A Society With a Big Heart

The Victoria Heart House for cardiac patients at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The First Open Heart Society of British Columbia (FOHS) wants to spread the word: if you’re a cardiac patient, they’re in your corner!

The FOHS is a registered charitable non-profit run by volunteers. Most members are patients who await or have undergone open-heart surgery or other cardiovascular procedures. In support, many spouses, close relatives, and medical and hospital staff are also members.

The idea for a cardiac patient support group began with cardiologist Dr. W. Glenn Friesen. From experience, he knew his patients were worried before and after a cardiac operation. He knew their stress might be eased if they could talk to those who had walked the path. Other cardiologists and cardiac patients liked the idea too. In 1973, the FOHS was formed.

“We know how distressing it is when you or a loved one experience a cardiac event,” says Jim Weaver, current President of FOHS. “We want to do our part to let you know you’re not alone. We can help.”

The Society supports cardiovascular patients and their families. It provides education for area hospitals and their staff, operates and funds the Victoria Heart House and supports the Victoria Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. As an added impact, it also helps fund heart-related specialized medical equipment.

Since 1980, the Society has donated more than $740,000 for Royal Jubilee Hospital’s Heart Health program through the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. Their astounding generosity has helped buy over 50 pieces of equipment, benefitting hundreds of caregivers, and thousands of patients. Their impact is felt in every area of the Heart Health program.

A wearable cardiac monitor. A cell saver. An external pacemaker. Education videos for those facing open-heart surgery. These are only some of the equipment and resources FOHS has funded. Last year, almost 700 open-heart surgeries were performed at Royal Jubilee. Every one relied on advanced medical equipment and hospital visitations. And it does all this without government subsidies.

“Let me say how pleased we are to help,” says Jim Weaver. “Our care teams at Royal Jubilee Hospital provide world-class cardiac care.”

FOHS’ Victoria Heart House is another support they help provide. The low-cost bed and breakfast, located a short walk from Royal Jubilee Hospital offers families of cardiac patients a relaxing “home away from home.” Bright and cheery, the house has six guest bedrooms, an outdoor patio, and a garden.

Jim and Dorothy McDonald started the original Victoria Heart House over 35 years ago. They did so with their own funds through a lease. Their dream of a permanent Heart House came true on January 17, 1989. When the premier officially opened the Victoria Heart House and dedicated it to British Columbians. When the Victoria Heart House was officially opened, it was dedicated to cardiac patients and their families.

FOHS is funded by private donors, service clubs, bequests, and the annual Walk for Hearts. These donations provide support, encouragement, and information to cardiac patients and their families. FOHS also sponsors those in need of travel for services not available where they live. Especially families of children born with heart defects.

“Our hearts are full,” says Avery Brohman of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. “We’re grateful to the First Open Heart Society of British Columbia. They continue to support excellence in cardiac care on Vancouver Island, and, in doing so, truly make a difference for our cardiac caregivers, patients and their families.”

Learn more about Royal Jubilee Hospital’s innovative Heart Health Program.

Learn more about the First Open Heart Society of British Columbia.