A Valentine’s Day fundraiser is taking place in the community of Tatla Lake to raise money for new emergency health equipment. (Photo submitted)

Tatla Lake Valentine’s Day event fundraising for emergency equipment

West Chilcotin Health Care Society is hosting the event

Fundraising for new emergency equipment is the aim of Cupid’s bow for an upcoming Valentine’s Day fundraiser in Tatla Lake.

The West Chilcotin Health Care Society’s (WCHCS) “Have a Heart Valentine’s Day Fundraiser,” taking place Friday, Feb. 14, will consist of a wine and cheese, auction and dance.

Family nurse practitioner Patrice Gordon is the WCHCS president and her husband Dr. Rob Coetzee, who has been stationed in the region since 2014, is a director.

They said all proceeds from the event will go toward the purchase of a transport ventilator and an intraosseous drill for difficult IV starts.

Gordon said the drill will be for her to use in the various communities she travels to work in.

The transport ventilator will be for long medevacs when somebody isn’t breathing on their own.

“Currently, we have to manually breathe for them using a bag-valve-mask set-up,” Gordon explained.

“There are many reasons why a transport ventilator is a far better option.”

Coetzee said in deciding what new equipment is needed, he and Gordon make suggestions based on their past experience, on what equipment they feel is lacking and what they think they will be able to use.

“We are ultimately trying to improve the quality of health care we are supplying and making available to people along Highway 20.”

Aside from fundraisers, Coetzee and Gordon also do outreach which includes community CPR and AED training and he is involved with West Chilcotin Search and Rescue and does medical training with members.

Gordon said they are ‘pretty thrilled’ about the generous support there has been for the fundraiser.

“Bella Coola Heli-Sports donated three nights heli-hiking that we’re raffling off at the event, there is a wide variety of donated items for auction including a cheque for $2,000 from White Saddle Air, dinner for 10 at Terra Nostra Guest Ranch, an original painting by Jack Peterson, and everything from Maui Jim sunglasses donated by FYidoctors to a patio heater donated by Rona,” Gordon said.

All equipment purchased by the society is approved by Interior Health and becomes property of IH who is then responsible for all maintenance.

Read more: New portable ultrasound machine for West Chilcotin Health Centre

Coetzee credited Dr. Michal Smialowski, who Coetzee took over for upon his retirement, for starting the WCHCS.

Gordon said the event is also a fun community coming-together.

“We are very proud of the past accomplishments of the WCHCS — I don’t know of any better-equipped remote GPs and NPs than Rob and I,” she said.

“It’s so incredibly reassuring when there’s a crisis and you’re on your own or with a nurse, if you’re lucky, to know that you have the equipment and training to give the best care possible in that environment.”

Referencing an event last November where Gordon required emergency care herself after she was stepped on by her 2,600-pound horse and fractured her pelvis, she said it was a perfect example of Coetzee being able to use the medical equipment available in the Tatla Lake clinic.

Read more: West Chilcotin nurse practitioner on receiving end of emergency health services

Originally from South Africa, Coetzee said the West Chilcotin is a wonderful place to work and live.

He was stationed in Antarctica doing an 11-month contract when Dr. Smialowski reached out to him telling him about the position becoming available at Tatla Lake.

Smialowski had heard from his family doctor in Williams Lake that Coetzee had turned down a position in Williams Lake because it was “too big.”

The two doctors began corresponding by e-mail.

“I got back from Antarctica in 2014 and a month later I was in Canada,” Coetzee recalled, adding he plans to remain in the Chilcotin for many years to come.

“We’ve got a house on the lake. I married local and I plan to retire here. Things are going well.”

When Coetzee arrived, Gordon had already been working in the Chilcotin for about seven years.

She also works with the Canadian Red Cross and has been deployed to different parts of the world during health emergencies such as Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Nepal and Mozambique.

The Have a Heart Valentine’s Day Fundraiser takes place at the Tatla Lake Community Hall.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with auction at 8 p.m. Entrance is $5 per person.


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