During his vacation in Amelia, Florida, last fall, Bill Blair’s philanthropic spirit and love for cycling led him to join a 100-kilometre charity ride to raise funds for a local hospital’s cardiac care program. Little did he know this ride would take an unexpected and life-altering turn.
At first, everything was going as planned. Then, five kilometres from the finish line, Blair suddenly suffered a type of heart attack so severe it’s immediately life-threatening and often fatal. The main artery of his heart was nearly or fully blocked. He collapsed and fell from his bike.
Luckily, a fellow cyclist swiftly administered CPR on Blair, while coincidentally, a cardiologist named Dr. Brian Saluck was driving by and saw Blair fall from his bike. He quickly pulled over, took over CPR, and waited for paramedics.
Blair’s pulse had vanished, and his heart stopped. The paramedics used an automated external defibrillator to restart his heart. Recognizing the situation’s urgency, Dr. Saluck followed the ambulance to the hospital for which Blair was raising funds. There, he inserted a stent into Blair’s artery, clearing the blockage and saving his life.
In the latest episode of the PRHC Foundation’s Heart of Healthcare video series, Foundation President & CEO and series host, Lesley Heighway, sits down with Blair at the 100 Acre Brewing Co., a popular hotspot for cyclists.
They talk about that day that changed Blair’s life, the importance of having lifesaving care nearby, and the community’s role in bringing advanced care, including state-of-the-art cardiac technology, to Peterborough Regional Health Centre.
The heart attack was a complete shock to Blair, a 63-year-old retired accountant, who’s been active for the last 30 years and in good health. He spent decades participating in local races and had completed five Ironman triathlons.
He spent three days in the hospital following his procedure without remembering what happened. His recovery, he says, was remarkably swift. One week after surgery, he was walking and exercising, and within a few months, he was back on his bike.
The entire experience, he says, has added to his outlook on the importance of having access to lifesaving medical care where and when you need it most. Although Blair had his procedure in Florida, he says he finds comfort in knowing there is a new, donor-funded Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at PRHC.
Last year, the hospital and the PRHC Foundation announced the completion of a $3.55 million investment in the Health Centre’s two existing Cath Lab suites, made possible by community donations. In the first month that both suites were operational, there were 324 Cath Lab visits, including 279 angiograms and 117 cardiac stenting procedures — some performed while a heart attack was taking place. Throughout 2022-23 there were more than 2,800 cardiac procedures performed at PRHC.
Every year, thousands of patients from across the region rely on the Lab and PRHC’s cardiac care team for lifesaving, minimally invasive cardiac stenting and diagnosis. Since 2013, the hospital’s code STEMI program has allowed patients with suspected heart attack to be routed directly to PRHC for emergency cardiac stenting, bypassing community hospitals that are unable to perform this procedure and going straight to the PRHC Cath Lab.
Now, advancements in technology are allowing doctors to perform minimally invasive cardiac procedures more safely and effectively using tools that didn’t exist when PRHC opened fifteen years ago. Expanding the hospital’s cardiac services will also reduce the need for residents to travel out of town for specialized care.
The new suites support shorter procedure times, meaning more non-emergency patients can be treated locally, saving them the time, cost, and stress of travelling to a bigger city centre for cardiac services and reducing the risk of a serious, life-threatening cardiac emergency.
As a former Chair and decade-long member of the PRHC Foundation Board of Directors, Blair has played a key role in championing the need for community donations to invest in hospital equipment — which the government doesn’t fund.
“If we can raise more money and have procedures that people are going to Kingston or Toronto or other places for, that we can have right here in Peterborough, that’s really exciting,” Blair says.
Blair says that every dollar invested in the hospital will positively impact patient care, leading to better outcomes for patients, and ultimately, a better future for our region. Having leading-edge, donor-funded tools allows PRHC’s doctors, nurses and staff to do their jobs to the best of their abilities — providing expert, compassionate care to more patients, faster and more safely. It also helps PRHC attract top healthcare professionals to work at the Health Centre and sets a foundation on which future innovation and new services will be built.
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In July, Dr. Warren Ball, interventional cardiologist and head of PRHC’s cardiology division, spoke with Blair, his wife, Tracy, and Heighway in the new Cardiac Cath Lab. Blair says he was impressed by the Lab’s new, cutting-edge equipment and technology.
“Dr. Ball, who gave me the tour, showed me a sample stent that was very similar to the size and one that I have in me, which was very interesting,” he says. “I felt really good knowing if I have heart problems in the future, we’ve got a great Lab there [at PRHC].”
The new suites bring high-tech imaging right to cardiologists’ fingertips.
“This allows us to work more quickly and efficiently at a time when every second counts,” explains Dr. Ball. They do so with increased patient safety since the new equipment uses less radiation to obtain images of even greater diagnostic quality.
“We’re immensely grateful to donors,” he says. “It’s because of donors that we can keep hearts close to home. And that’s created the foundation for the next steps of our cardiac program.”
Heart of Healthcare is a unique project that showcases the personal stories of some of the individuals who are helping to shape the future of PRHC and the population of 600,000 people from the city and county of Peterborough, Northumberland County, east Durham, the Haliburton Highlands, and the City of Kawartha Lakes who rely on it.
Blair’s experience is one of many that demonstrate the role that world-class care close to home — closer to wherever you are — plays in our lives.
VIDEO: Heart of Healthcare – Episode 2
Watch the full discussion between Bill Blair and Lesley Heighway above.
Upcoming episodes of Heart of Healthcare will be available at prhcfoundation.ca and through the Foundation’s social media and Vimeo channels.
This branded editorial was supplied by the Peterborough Regional Health Centre Foundation. If your organization or business is interested in a branded editorial, contact us.