Better care with our whole heart

By Elise Copps

Hamilton Health Sciences is the go-to centre for heart care in the Hamilton-Niagara-Halton-Brant region, taking on complex cases and using cutting edge techniques. But, it hasn’t lost its human touch. As a community hospital and regional centre of excellence, it provides the best of both worlds to patients.

Ask Jenny and Gerald Kennedy of St. Catharines. The mother-son pair credit the team at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH) with saving their lives more times than they can count.

Twenty years ago, when now 81-year-old Jenny met Dr. Madhu Natarajan, she was having trouble breathing and was sent to HGH for a heart X-ray. Dr. Natarajan put stents in her blood vessels to increase blood flow.

Years later, Jenny went into heart failure. No one—not even a renowned specialist in Toronto—would take on the risky surgery that might extend her life. Then she met Dr. Victor Chu, a heart surgeon at HGH. He performed a minimally invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) on Jenny to put a new valve in her failing heart. It was one of the first procedures of its kind at HGH. “They’ve saved my life many times,” she says.

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Fast forward to 2018.

Jenny brought her son, Gerald, to their local hospital for a heart X-ray to diagnose the cause behind his worsening health. When they walked into the waiting area, she looked up at the appointment board. There was Dr. Natarajan’s name. Jenny’s long-trusted doctor would be caring for her son.

“Jenny recognized me right away,” says Dr. Natarajan “Through a partnership with Niagara Health, heart doctors from HHS rotate through shifts in the heart investigation unit in St. Catharines. It was my turn that day, and I was glad to be a familiar face for the Kennedys.”

Gerald needed urgent surgery that could only be done at HGH. Dr. Natarajan connected with his team back in Hamilton and arranged it immediately.

Within 24 hours, he was on an operating table having quadruple bypass surgery on his heart.

Gerald is recovering well. Both he and Jenny are forever grateful to their team at HHS for giving them more years together.

“We wouldn’t be here without them. They are so talented, but they are also so kind. They’re our angels,” Jenny says.

Hamilton Health Sciences:

  • Leads integrated services within the Local Health Integration Network for vascular surgery and heart investigation, improving access to world class care for people across the region.
  • Has the largest heart surgery program in the province, completing 1,731 cases last year.
  • Has an excellent recovery time for TAVI patients—three quarters go home just one day after their procedure.

Elise Copps is a Public Relations Specialist at Hamilton Health Sciences.