A 46-year-old Canadian man has died from heart failure after a procedure to install a defibrillator was cancelled when the COVID-19 lockdown saw all ‘non-essential’ surgeries cancelled at his hospital in Alberta.
It was April when Jerry ‘Ched’ Dunham was told that a decision had been made not to operate him despite it being a procedure that he urgently needed to save his life.
On the day the crushing news was delivered, Dunham, who is originally from Ontario, ended up waiting 45 minutes to see his doctor in an effort to plead with him to change his mind.
Jerry ‘Ched’ Dunham, 46, is pictured with his former wife, Krista Lambier, 42, and two daughters, Reydian, nine and six-year-old Atlin
Dunham was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2018 but had his surgery postponed. He ended up telling his friends and family on Facebook about his hopeless situation
After his diagnosis Dunham was unable continue working at his job in construction He ended up losing his home and the dad-of-two moved back to his parents home
Instead, he was brushed off and was told the was doctor was ‘too busy’ to see him, despite having an appointment.
Feeling completely helpless and no good options open to him, Dunham took to Facebook to explain his situation to friends and family.
‘I was basically told that the government is willing to risk my life to save my life,’ he wrote. ‘Let me say that again, my government told me they’re willing to let me die, which according to them is for my own safety…’
No follow-up appointments were made and there were not plans to have the pacemaker surgery rescheduled.
Two months later, on June 7th, the dad-of-two young daughters passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest eight days earlier on May 30th. The heart attack ended up depriving him of oxygen to his brain and he was taken to hospital and placed on a ventilator.
Dunham first became aware something was wrong with his health when in 2018 he found himself unable to catch his breath.
Dunham, pictured with his former wife and two children was scheduled to have a pacemaker fitted in April of this year but the coronavirus outbreak his ‘non-essential’ surgery cancelled
Despite being reasonably fit, a hockey player and a construction worker, he was eventually diagnosed with congestive heart failure and told that he might need a heart transplant, but in the meantime would be fitted with a defibrillator.
After being diagnosed with serious heart issues, his commercial driver’s license was suspended which prevented him from working on building sites.
‘So six months later or so, time for surgery and boom, all non-essential surgeries postponed,’ Dunham explained on his Facebook page.
‘Heart surgery, apparently considered non-essential. Now I know some say that’s non-essential, but it’s pretty goddam essential to me. Now I’m told today possibly could be a year or two?
‘So what I’m just supposed to kiss my ass goodbye? I’m starting to freak out here. Wondering what I should do?’ he asked.
Dunham suffered a heart attack on May 30th and died eight days later on June 7th
Dunham ended up having to move back to his parents home in Ontario.
‘I vowed to him on his death bed — with our daughters sobbing for their daddy to wake up — that his death would not be in vain. I promised him that,’ said his former spouse Krista Lambier, 42, to Yahoo Canada Style.
‘He lost everything he worked so hard for’ — his home, his truck and ultimately his community’, Lambier said.
‘We’re all alternating between feelings of profound sadness, disbelief and total rage. How many people have died on waiting lists for surgeries in hospitals that are empty and have no patients in them?’ Lambier asks. ‘How many have had their health deteriorate beyond repair? Why couldn’t each province have left some hospitals open to deal with essential surgeries and sickness unrelated to COVID?’
Lambier took the couple’s two daughters, six-year-old Atlin and Reydian, nine, to see their father after he had been taken to hospital, but he was not the sprightly father remembered after being placed in an induced coma.
‘When they saw him they were absolutely crushed,’ Lambier said. ‘Our oldest, Reydian, got up on the bed, hugging her dad, begging him, “Please Daddy, please Daddy, come back to us. Please Daddy. It’s Reydian.”‘
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Dunham’s former spouse, Lambier and the two daughters they shared. So far $21,000 has been raised
But the only thing their daughters could do was to say their goodbyes to their doting dad.
After being taken off the ventilator Dunham remained alive for another two-and-a-half days.
Dunham’s mother Karen, 63, told the Calgary Heraldthat her son deserved better.
‘The system failed him. I just don’t understand how a heart can be called non-essential. You can’t live without a properly functioning heart.’
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Lambier and the two girls which has so far managed to raise $21,000.
Gwen Wirth, a representative for the AHS said an investigation into Dunham’s death is underway.
‘This is a tragic incident and Alberta Health Services extends its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of the individual. AHS is committed to providing safe, quality care to our patients,’ Wirth said in a statement.
‘AHS has initiated an internal review to determine all details of this incident. AHS will act on any recommendations from the internal review that could help improve similar situations in the future. These recommendations will be shared with the family, and we will continue to be available to them to answer any questions or concerns they may have.’