At Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals, miracles happen every day. This is especially true for our cardiac patients.

Every year, over 200,000 of our community members go through a cardiac assessment at Vancouver Island hospitals, and over 6,300 cardiac procedures are performed on men and women of all ages. While many attest to the uncertainty and hardship that accompany the news of a cardiac condition, our patients take comfort in the fact they have access to a world-class cardiac program.

Over the past 30 years, the Heart Health program at Royal Jubilee Hospital has grown into a national leader and pioneer in cardiac care. The multi-disciplinary teams driving this Heart Health program have forged a culture of excellence and innovation that allows patients to quickly receive the most up-to-date procedures, recover faster and go home to their families sooner. The program has attracted physicians from around the world and turned Royal Jubilee Hospital into a referral centre for cardiac patients throughout Vancouver Island and across British Columbia.

But to perform the latest cardiac procedures, our Heart Health teams need the best equipment.

Through our Campaign for Cardiac Care, we aim to raise $3.2 million to fund 34 pieces of leading–edge equipment in seven different areas of cardiac care.

A gift to this campaign will equip our Heart Health teams with the tools they need to ensure patients have the best outcomes possible. Help miracles happen by making a gift today.

Philip Abernethy's Story


Victoria resident Philip Abernethy has exuberance for life that’s obvious the minute you meet him. Originally from Liverpool, England, his warm smile and sense of humour puts people at ease. He speaks about his many serious cardiac experiences in a matter- of-fact way.

“I have a long history of heart problems,” says Phillip. “I had my first heart attack in 1997 when I was 57 years old and I’ve had several more heart issues since. I had a pacemaker implanted in 2009 which allowed me to travel to Europe and Russia. It’s really thanks to the cardiac team and the Pacemaker Clinic at Royal Jubilee Hospital that I was able to fulfill that dream.”

Philip is one of thousands of Vancouver Island residents with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator in his chest.  It monitors his heart rhythm and provides emergency defibrillation when needed.

After the insertion of his device, Philip visited the Pacemaker Clinic at Royal Jubilee Hospital (RJH) for ongoing evaluation and follow-up. The team there supports every patient with implanted pacemakers and defibrillators on their journey back to cardiovascular health, ensuring each device is effective and working properly. Nearly 7,500 visits to the Pacemaker Clinic were recorded last year, serving the thousands of patients with implanted devices

“The pacemaker was shocking at first, no pun intended. But it really made a difference for a whole decade,” says Philip. “Unfortunately, my heart problems caught up with me again in 2015. I had another major cardiac issue — a life-threatening arrhythmia— and ended up hospitalized for several weeks.”

Anyone who has experienced heart disease, including Philip, will tell you that it doesn't just affect your heart; your whole life is disrupted.

“You feel so fragile, almost like a china doll,” says Philip.

Tasks that were once easy can be daunting and intimidating. Taking a shower, driving to the grocery store, walking up a short flight of stairs – all of these everyday activities can trigger anxiety when someone is unsure of their own abilities and limitations following a heart attack.

“I became a completely different person after my last cardiac scare. Normal, everyday things scared me – even the dark. I was terrified to be alone. Suddenly I was claustrophobic. I relied on my family for everything and essentially lost my independence,” recalls Philip.

One way our hospitals help is through the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at RJH. Even after surgery or medication, a longer journey lies ahead for most patients.

Surviving a heart attack is an experience that inspires people to rethink their lives and consider how to genuinely live life to the fullest. For many people, incorporating exercise into their routine helps them reclaim their strength.

Dr. Elizabeth Swiggum, Cardiologist and Medical Director of the Heart Function Clinic and Cardiac Rehabilitation at RJH, refers many of her patients, including Philip, to the Cardiac Rehabilitation gym where physiotherapists, like Adrienne Maurakis, build and implement personalized exercise plans tailored to each individual patient’s circumstances and abilities.

“The Heart Function and Cardiac Rehabilitation programs are an important component of the cardiac care we provide. Our goal is to improve the patient’s function, confidence and independence. Exercising in a supportive environment will improve quality of life and survival,” says Dr. Swiggum.

Philip participated in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at RJH and steadily regained his strength and confidence.

