our hospital, our stories Doctor, Interrupted

As an emergency room physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital since 1978 and, later in 1994 as Chief of Emergency, I had seen everything in the ER, or at least I thought I had until the day I became a patient. 

As an emergency room physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital since 1978 and, later in 1994 as Chief of Emergency, I had seen everything in the ER. Serving as the Medical Director of STARS Air Ambulance, too, I enjoyed working with fellow physicians and hospital staff who thoroughly enjoyed their jobs and, as a team, we were always ready for what was to come next through the door.
As it turned out, on an August evening in 1998, what came next through the door was me.

It had been a busy day in ‘emerge’ and it felt good to make the drive home. From out of nowhere, a car hit me as I was travelling through an intersection. The collision was terrible.  I suffered a devastating brain injury.  My career as a physician ended in that intersection.

From out of nowhere, a car hit me as I was travelling through an intersection. The collision was terrible. I suffered a devastating brain injury. My career as a physician ended in that intersection.

So now I speak from the patient’s point of view.  What an incredible hospital. What a dedicated team.  My road was not an easy one – ever.  And the adjustments have been lifelong, but there have been wins along the way, including a climb to Mount Kilimanjaro with my wife Greta, and the opportunity to lead an innovative program called the Brain Care Centre – a place where hundreds of people with brain injury find compassionate care and innovative treatment.

But my relationship with the Alex doesn’t end there. Just last year while walking my dog, I experienced a cardiac incident as a result of a conduction problem, resulting in a heart rate of only 18 to 30 beats per minute.

Once again the Alex saved me—as cardiologists placed a pacemaker in my chest. But while working at a golf tournament for the Brain Care Centre several weeks later, I noticed the surgical site was red – and before long the replaced joints, my hips, my knees, were hot to the touch and painful.  I went back to a familiar place – the emergency department. By now, I was experiencing sepsis – organs were shutting down.

The Royal Alex handles the most surgeries in the province, and many of these cases are so very complex. How grateful am I to have benefited from the care the Royal Alex provides. As a doctor, I knew we did amazing things. As a patient, I have experienced them firsthand.

Incredibly, the pacemaker was also infected – with infection spreading down the wires.  I aspirated several times.

In the Intensive Care Unit for four days, surgeons from the orthopedic surgery centre and the CK Hui Heart Centre worked together to handle what was now an incredibly complex case of life and death.  Luckily, there isn’t a lot of fence building at the Alex, so there was sharing of information between the units.  Today I am healed – but still somewhat shocked at how life, again, can turn on a dime.  The Royal Alex handles the most surgeries in the province, and many of these cases are so very complex.  How grateful am I to have benefited from the care the Royal Alex provides.

As a doctor, I knew we did amazing things.  As a patient, I have experienced them firsthand.

Click here to read more about why the Royal Alexandra Hospital is Alberta's health care hero.