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‘Just like Iron Man’: Calgary surgeon undergoes experimental spinal surgery

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  • CALGARY — Dr. Richi Gill’s life changed in an instant.

    The 38-year-old surgeon, who helped develop Calgary’s bariatric surgery program, was involved in a freak accident on a boogie board during a family vacation in Hawaii one year ago.

    “The wave pushed me down instead of forward in pretty shallow waters. My head hit the ground and ended up breaking my neck,” Gill said following a recent physiotherapy session.

    “I don’t have any movement or sensation below that injury level. I do have some use of my arms but not my hands.”

    Gill described how he embarked on strenuous rehabilitation at Calgary’s Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre, then headed to Thailand in October for experimental surgery.

    An epidural stimulation implant was placed in his lower back. With the use of a small device like a remote control, the implant sends electrical currents to Gill’s spinal cord to stimulate nerves and move his limbs, bypassing the traditional brain-to-spinal-cord pathways.

    The implant can be programmed to stimulate certain nerves mapped out by surgeons and therapists.

    Gill said his middle of three children, Akaash, thinks the implant is cool.

    “He’s very much like, ‘This is just like Iron Man! … We need the suit,” Gill said.

    “He’s only seven so I think he might think there’s a suit that’s out there somewhere.”

    The smile doesn’t fade from Gill’s face as, strapped into a harness, physiotherapists slowly help him walk with the use of a machine on wheels. Gill isn’t able to move his legs on his own, but by concentrating he is able to make his hip muscles flex and help himself along.

    “Right now, realistically, assisted stepping is where I’m at and being able to stand with assistance. Will I be able to walk on my own? It’s a possibility. My main focus is just trying to improve day by day and we’ll see where that gets me.

    “It’s definitely fatiguing because each time you try to take a step you have to really focus and concentrate to get that signal to the right spot.”

    Gill spent $100,000 for the surgery and travel, since they weren’t covered by health care or insurance. He plans to return to Thailand later this year to have a second stimulator placed higher up on his spine.

    His career as a surgeon is over, he said, but he hopes the operations in Thailand will help him regain some hand function and his overall quality of life.

    The spinal surgery is also performed in a few other countries such as the United States and Switzerland, but it’s much cheaper in Thailand.

    Only a half dozen people in Canada have had it done abroad and the number worldwide is about 30, said Dr. Aaron Phillips with the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

    So few procedures having been done makes it harder to get approval from Health Canada or the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, he said.

    Phillips has been involved in assessing the procedure for the last nine years.

    “I’m just really overcautious about selling these things too early. And, although I am extremely excited about the potential of this therapy, it still needs to pass rigorous tests first,” he said.

    “We don’t know if this will work the same way in everyone. We’re still dealing with very small numbers, although the initial findings are promising.”

    Ryan Straschnitzki of Airdrie, Alta., the Humboldt Broncos player who was paralyzed from the chest down when the Saskatchewan team’s bus crashed last April, has become friends with Gill through the Synaptic clinic.

    Gill has inspired the 19-year-old with his positivity.

    “He’s able to do things he couldn’t do before. It’s amazing,” said Straschnitzki.

    The executive director of Synaptic has seen a marked change in Gill’s abilities and has visited the medical facility in Thailand.

    “Given the nature of Richi’s injury, there was no sensory and no volitional movement below his level injuries. This has allowed Richi to regain some of that function and to be able to command voluntary movement below his level of injury,” says Uyen Nguyen.

    “This is not a cure. But from what we can see, this appears to be the most promising procedure for people with spinal cord injuries.”

    — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

     

    Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


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    Watch: Buy a Red Deer Hospital Lottery ticket and change the way meds are dispensed at Red Deer Regional

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  • Red Deer Hospital Lottery 2019 Cause:  Pyxis Medstations

    Pyxis Medstations are automated medication dispensing units with numerous electronic features to ensure safety, accuracy and efficiency.

    In our hospital, over 1,000 new medication orders are written by prescribers and processed every day. 13,000 units of medication are dispensed on the care areas every 24 hours. The process for dispensing this medication is paper-based and manual with nurses selecting medication from a patient drawer or from the unit supply.

    Patient safety is of utmost concern in our hospital, and the Pyxis system will help ensure the best possible healthcare for Central Albertans. Automated medication dispensing will ensure possible allergies, drug interactions, and duplicates in therapy are reviewed before medication is given, reduce the chances of a patient receiving the wrong medication, only allow access to medications approved for that patient, warn if a medication is selected too early or too late for a patient, provide additional instruction and information on medications to healthcare providers, enhance communication between the pharmacy and nursing.