“Most of our rehabilitation patients who are recovering from a heart attack start out their journeys feeling very apprehensive,” says Adrienne. “They are unsure of themselves and their abilities following a heart attack, and our primary job is to return them to health.”

Going through Cardiac Rehabilitation not only helps people regain their physical strength, it also helps them overcome their fears and restore their confidence.

“It’s a very supportive environment for patients,” says Adrienne. “We work with patients to set personal goals for wellness, and empower them to be in control of their fitness and health. And they can do that here knowing they are safe and that the team will be monitoring their symptoms and their progress for the duration of the program. If there are any concerns with a patient, we are able to assess them right in the gym and get the issue dealt will quickly.”

Having the ability to monitor vital signs, including heart rate and rhythm with the telemetry monitor,  blood pressure, oxygen levels,  and blood glucose, allows the rehab staff to see how the patient is responding to increased exercise intensity and ensure that they are progressing safely.

When Adrienne talks about the patients she sees in Cardiac Rehabilitation, her passion for helping people shines through. “It’s not just about keeping people alive, but helping them to live well.”

Uplands Heart Tournament


It’s a sunny July afternoon at Uplands Golf Club. The greens are freshly trimmed and the birds are singing. Like any summer’s day, the course is abuzz with enthusiastic golfers. But there’s something different about today’s round.

Today, small red hearts decorate the flag at each hole. The stakes are high and there’s money on the line, but a low score is not the primary objective. Today is the 40th Annual Uplands Golf Club Heart Tournament and the participants have only one goal: help fund lifesaving cardiac equipment for Royal Jubilee Hospital (RJH).

The Uplands Heart Tournament began in 1978 with a gathering of golfers and hockey players at Uplands Golf Club, one of Victoria’s oldest courses. After their friend spent time in the cardiac unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital, a few golfers wanted to recognize medical staff with a donation towards cardiac care.

“It started coincidentally with a hockey school being held up Island,” said long-time Uplands contributor Bruce Thom. “We were able to get some NHL stars to come down and play and we raised a few dollars.”

With a first successful fundraiser in the books, organizers decided to try again in 1979. Uplands Golf Club Captain Gordon Pellow volunteered as tournament chair, helping with everything from logistical planning to cooking lunch and washing dishes. By 1980, Uplands had established a strong partnership with Royal Jubilee’s cardiac teams and the Uplands Golf Club Annual Heart Tournament was born.

In 1990, Bruce Thom took over as tournament chair ― a role he held for the next 15 years. To increase participation and fundraising potential, the Heart Tournament instituted an entry fee for golfers and added a women’s tournament. Eventually, Uplands started accepting business sponsorships and proceeds began to eclipse $100,000 annually for cardiac equipment.

“It really is about the community coming together for a great cause,” says Thom. “Uplands generously donates the course, businesses sponsor the event and golfers rally to support an area of care that has affected them or their family in one way or another. It’s very special.”

Now in its 40th year, the Uplands Heart Tournament is British Columbian’s longest-running charity golf event, raising more than $2.6 million for Heart Health on Vancouver Island. The tournament draws a range of participants, donors, volunteers and business partners from throughout the community.

“I think like any organization, Uplands’ greatest assets are its people. They have a very strong community spirit,” said John Martin, another past chair for the Heart Tournament. “We get tremendous support from our members and through them we gain support from the community as a whole including many individual donors as well as prominent businesses, professionals and members of the medical community. A number of doctors and surgeons golf in the tournament but many are contributors even if they don’t golf.”

John Martin first got involved with the Heart Tournament 10 years ago. An avid golfer, John had a family history of heart disease and believed it was important to support local cardiac services. That belief grew even stronger in 2013 when John checked into Royal Jubilee Hospital with chest pain.

“When you have a heart attack, you’re suddenly confronted with something that you have no experience with and know relatively little about. You have some serious questions.” said John. “What was amazing to me was the absolute competence and care that was conveyed by all of the medical staff, from the nurses in the cardiac care unit to the surgeons and the operating room nurses. Everybody had their role and everybody was so good at taking charge and communicating that you felt immediately comfortable knowing you could have confidence in them.”

