Submitted by Brandi Devries, coordinator, Communications and Public Affairs

The people from the new Pacemaker Program at Abbotsford Regional Hospital have their hearts set on providing patients with timely access to enhanced cardiac services.

Photo (from left to right): Dr. Saman Rezazadeh, cardiologist; Nini Manuel, registered nurse; Dr. Maurice Dunstan, anesthesiologist; and Emily Mangum, registered nurse

Our hearts are one of the most vital organs in our body. It acts as the body’s engine room, beating 100,000 times a day to pump blood through a network of veins, arteries and vessels. When this crucial muscle begins to falter, life-saving devices like a pacemaker are implanted near the heart, ensuring those affected can live healthy, active lives.

For patients like Otto Wittenberg, the Pacemaker Program has granted him a second chance at life.

“I had this pacemaker installed in November 2015. After spending three weeks at Peace Arch Hospital being monitored around the clock, they told me my heart was operating at 30 per cent, and a pacemaker would be the best fit for me,” reflects Otto. “I am now totally dependent on it.”

As part of our efforts to provide patients in our region with timely access to cardiac services closer to home, the Pacemaker Program has expanded to Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

“Our patients are at the centre of everything we do. By offering this life-saving procedure at our hospital, we can ensure they receive the care they need in a timely fashion,” explains Wendy Newson, director, Clinical Operations, Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

After years of planning, hard work and milestones, the new Pacemaker Program launched in mid-September of 2023, joining Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey and Royal Columbian Hospital as the third acute site in the region to offer this service.

“It’s been a team effort where everyone played an important role. This site plugged into the rest of the region with ease. It’s been a very smooth transition,” says Dr. Saman Rezazadeh, cardiologist.

Dr. Rezazadeh has seen first-hand the benefits this newly expanded program has had for patients and staff alike.

“Expanding cardiac services at Abbotsford Regional Hospital has increased our access to resources throughout the region while allowing us to provide essential care to more patients,” he says. “It also reduces the burden for those who may have to travel great distances to receive their pacemakers.”

With four months under their belt, the Pacemaker Program team operates like a well-oiled machine.

“Initially, pacemaker installations were a new, scary procedure for our team. However, the teamwork and support we received from other sites was top notch. We have worked hard to make the process efficient and smooth for everyone involved, especially the patient,” says Emily Mangum, perioperative clinical leader, Vascular Surgery.

As a registered nurse for 34 years, Nini Manuel takes heart in her role supporting patients on their journey to wellness.

“The patients we see often have difficulty breathing and may be gasping for air with every breath. Once they receive their pacemaker, they instantly feel better. It feels good to help those who are struggling,” she says.

With the program firmly established, the team has set their sights on offering robust remote patient monitoring for all implanted devices.

“Remote patient monitoring allows us to oversee their device while they are at home. If we notice anything of concern, we can contact the patient and have them come in for a check-up,” explains Julie Dhaliwal, former director for Cardiac Services.

Meaningful services like this provides peace of mind for patients.

“It has made it a lot less stressful because they call us when something is wrong,” says Kathrynne Coxon, wife and caregiver. “The team called to inform us that my husband’s device had a few failures and would need replacing. His appointments are every three months, so we wouldn’t have known to follow up with his doctor if it weren’t for their outreach.”

The new Pacemaker Program is one of many stepping stones towards providing quality cardiac services, closer to home.

“As our population grows, we want to grow with it by offering more tertiary care services at local sites,” says Dr. Shahzad Karim, cardiac surgeon and regional medical director for Cardiac Services, Royal Columbian Hospital. “This allows patients to receive quality, timely care closer to home.”

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