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The future of health care in Oshawa

A look at interventional radiology, and how Lakeridge is raising millions to expand it

Lakeridge radiology

C-arms, such as this one, are the current basis of the interventional radiology department at Lakeridge Health. With the machines getting older and harder to repair, as well as the advancement in the field, the Lakeridge Health Foundation has launched a new fundraising campaign to help buy new machines for the hospital and expand the department.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The Lakeridge Health Foundation has set up its latest fundraising campaign to help improve Oshawa’s hospital.

And its goal is certainly not a small one.

The hospital foundation has announced it is seeking to raise $5 million to go toward the expansion and improvement of the hospital’s interventional radiology department.

And the foundation has more than its fair share of ways of raising these needed funds.

Lakeridge CEO Kevin Empey

Kevin Empey, the CEO of Lakeridge Health, recently announced the new fundraising initiative. The goal is to raise $5 million for new machines for the hospital’s interventional radiology department, as well as to expand it in order to make room for the new equipment.

“We raise funds in a number of ways,” says Linda Marco, the director of advancement for the Lakeridge Health Foundation. “We have third party events, we have signature events, we have direct mail campaigns…all of our efforts over the next year or so are going to be focused on this particular campaign.”

One of those signature events is the upcoming InspirEVE gala on Nov. 6.

Less than a month into its campaign, the Lakeridge Health Foundation has already reached nearly 20 per cent of its multi-million-dollar goal.

“We have been fortunate, working with a couple of major donors,” Marco says, adding some have contributed five- and six-digit contributions. “Right now, we’re at just over three-quarters of a million dollars.”

Marco adds that staff at the hospital, as well as people she’s talked to, are excited about this new and improved technology coming to Oshawa.

“When we talk to them about better and safer and faster care, and this innovative technology that’s coming to our local hospital, I’m seeing people’s eyes light up,” she says.

“We have a small suite now and we are doing procedures, but the technology (we have) is old, and if we want to replace it, it’s about 14 years old, and the new systems wouldn’t even fit in the room, so we have to build a whole new area for this.

“With this new technology, we’ll be able to see twice as many patients, which is fantastic. The actual procedures themselves are very beneficial to patients because it can replace traditional surgeries. So that means someone might’ve been coming here for surgery and have to spend three days here. Now, they can go home the same day with minimal recovery time and with much less impact on their lives.

Out with the old, in with the new

So, what exactly is interventional radiology?

The minimally invasive type of procedure dates back almost a century to 1927 when Portuguese doctor Egas Moniz developed angiography, which used X-rays to provide a better look at blood vessels, allowing doctors to better diagnose several diseases and find tumors.

The technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 90 years, including one of the big names in the field, Charles Dotter of the Oregon Health and Science University, winning the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1978.

No longer the sole work of Nobel laureates, Lakeridge has had a small interventional radiology suite since the early 2000s, and is in need of some new equipment.

Dr. Murray Asch, the head of the hospital’s interventional radiology department, says that the equipment his department uses is in need of replacements.

“We use a variety of equipment, including the C-arm, which is the X-ray component which…guides our use of catheters and needles into patients to perform a variety of procedures. The single C-arm that we have right now is, I believe, the oldest in Ontario and so the fundraising here will allow for the purchase of two new rooms, which will then double our throughput, reduce our wait times and this new technology will make it easier and safer for us to do our procedures,” he tells The Oshawa Express. “Our equipment is so old that essentially when it breaks, they don’t make replacement parts for it anymore. And because of the newer technology, the new piece of equipment wouldn’t even fit into the room we are currently in.”

Asch adds that currently, if the C-arm goes out of service for maintenance or other reasons, his department isn’t running, and this is why getting a second machine will make things easier – both for him, for patients, and for the approximately 4,000 procedures his department does each year.

“It’s great that we’re replacing equipment before it breaks, before we’re in a critical situation.”

A view from the inside

In the mid-2000s, Carmen Brosseau, then a high school student, started feeling some pains in her abdomen. Those pains became sharp and more frequent, leading to trips to the hospital. And those trips weren’t providing any answers.

“I was given a lot of different answers – everything from indigestion to a potential ectopic pregnancy and it was very frustrating because I didn’t feel as if the pain I was experiencing was being taken seriously,” Brosseau says in an email to The Oshawa Express. “A lot of doctors just shrugged it off as period cramps, even though Advil never helped with the pain. I was even told once to consider getting a hysterectomy – something a young woman in her early 20s should never have to face if it isn’t absolutely necessary.”

Brosseau says that for a while, she came to accept that these pains were just a part of her life, heading off to university and still having these attacks. But that didn’t mean the search for the truth stopped – and an ultrasound eventually found the culprit.

“After many ultrasounds, it was discovered that I had a small fibroid (similar to a tumor) on my uterus, which was triggering nerve endings throughout my lower body,” she says. “Because although the pain was primarily in the area of my abdomen, the pain would actually spread down my left leg – making it impossible to do almost anything.”

However, in late 2010, Brosseau reached what she called her breaking point, getting her mother to take her to the emergency room once again. And the pain she was experiencing every day, it turned out, is something many women will experience once or a couple times in their life.

“I had started hyperventilating from the pain, and my hands and wrists had locked backwards. My body was going into shock. After receiving morphine for the pain, doctors had concluded that what I had been experiencing on an almost daily basis was equivalent to extreme contractions during labour,” she says.

It was also after this visit that Brosseau was steered toward the interventional radiology department, which offered a procedure called a uterine fibroid embolization. The procedure sees a radiologist use a catheter to stop blood supply to the uterine body.

And unlike that hysterectomy, which can see women remain in hospital for two to three days and weeks of recovery, this procedure offered through Lakeridge’s interventional radiology department saw Brosseau go home on the same day of the procedure.

And she’s been pain-free ever since.