Over the years, this event has funded urgently needed medical tools for almost every area of cardiac care, including telemetry monitoring systems, pacemakers, cell savers and critical care beds. The 2017 men’s and women’s tournaments, held on July 19 and 23, raised $160,000 for a new heart catheterization laboratory C-arm. Funds from the tournament supported the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s ongoing Campaign for Cardiac Care.

“Royal Jubilee Hospital has one of the top rated cardiac programs in North America and it’s vital that we have the latest equipment for diagnosis, intervention and rehabilitation,” said Dr. Lynn Fedoruk, Division Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Royal Jubilee. “On a daily basis, I find myself conducting lifesaving procedures with equipment that was in my hands thanks to generous community donors like the Uplands Heart Tournament.”

Two of the tournament’s most faithful supporters are Don and Marni Bold, whose involvement stretches back 38 years. The Bolds first donated five cases of hamburger patties towards the tournament luncheon in 1980 and have since supported a number of important cardiac initiatives through Uplands. The couple had a scare in 2012 when Marni suffered a heart attack.

“For us, the Heart Tournament means this right here,” said Don, patting Marni’s hand and blinking away tears. “If it’s good for all of us, it’s good for me. We plan to support the heart fund till we’re pushing up daisies!”

Organisers are already looking forward to next year. Few charitable events in B.C. have achieved the longevity of the Uplands Golf Club Annual Heart Tournament, and for John Martin, this success boils down to one important factor.

“When I got involved it was by our definition a grassroots tournament, meaning that it was community members doing things they thought were important to people in Victoria and on the Island,” said John. “I think that is the driving force behind this tournament. It’s the notion that collectively we can do more together than we could ever hope to accomplish individually. I think that’s really been the spark of whatever success we’ve had. We have this world-class facility right here in Victoria and we see a strong responsibility to try and maintain it and help make it even better. One way or another heart incidences affect everyone in a community and this gives us a way to pay forward the benefits we received.”

Every year, more than 200,000 people on Vancouver Island receive a cardiac assessment at one of our Island hospitals, and over 6,300 cardiac procedures are performed on men and women of all ages. While many attest to the uncertainty and hardship that accompany the news of a cardiac condition, patients take comfort in knowing they have access to a world-class cardiac program. Through our Campaign for Cardiac Care, In a Heartbeat: Everyday Miracles, we aim to raise $3.2 million to fund 34 pieces of leading–edge equipment in seven different areas of cardiac care.

What's In a Heart?

For centuries, the heart has endured as a symbol. In song, literature and visual art, the heart signals to us what it means to be fully alive and expresses what it is to be human.

With four chambers and valves, the heart has its music and mystery. When a person is carried away by emotion, they are impulsive. Transparent, they wear their heart on their sleeve. Discouraged, we lose heart. Confident, we take heart, and so on.

The heart is no less profound in modern medical terms. It slows when we hear music or take another’s hand. It carries trauma. It reaches every extremity of the human body with its steady pulse. Over the past century, scientists and cardiologists have made incredible discoveries on the anatomy and workings of the heart, which includes astonishing procedures these experts perform to support it and extend life.

This is no exception at Royal Jubilee Hospital. Over the past 30 years, the Heart Health program has led the way as a national leader in cardiac care. The multi-disciplinary team driving this Heart Health program has forged a culture of excellence and innovation that allows patients to quickly receive the up-to-date procedures and recover faster. The program has attracted physicians from around the world and turned Royal Jubilee Hospital into a referral centre for cardiac patients throughout Vancouver Island and across British Columbia. Indeed, while many attest to the uncertainty and hardship that accompany the news of a cardiac condition, our patients take comfort in the fact they have access to a world-class cardiac program.

But to perform the latest cardiac procedures, our Heart Health team needs the best equipment. Through our Campaign for Cardiac Care, we aim to raise $3.2 million to fund 34 pieces of leading–edge equipment in seven different areas of cardiac care.

A gift to this campaign will equip our Heart Health teams with the tools they need to do their best to return patients to their loved ones. We are calling on others to make join this heart-to-heart. Help us by making a gift today.

