Heart Pledge Day on 630 CHED raises more than $500K for Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute

On Feb. 24 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., 630 CHED will be broadcasting live from the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, telling stories from the front lines of cardiac care. Dr. Jodi Abbott joined Global News Morning Edmonton to talk about Heart Pledge Day and how you can help.

The phone lines for 630 CHED Heart Pledge Day in support of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute are now closed, but donations can still be made online

On Wednesday, the 630 CHED airwaves were filled with stories of hope, success and amazing innovations as a record-breaking $504,415 was raised during Heart Pledge Day.

The annual radiothon has raised more than $2 million for the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute — including more than $850,000 over the last two years.

“We all work on a regular basis without pausing and thinking about all of the good stuff we do, and then on Heart Pledge Day we hear patients talking about our programs, we hear staff talking about, you know, things they’ve done that they’ve seen succeed,” Dr. Robert Welsh with Cardiac Services at the Maz said. “We get to stop and listen and reflect.”

This year the radiothon was raising funds for the Maz Innovation Fund. The fund is an application process that was developed out of a desire to make sure the funds were going to the absolute best of ideas.

“When a foundation gets asked to fund a project, are you ever really sure that’s the best project and the most striking innovation?” Welsh said.

“So by building a committee, getting multiple people’s opinions and vetting it, you get a much more validated, a truly innovative project or device.”

The Maz strives for minimally-invasive care whenever possible whether that is through a new tool or a new technique.

Shaye Ganam and Chelsea Bird broadcast live during Heart Pledge Day on Feb. 27, 2020.

Shaye Ganam and Chelsea Bird broadcast live during Heart Pledge Day on Feb. 27, 2020.

Kirby Bourne/630 CHED

Clinical ex-vivo is one of those tools. It was funded by the innovation fund and developed here in Edmonton.

“Instead of, in essence, taking the donor heart out, putting in a bucket of ice and transporting it to the patient, you actually keep the heart working as if it’s in an artificial environment,” Welsh explained. “It’s still functioning, perfusing and active, and then you transplant a better organ.”

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Another minimally-invasive practice developed with the help of the innovation fund is a virtual cardiac rehab program.

After a person has had a heart event, they go through heart healthy training that teaches patients things like the importance of medication, healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle modifications.

That has gone from an in-person appointment to a virtual one. Welsh says the change has helped everyone from elderly patients having to figure out a ride from a family member, to Indigenous people and those living in rural communities who may struggle with getting into the city.

Chris Scheetz takes a selfie with Madison, a 15-year-old VAD patient at Heart Pledge Day at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute on Feb. 27, 2020.

Chris Scheetz takes a selfie with Madison, a 15-year-old VAD patient at Heart Pledge Day at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute on Feb. 27, 2020.

Kirby Bourne/630 CHED

Walter Hiltebrand went to the hospital for a heart valve replacement in March 2019. Following surgery, he suffered a massive heart attack while recovering in the ICU. He was brought back into surgery and suffered a second heart attack.

“He had pretty much every organ failing that was available to fail — one after the other,” his wife, Daniela Hiltebrand said. “There was not much hope.”

Walter entered a coma while his body recovered. Luckily, he was already at the Mazankowski – where they had the equipment to keep him alive. He was placed on an Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) life support machine which took over for his heart and lungs.

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Each day, Daniela waited to see if he had made it through the night. They believe Walter is here today because of the world-class care he received.

“We were really fortunate that he was at the Mazankowski. These doctors never stopped searching for something else to try. With the equipment available… it was just amazing,” she said.

“In my opinion, it’s out of this world what they did and what they are able to do,” Walter said. “If I wasn’t at the Maz…(I wouldn’t be here).”

Walter Hiltebrand was helped multiple times by the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. He says he wouldn't be alive if it weren't for the Maz.

Walter Hiltebrand was helped multiple times by the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. He says he wouldn't be alive if it weren't for the Maz.

Supplied: Walter Hiltebrand

In 2021, Walter is healthy, but his reminders of his time in hospital mark his body.

“I can still feel where they cut me open in the front…” he said. “But, when I look back at what happened…I feel okay.”

Out of all the experiences, Daniela said one in particular goes straight to the heart.

“The kindness that we, as a family, encountered at the Maz… the empathy… you can’t even imagine.”

Heart Pledge Day started at 5:30 a.m. with 630 CHED Mornings with Chelsea Bird and Shaye Ganam. The two hosted an extended show, going until noon.

Then 630 CHED Afternoons finished the day from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The phone lines closed at 6 p.m., and donations are still accepted online.

“We’d love our community to step forward and help us out because you’re actually helping patients every day,” University Hospital Foundation president and CEO Dr. Jodi Abbott said. 

“When you look at what happens in that facility, we save lives, we change lives, we bring people back to their families,” she said. “And it’s really because of the incredible people who work there as well as our community’s support.”

– With files from Morgan Black, Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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