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An ICU story of innovation, compassion and unique care

In July 2011, 54-year-old Stephen Kaplan was on a motorcycle trip through the Yukon when he hit a massive pothole on a not-often travelled highway. Because of the remote location, it took paramedics hours to arrive. He was rushed to the closest nursing station, then airlifted to Whitehorse. He had severely fractured his back. The next stop was VGH: home to BC and Yukon's only specialized unit for complex spinal injuries.

After undergoing successful emergency surgery, things took a drastic turn. Stephen developed a life-threatening blood clot called a pulmonary embolism. It led to multiple-organ failures and cardiac arrest. It appeared he wouldn't make it through the night.

"I thought that was it. I was ready to let Stephen go, but the medical team continued to give me hope," said wife Danielle. "Everyone in ICU was brilliant, and so compassionate. They persevered, so we persevered along with them."

ICU Medical Director Dr. George Isac recommended using an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to keep Stephen's heart and lungs functioning until his body could work on its own. VGH is one of only three hospitals in BC that have the relatively unique technology available to treat adults. After 48 hours Stephen improved significantly. He survived and one month later was able to go back home to undergo rehabilitation.

"It's one of our many great stories," said Dr. Isac, with a smile. "To give our very sick, very badly hurt patients the best chance at regaining health, we work as a team with all of the resources available to us. Donors who support us are the unseen members of the team. They help provide many of the tools and technologies we use regularly."

"The doctors, nurses, therapists and all the staff at VGH were excellent. Right from my initial surgery, through all the complications, all the specialists, and with my family as part of the team—everyone was outstanding," said Stephen.