A letter from Electrophysiologists Dr. Rick Leather and Dr. Larry Sterns


The heart is a complex organ but it really comes down to two systems: a pump that circulates blood throughout the body and an electrical system that sends signals to maintain a steady heartbeat. To keep your heart healthy, cardiac doctors look at both of these: interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons unblock arteries and replace valves, and electrophysiologists ensure the heart’s electrical current follows a normal pathway, meaning it beats regularly and at a consistent speed.

As cardiologists, we both chose to focus on electrophysiology over 25 years ago, believing advancements in technology would lead to significant improvements in patient care in the coming years. Indeed, electrophysiology quickly became a therapeutic branch of cardiac care thanks to advanced equipment and innovation, and Royal Jubilee Hospital was one of the first hospitals in the country to make this happen.

In the Electrophysiology Laboratory, our Heart Health team takes on some of the most advanced cases, including heart failure patients. But we can only do our best work if we have access to sophisticated equipment.

That is why the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s Campaign for Cardiac Care is so important. The 34 pieces of priority cardiac equipment the campaign is funding will allow us to provide the latest procedures to patients from all over Vancouver Island. In the Electrophysiology Laboratory, we use monitors, imaging systems and heart catheters, among a multitude of other tools, to treat patients with arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats.

Our patient Neil Sinclair was one of the first to benefit from advanced catheter ablation, a new electrophysiology procedure we brought to Victoria. When we met Neil, his arrhythmia predated the technology to fix it. Due to faulty electrical pathways, his heart was beating too fast and inconsistently, which left him tired, unwell and at high risk for other health issues including stroke. Since surgery was not a treatment option, the new catheter ablation procedure was the only treatment that could give him relief and restore his quality of life.

The catheter ablation uses either heat energy or freezing to disrupt or eliminate the faulty electrical pathways that cause abnormal heart rhythms. We place patients, like Neil, under general anesthesia and thread a catheter from the groin to the heart under X-Ray guidance. Using an advanced system, we map the heart extensively to locate the faulty electrical pathways and fix them with ablations — a process that scars small areas of the heart and reroutes the pathways. Thanks to new technology and knowledge, we can now patch together up to 200 ablation sites until a normal pathway is created; 20 years ago we could only do one site per procedure.

What is incredible is that this procedure can completely regulate a heartbeat with minimal recovery time. In fact, patients often go home the same day, feeling better almost immediately.

We’ve come a long way in the last twenty five years. Today, thanks to equipment and technology funded in part by community members like you, we can provide the latest treatment and give people like Neil a new lease on life.

With thanks,

Dr. Rick Leather and Dr. Larry Sterns

Electrophysiologists, Island Health



Neil Sinclair's Story

Heart issues run in my family ― my father had a triple bypass. Even so, I never thought any heart-related matters would happen to me. I don’t think any of us are ever ready for that.

It started in 1993 when I was 45 years old. I had a butterfly feeling in my chest and was quickly diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia, meaning my heart didn’t have a regular rhythm. The electrical signals that controlled my heartbeat didn’t work properly. I had two types of arrhythmia: atrial flutter which gave me a racing heartbeat and atrial fibrillation that caused my heart to beat irregularly.

It was shocking to hear this news, and the first few years of my cardiac journey were very stressful for my family, for me and for others around me. Having arrhythmia, it taxes you. You live with this constant reminder that something is not right. I tried drug therapy and it provided limited benefits, but often I had to go to the Emergency Department for cardioversion, a procedure where an electric current is sent to my heart to reset its normal rhythm. At one point, I had to go to Emergency three times in 11 days ― it was just too much.

My physician referred me to Dr. Sterns and Dr. Leather at Royal Jubilee Hospital ― both passionate, caring and innovative electrophysiologists. Over the years, they never gave up on me. In 2005, they started talking to me about advancements in electrophysiology, a branch of cardiac care that studies the electrical component of the heart. They gave me hope that I would one day be able to have my life back.

In 2011, I had my first ablation treatment. The innovative procedure was conducted by Dr. Leather, who inserted a catheter through my groin, threaded it to my heart and gently scarred the faulty pathways that caused the atrial flutter. I woke up from the procedure with immediate relief. In fact, I remember doing a victory lap around the Cardiac Short Stay unit shortly after and going home to my wife that very same day. “I’m a new man!” I said to her.

