serious.

At the Sault Area Hospital Emergency Department, Rod began receiving tests and care immediately. “I was in great hands. Everyone worked to take tremendous care of me, while showing me an extraordinary amount of respect. Every test, all information about my care was explained to me. It was what I needed.” Rod explains. Rod had a ‘heart event’ which was later identified to be a heart attack. He underwent an angiogram, where his blockages were found.

He was now admitted to SAH. He was waiting for transport to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto to have stents put in to open his blockages. It took three days for his transfer and procedure. His wife had to find a separate flight and after the care they had to find a way home. “I received excellent care across the board; from SAH to St. Mike’s it was extraordinary. My issues are in the wait. The incredible uncertainty while I had to wait was a burden for my family. I was fortunate to have healthcare professionals around me to ensure me I was going to be ok, but my wife didn’t have that. She had people telling her the same information, but she had to wait in the waiting rooms, fly alone to Toronto and sit by my side while I slept, not really knowing anything. I wish I could have received care here in Sault Ste. Marie to prevent those days of incredible stress.”

Part of the stress comes from the incident that occurred 367 days prior. Rod’s brother, Neil, was out at the St. Joe’s Anglers and Hunters Club. Just a normal Wednesday for Neil and his friends, at target practice with their bows and crossbows. Neil was in some serious pain after just a few minutes of practice and decided to go back to the clubhouse. Inside he was denying what was happening in his body. His friends eventually rushed him to the local island Hospital, where to Neil’s luck, a paramedic happened to be just outside the emergency room, when Neil’s heart stopped.

Neil was resuscitated. Now with broken ribs and a mangled tongue, nearly bitten off during the defibrillation, Neil was off to Sudbury. He needed an emergency stent to open the blockage that stopped his heart. He was driven from Richards Landing to the Sault Ste. Marie Airport by land ambulance to wait for his air ambulance. His wife Theresa was fortunately able to join him on the flight to Sudbury. “I felt I was a ticking time bomb. My heart had already stopped; I was so terrified it was going to happen again. To have to travel and wait for a lifesaving procedure was a frightening experience.” Neil’s blockage was stented, he was given 4 days to recover and then was picked up by family to go back home to the Sault.

A few months later, Neil fell while out walking the dog. He tore his shoulder. In order to get surgery to repair this injury he required clearance from a cardiologist. Neil had a chemical stress test which raised concerns so he went in for an angiogram.

On December 24th, the angiogram showed his first stent was not long enough to completely open the blockage and caving in on the edges. Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas day now turned into 4 days, admitted to SAH, waiting for transport to St. Michael’s in Toronto and another procedure. “The worst part was I remember right after the angiogram thinking, I wish they could just put the stent in here. Knowing it would take only 15 more minutes after finding the blockage to complete the procedure was really hard to swallow. I didn’t want to put my family through it all again.” Neil reminisced.

Neil, an employee of Carillion Canada, is now overseeing the project to prepare our Hospital for the potential to host stenting services for local patients. The current proposal, in the approval stage at the time of us sharing this story, has the Cardiac Cath lab being renovated to include a second procedure room, an extended care area and medical equipment to provide the stenting services.

Both brothers echo the same opinion when it comes to stenting services at our local Hospital, “It’s plain and simple, it’ll be easier for patients, families and when it comes to a vital organ like the heart, our community deserves this service locally at our Hospital. The added stress and anxiety to the patient trying to understand why me, and the added stress of not knowing where or if a family member can be with you in your journey, makes the need for this service to be provided here ever so important.”




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