Campaign springs for cancer equipment

Jubilee lab outpaces VGH with more modernized lab gear

Dr. Brian Berry

Oak Bay resident Carl Peterson applauds advances in medical technology.

Diagnosed nearly three decades ago with leukemia, new techniques and equipment along the way both saved his life, and added to its quality.

“In the early days for me they would look at 25 cells and if things were critical they would expand it all they way up to 50 cells … now they look at thousands (of cells),” he said. “I used to have bone marrow extractions every three months and even more frequently in the early days. I may have the world’s record for the most of these lovely procedures, which is the good news and the bad news – the good news is I’m still here. They had to do these aspirations in order to monitor the state of the disease and to keep my medications at the correct level and they were invasive and painful.

“Now I go for blood tests every three months and haven’t had a bone marrow extraction in three years.”

The Victoria Hospitals Foundation raised nearly $7 million last year for urgently needed medical equipment and special projects at Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals, which provide care to the roughly 765,000 Island residents.

“The needs of our hospitals are constant and ongoing and the equipment that we’re fundraising for this season is only a small part of the big picture,” said Cathy McIntyre, foundation board chair. “This equipment will increase (patients’) chance for survival at every stage of their diagnosis and treatment. As the quality and capability of medical equipment continues to evolve, so does the need to keep our hospitals on the leading edge of care. Being equipped with the best tools available helps our medical teams do their finest work.”

This spring’s $366,000 campaign targets an automated hematology system that processes blood tests more quickly and accurately; high-resolution monitors and an electrosurgical unit for the Endoscopy Department to provide clearer video images and a more precise diagnosis of cancer locations; and a digital ultrasound that helps physicians precisely locate tumors and other abnormalities during surgery.

Dr. Brian Berry,  Division Chief, Hematopathology, Laboratory Medicine for Island Health, outlined how a new automated slide review system for Victoria General – already in place at RJH – would dramatically improve diagnosis time and precision for cancer and other critical illnesses.

“The job of this equipment is to make sure any abnormalities, like cancer, anemia or auto-immune diseases stand out like a sore thumb,” Berry said. “Right now, the system we have is outdated and requires us to manually review cells from blood samples. The new system provides high-resolution digital images, meaning results are more exact and arrive up to 10 times faster. Often we can begin treatment immediately.”

The new equipment means a more immediate response in diagnosing patients and creating a targeted, personalized treatment plan for complex cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia and metastatic cancer; time-critical illnesses or injuries that cause bleeding; and illnesses that particularly affect seniors, such as anemia.

“Donations from community members make a huge difference in the level of care hospitals can provide,” McIntyre said. “Every single gift, no matter how small or how large, plays an important role in helping us reach our goal.”

For Peterson, the relative comfort of modern tests is augmented by the results of modern medicine. Doctors discovered three years ago the leukemia was  regressing. His last test showed zero cells.

“That’s the kind of information that Brian provides,” Peterson said.

Learn how to contribute at victoriahf.ca online or calling 250-519-1750.