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Albertans lend support for second CT Scanner at Vernon hospital

Don Friesen is alive today because of the care he received at VJH following major heart attack

In 2008, Alberta entrepreneur Don Friesen collapsed from a massive heart attack while on his morning walk near his summer home on Kalamalka Lake. He was kept alive at the scene by a passing anesthesiologist from Salmon Arm before being rushed to the ICU at Vernon Jubilee Hospital (VJH) to undergo life-saving treatment.

Friesen only had a one per cent chance of survival, but, thanks to the expert care he received at the hands of VJH and its doctors, he is now well.

“Several angels came to my rescue in many ways and I’m very grateful to them and to the people of B.C. The quality of service at VJH and of the medical staff here is second to none,” said Friesen.

He and his family spend a great deal of time in the North Okanagan and he had already been thinking about ways to help ensure others have access to life-saving care when he heard about the hospital’s urgent need for a second CT scanner.

CT scans are a critical early step in ensuring patients get faster access to diagnosis and treatment. In the past year, the average wait time at VJH — where one scanner serves all of the North Okanagan — has reached 68 days. With one of the busiest CT scanners in the province, the VJH Foundation recently launched a $6.3 million CT Scanner Expansion Campaign and they now have less than less than $300,000 left to raise.

That’s thanks in part to campaign champions such as Friesen, who hosted a fundraising event and helped spread the word among fellow Albertans with homes in and near Vernon.

“You may need these health services someday,” said Friesen. “If VJH has the best tools at hand, and the best people to deliver those services, there’s a better outcome for you and your loved ones.”

With nearly 2,000 people on a waitlist, dozens of Friesen’s peers have accepted the challenge, contributing to the CT scanner expansion that will shorten wait times.

“Getting involved with the CT scanner campaign is an opportunity for us to support both the Friesen family and to give back to the Vernon community,” said Larry Smith, who spends time in the Okanagan with his wife Betty. “We’ve spent many summers at our home in Vernon and it is comforting to know that state-of-the-art medical facilities are there should our family and friends ever need them.”

“These generous contributions have gone such a long way in helping to make this second CT scanner a reality so we can ensure everyone has access to more efficient care, less waiting and better outcomes,” said Kate McBrearty, executive director, VJH Foundation. “We’ve been so inspired by an amazing community of supporters that have brought us so close to reaching our goal.”

This season, all VJH Light a Bulb donations will go toward increasing access to life-saving scans in the North Okanagan. Learn more and donate at

READ MORE: Vernon hospital in desperate need of second CT scanner

READ MORE: $530K raised for new CT scanner at Vernon hospital


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About the Author: Vernon Morning Star Staff

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