CEO credits hospital angels through campaign

Serious blood infection lets executive see medical work from patient's point of view

As president and CEO of the Vancouver General Hospital and University of B.C. Hospital Foundation, Barbara Grantham has long respected the work completed by the staff and health care providers she regularly encounters.

But, Grantham said, a recent health scare gave her an increased appreciation of just how dedicated the doctors, nurses, blood technicians, transport workers, specialists and food servers she encounters are. Her recent experience inspired Grantham to show that appreciation by honouring the two doctors who helped get her back on her feet through the Angel Campaign.

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Through the campaign, participants make a donations to the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation and write messages of love or appreciation on angel ornaments, which are placed on a tree in the winter wonderland display in the lobby of VGH.

“I had between 12 and 15 angels helping me,” said Grantham. “I’m honouring my two physicians, Dr. Steve Wong and Grady Meneilly.”

An avid runner, Grantham felt pain in her lower back after returning from a run Oct. 21 and assumed she’d pulled a muscle. Despite taking Tylenol and applying a heating pad, the pain grew to what Grantham described as “excruciating.” When she began having problems walking, she went to her doctor who immediately sent her to the hospital for blood work and tests.

By this time Grantham also had a fever, nausea, an enlarged spleen and blood in her urine. After being admitted to VGH, Grantham’s tests came back to show she’d contracted sepsis, a serious blood infection. Grantham ended up spending 10 days in hospital on a combination of pain medication and antibiotics. On her release Oct. 31, Grantham was equipped with a portable antibiotic pump she still wore this week but hoped to have it removed soon.

“It was when I got home I also realized just how important community support workers are,” said Grantham. “This is the first time I’ve been in the hospital since I had my babies so I learned a lot. Now I’m able to see things through a patient’s eyes.”

Grantham hopes others will take the opportunity to pay tribute to their angels and drop by VGH to enjoy the display of trees, which will remain in place now through January. Since 2001, the Angel Campaign has raised more than $2 million in support of UBC and VGH’s most urgent needs, including the purchase of critical equipment, funding the latest research, and advancing patient care.

“Sometimes it’s the small things that aren’t as visible that turn out to be so vital,” said Grantham. “Like the portable IV pump I’m using now, or the new digital machines that take a patient’s temperature, blood pressure and [oxygen] saturation levels at the same time saving nurses a lot of time.”

Loved ones, family members and appreciative patients can take part in the Angel Campaign in person, by phone, via Canada Post or online.

For anyone calling or ordering online, their message will be added to an angel and hung up on their behalf. For more information visit vghfoundation.ca/angel

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