The auditorium at Sault Area Hospital was packed full of people on Wednesday night as hospital staff and patients shared their experiences and thanked generous local donors for helping them reach their initial goal of the $4.5 million needed to expand their cardiac wing.
Part of this expansion included the addition of a cath (catheter) lab, where over 30 angioplasty procedures have been successfully performed since it’s doors opened at the beginning of August.
This goal has been met through a number of events, draws, community donations, a pledge of $250,000 from the Sault Area Hospital Volunteer Association and two incredibly generous donations – $1 million given by the Dr. Lou and Mae Lukenda Charitable Foundation, which was received shortly after the announcement that Sault Area Hospital would soon be performing angioplasty locally, and $3 million from Dale Harrison, a local retired financial analyst.
Harrison told SaultOnline he made the decision to donate this much money to the hospital after he realized that his income tax returns weren’t reflecting how charitable he felt that he should be.
“I just thought how can you live in society that is an embarrassment of wealth and not be able to find more meaningful ways to give it back?” he said.
He then got in touch with the hospital and, upon hearing stories of how many people were sent hours away to receive treatment, he made what he described as an easy decision to donate and help people in need receive treatment right at home.
“I was appalled that several hundred people are sent to Sudbury and Toronto every year for what I would consider very basic cardiology treatments,” he said. “It was basically the knowledge of what these families were going through emotionally. It’s horrible.”
Sault Area Hospital President and CEO Ron Gagnon told SaultOnline that this project has been seven years in the making, from putting in the proposal to working along side CorHealth Ontario on said proposal, to partnering with St. Mike’s for cardiac care training.
“There were definitely days when I would get frustrated, but I never lost belief that this day would be a reality,” he said. “And then when you see the generosity of people like Dale, and the Lukenda Foundation, that kind of generosity is really heartwarming.”
Gagnon said he feels gratified to be a part of this life-changing project. He said keeping top-quality care right here in the Sault is detrimental to the city.
“When you live in Sault Ste. Marie, it doesn’t mean you have to get on a plane or in a car to get high-quality care. And through our partnership with St. Mike’s, when it comes to cardiac care, through that partnership and some of our local cardiologists and staff, you get access to top quality care right here in Sault Ste. Marie.”
He said that opportunities such as this are part of the reason he got into the healthcare field.
“That’s why we do what we do,” he explained. “The people that walk these halls, they do such a fantastic job everyday, and they do it with that sense of purpose.”
Harrison said this generous donation won’t be the last one he makes to the Sault Area Hospital.
“Feeling helpful is important,” he said. “So if you can write a cheque and it doesn’t hurt anybody, and it helps people, isn’t that a great thing? That’s a great outcome in my world. And this isn’t it. There will be more.”
Click here to see photos of the cath lab in a previous SaultOnline article.