World-Class Stroke Care, Right Here at KGH



The new Interventional Radiology Suite where EVT will take place at KGH.

In March 2021, the KGH Foundation launched Every Moment Matters. The campaign aimed to support comprehensive advancements in stroke care at KGH and for patients across the southern interior of B.C. The call to action inspired the community. And donors took swift action. In less than seven months, the campaign reached its ambitious goal of $8 million.

A significant commitment of the funding was to bring Endovascular Thrombectomy (EVT), a highly specialized, minimally invasive interventional procedure to remove blood clots from the large vessels of the brain, to KGH. The capacity for EVT was formerly only available in large urban centres like Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. EVT is being heralded as a game-changer in medical teams’ ability to respond to stroke. It can mean the difference between a lifetime of disability or being able to walk away from the procedure almost as if the stroke never happened. Such was the case for Donna Van Velzen.

Donna Van Velzen | KGH Nurse, EVT Patient

On a chilly November morning, Donna, a Registered Nurse at KGH for over 30 years, arrived for an early shift. As she put on her shoes in the staff changing room, she discovered that she couldn’t move her right leg and began teetering to the right. She remembers thinking, “No, no, no…,” because it occurred to her that she might be having a stroke.

Most strokes are caused by a blockage or clot in a blood vessel in the brain, also known as ischemic stroke. When blood flow to the brain is blocked, brain cells begin to die – up to 2 million every minute.

Donna surfed the walls and managed to reach her work area to access help. A team was immediately brought over to assess her. “I heard the neurologist say that I had a blood clot in my brain,” says Donna. “Then he said they were going to try and remove it. I remember thinking, are they going to have to open up my brain?”

In fact, KGH physicians didn’t need to open up Donna’s brain. Instead, after a CT scan that confirmed the clot, Donna was prepped for EVT.

By 10 am, the procedure was complete, and Donna was in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) recovering. She went home the next evening.

“Before EVT, surviving a stroke often meant losing the ability to speak, write or perform activities of daily living, being placed in a care home and/or coping with the emotional toll through rehabilitation,” says Dr. Paul Kurkjian, Interventional Radiology Stroke Lead at KGH, who performed the procedure for Donna that fateful day. “Now patients like Donna who suffer from an ischemic stroke can receive this revolutionary treatment right here at KGH. The results can be astounding—with some patients able to walk out of the hospital within two or three days.”

“EVT and the specialized team at KGH saved my life,” says Donna. “The outcome could have been quite different for me if it hadn’t been for them. I am so grateful – to the hospital teams and to the donors who made EVT possible, right here, close to home.”

Beyond providing better care for patients closer to home, the innovation and equipment are recruitment tools for the hospital and bring more talent and expertise to our community.

“We’ve gone from no endovascular capability in this regard, to doing over 150 cases (in 2022), to recruiting a neurosurgical interventionalist sooner than we ever thought possible,” explains Dr. Aleksander Tkach, Medical Director of the IH (Interior Health) Stroke Network and EVT Service.

“We’ve been able to hire two more stroke doctors and we’re involved in multiple trials throughout the nation,” continues Dr. Tkach. “In fact, our trial recruitment throughout the pandemic was actually some of the best in Canada – going from zero to this so quickly because of this attitude of recognizing the innovation and the strength and resources already within the community.”

“The fact that our donors helped bring the talent and the equipment to KGH is incredible,” states Allison (Allie) Young, KGH Foundation CEO. “Patients in the southern interior of B.C. no longer need to travel to Vancouver or Calgary to access EVT. Now, people in our communities are not only surviving a stroke but, like Donna, can continue to thrive after recovery.”

“This investment in innovation, technology and people is imperative as we continue to drive world-class health care forward and ensure that it is available, close to home,” says Allie.

The commitment to EVT also included the resources needed to outfit a brand-new, dedicated suite for the newly acquired EVT equipment. This summer, the suite became operational.

Marshall Eliuk, who helped complete the campaign with a $1M gift, cut the red ribbon to officially open the new suite at KGH.

Explore Additional Resources

Follow Us



Related Stories

Scroll to Top