My heart then continued to beat normally for several years until my other cardiac issue, atrial fibrillation, caught up to me. In 2014, I had a second ablation procedure and it was performed by Dr. Sterns. This time around, the procedure was more complex but again, the Heart Health team did not let me down. The procedure worked: the scars left by the ablation stopped abnormal electrical signals from moving through my heart.

I have only had two arrhythmias since receiving the second ablation procedure. I can’t tell you how it feels to have my life back again, to be able to travel without the fear of having to rush to an Emergency Department of a hospital in a distant locale and to live without the anxiety of my heart not working properly. Having cardiac issues can put your mind in a dark place, but what helps is knowing we have the best Heart Health team right here in Victoria.

I am one of thousands of people who have been helped by the incredible Heart Health team at Royal Jubilee Hospital. The technological advancements I have witnessed since 1993 are unparalleled, and I trust that Dr. Leather, Dr. Sterns and their colleagues will continue to provide the latest procedures and the very best care to our community with access to the critical equipment they need.

Please consider making a donation and supporting those who save lives. This gift is a gift to the health of our community.


Neil Sinclair
Grateful Patient



The First Open Heart Society & the Victoria Heart House


Renee van Campen defies expectation. An avid athlete – wakeboarder, skier, runner, walker, DanceFix participant and yogi – she has had three open heart surgeries in her lifetime after being born with a heart defect. Today, at 50 years old, she remains active and is one of the champions of the First Open Heart Society of British Columbia.

The First Open Heart Society of British Columbia, or FOHS, was formed in 1973 on the initiative of cardiologists and early heart surgery patients to function as a support group for patients awaiting and recovering from heart surgery. The idea was first conceived by Dr. W. Glenn Friesen, a Victoria cardiologist, who realized patients and their families experience significant stress prior to, and following, open heart surgery. Dr. Friesen suggested pre-op and post-op stress could be eased if those patients could talk to those who had “walked the path.”

For three years, Renee van Campen has volunteered for FOHS, visiting cardiac recovery rooms every two weeks to speak with open heart surgery patients, share her personal cardiac experiences, and deliver heart pillow packages the Society produces for cardiac patients at Royal Jubilee Hospital.  A volunteer group from FOHS, sew the heart pillows for surgery patients to hold against their chest for comfort, especially when they cough and sneeze.

For Renee, her experience with FOHS began after her last surgery in 2014 when she saw an ad in the paper in search of volunteers with experience of open heart surgery. Remembering her own recovery, Renee says, “It was really comforting to talk to other people who have been through it. So I thought this was a way I could give back.”

On a typical visit, Renee meets one-on-one for fifteen minutes with patients. She introduces herself, tells patients about the cardiac rehabilitation program and support groups on Vancouver Island, and answers questions. “I let them know they’re speaking to someone who’s been in a similar situation. You have people who wonder if they’ll ever exercise again or if they’ll every feel “normal” again.  I encourage people to be patient with themselves because there is the occasional rough day during recovery.

Sometimes family members are more worried than the patients. “Spouses often ask what to expect. They’re nervous about everything and they don't want to hinder their partner’s progress. I tell patients about using the heart pillow against their incision on the ride home. “It’s a security blanket,” Renee explains. “My goal is to reassure people that there really is life after open heart surgery.”

 Indeed, as Renee knows firsthand, that first year of recovery can seem as daunting as surgery itself. “I felt about 85% better after the first two months, but spent the next 10 months recovering from the psychological aspects.”

Patients no doubt benefit from Renee’s confidence, warmth and liveliness. Her enthusiasm in part derives from phenomenal care she received as a cardiac patient at RJH. Renee was especially impressed by the unusual collaboration she observed between various areas of Heart Health from cardiologists and the Pacemaker Clinic to the cardiac rehabilitation program and her electrophysiologist. “They do incredibly important work here at Royal Jubilee Hospital,” Renee says. “They give people like me their life back.”

 Since 1977, FOHS has funded more than $731,000 in cardiac care medical equipment for RJH through the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. This includes a very generous gift of $25,000 towards the Foundation’s current Campaign for Cardiac Care.