    The technology will further ensure medication dispensing safety with ‘bedside medication verification’. Once a medication has been selected for a patient, the nurse will scan the patient file at the bedside before administering the medication to that patient.2019 proceeds will be used to purchase Pyxis Medstations for use in emergency, the intensive care unit, operating room, recovery room, unit 22 (cardiology), & other critical care areas at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

    Red Deer Hospital Lottery  Proceeds from the Lottery have exceeded $8.5 million since its inception; the lottery has become a huge success and has plenty to celebrate!

    For a fifth exciting year we are proud to partner with Sorento Custom Homes for the 2019 Red Deer Hospital Lottery Dream Home!

    The 2019 Red Deer Hospital Lottery Dream Home, designed by Sorento Custom Homes, makes a strong statement of luxury and design. This $840,000 bungalow features 3,110 sq ft of developed living space. It’s a perfect family home with 3 bedrooms, 2 1⁄2 baths, and a master chef kitchen with adjoining butler pantry. You’ll love the high vaulted ceilings in the main living space, accented with wood beams & two large skylights, plus a full height brick fireplace. Enjoy the convenience of the 5 piece ensuite, connecting to a large walk-in closet and adjoining laundry room. Finish off this beautiful unique home with an impressive wet bar, and $40,000 worth of gorgeous furnishing provided by The Brick. Our Dream Home is located in the community of Laredo on the south east corner of Red Deer.

    There are 100 prizes to be won valued at more than $1.1 million. This year’s Early Bird prize is: $25,000 Cash!

    Don’t forget the MegaBucks 50 Raffle with a minimum cash payout of $100,000. Last year’s winner took home $250,000!
    2019 proceeds will be used to purchase Pyxis Medstations, automated medication dispensing units with numerous electronic features to ensure safety for patients at the Red Deer hospital, and accuracy and efficiency for hospital staff.

    Tickets for the Lottery are $25 each, 5 for $100 or 15 for $250 Call 403.340.1878 or toll-free at 1.877.808.9005.

    Mega Bucks 50 tickets are $10 each, 10 for $25, and 25 for $50. To order online or for more details visit reddeerhospitallottery.ca

    The show home is open to the public beginning March 15 at 1pm. Show home hours are March 15 – March 31, Daily 1-5 p.m.; Starting April 1, Friday – Sunday 1-5 p.m. Closed Good Friday, open Easter Sunday.

    Early Bird cutoff is 11pm May 27, 2019. Final Ticket Sales cutoff is 11 pm June 24, 2019.

     


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    Calgary woman convicted in son’s strep death granted full parole

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  • CALGARY — A Calgary woman whose son died after she failed to take him to the doctor for a strep infection has been granted full parole.

    Tamara Lovett, who is 50, was convicted in 2017 of criminal negligence causing death and was sentenced to three years in prison.

    She was granted day parole last June after serving eight months of her sentence.

    Lovett, who treated her son with dandelion tea and oil of oregano, told a Parole Board of Canada hearing in Calgary this morning that she grieves every day and would like to turn back the clock.

    The board said that Lovett’s views on western medicine are still not totally in line with the rest of society, but she has made progress and is a minimal risk.

    She has been living in a halfway house but will now be allowed to move into an apartment with a roommate.

    Lovett must continue to receive counselling and is not allowed to be responsible for the care of anyone under the age of 18 or for anyone in a vulnerable position.

     

    Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press



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    march, 2019

    fri8mar - 30aprmar 85:30 pmapr 30Real Estate Dinner Theatre5:30 pm - (april 30) 10:00 pm

    sat23mar10:00 am- 4:00 pmLet Them Be Little Market10:00 am - 4:00 pm

    sat23mar1:00 pm- 4:00 pmMAGSaturday @ the MuseumMAGnificent Saturdays welcomes all ages and abilities to participate in a fun art project every week! 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

    sat23mar8:00 pm- 10:30 pmA Night at the Movies8:00 pm - 10:30 pm

    sat23mar8:00 pm- 8:00 pmA Night at the Movies8:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    sat30mar - 31mar 3010:00 ammar 319th Annual Central Alberta Family Expo10:00 am - 5:00 pm (31)

    sat30mar1:00 pm- 4:00 pmMAGSaturday @ the MuseumMAGnificent Saturdays welcomes all ages and abilities to participate in a fun art project every week! 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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