“FOHS does not receive any government subsidies or any grants. We’re a completely non-profit, charitable organization,” says Carol. Indeed, their patient care and public service functions are funded by members' donations, the Society's annual fundraisers, and contributions from individuals and service clubs. The Society’s members are comprised of patients who have undergone open heart surgery, their spouses, family members, medical staff and the general public interested in the Societies objectives. All donations are used exclusively to support the aims and projects of the Society.

Carol has been a mainstay with FOHS for almost 20 years. In 1999, while working at the RJH open heart ward as a unit clerk, Carol became involved through the making of the heart pillows, sourcing and ordering materials, coordinating volunteers and workshops. After 10 years directing this effort, she joined the Board of Directors. “We operate Heart House for out of town guests whose family members are undergoing cardiovascular procedures at RJH.”

Indeed, FOHS’ objectives are to support heart and cardiovascular patients and their families; heart-related specialized medical equipment and education for area hospitals and their staff; the Victoria Heart House; and the Victoria Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Special attention is given to the needs of the families of children who are born with heart defects. The Society sponsors those who may need travel and /or special services not available locally.

The cause is near and dear to Carol. “We’re the only place on the Island that can provide such high-level cardiac care and it means patients and their families don’t have to travel back and forth to Vancouver.”

A major initiative of FOHS is the operation of Victoria Heart House B&B, a property owned and managed by FOHS.

The Victoria Heart House is designed as a low-cost Bed & Breakfast for the spouse and family of out-of-town patients. The house provides a friendly, supportive, relaxing and non-smoking atmosphere located a short walking distance to RJH. The house has a large bright living room, dining room and kitchen. There are six guest bedrooms, each with queen, double or twin beds. There is also an outdoor patio for the added enjoyment of guests. A small library in Heart House is dedicated to the late George Coldwell, who served on the Board of Directors for 23 years and holds the record for participating in the most Heart Walks.

 The original Heart House was started in 1973 by former heart surgery patient Jim McDonald and his wife Dorothy, who leased a house on Kings Road using their own funds, collected patients at the airport or ferries and offered accommodation at a generous rate of $25. Jim would drive patients and their families to and from the hospital in his van. The McDonalds’ dream of a permanent Victoria Heart House finally came true with the completion of the present building in December 1988. On January 17, 1989, the Victoria Heart House was officially opened by the Premier and dedicated to the people of British Columbia. The efforts of FOHS are endorsed and supported by the cardiac surgeons and cardiologists in open heart surgery at the RJH in Victoria.

Heart House provides spouses and family members a supportive environment so they can support their loved ones. “As staff, it’s up to us to say, take a break from visiting the hospital this afternoon. Go to the IMAX, go to Craigdarroch Castle. RJH looks after the patient, but it’s our job to look after you,” says Suzanne Barton, long time staff member of Heart House. We’ll hang with you if you need it, put our arms around you with a big box of Kleenex — and sometimes we just need to make you laugh.”

Energetic and gregarious, Suzanne loves working at Heart House and getting to know visitors. “You wouldn’t believe the fun we have in this place. I know what it’s like to be out of town far away from anybody you know or love and have someone you love on the threshold. I know what that experience is like and I wish that when I was going through that I knew about a Heart House.”

Suzanne and other staff members do everything from book reservations, wash floors, dishes, toilets, and laundry, and cook breakfast. “We look after the caregiver when they don’t even realize they need looking after. They’re so focused on their loved one recovering and sometimes it’s up to us to take them out of that.” Suzanne is especially fond of those guests who return, “We have guests that have been coming back over ten years … I feel like he’s my Uncle Fred or grandpa. You feel like you’re family.”

Every year, more than 200,000 people on Vancouver Island receive a cardiac assessment at Vancouver Island hospitals, and over 6,300 cardiac procedures are performed on men and women of all ages. While many attest to the uncertainty and hardship that accompany the news of a cardiac condition, patients take comfort in knowing they have access to a world-class cardiac program. Through our Campaign for Cardiac Care, In a Heartbeat: Everyday Miracles, the Victoria Hospital Foundation aims to raise $3.2 million to fund 34 pieces of leading–edge equipment in seven different areas of cardiac care.


Click on each icon to learn more about the areas of cardiac care we are supporting and the pieces of equipment we are funding.