Community-funded equipment helps fix broken heart

Geoff Pheaton reveals a pacemaker installed over his heart after getting hospitalized Oct. 25, where new community-funded equipment was used on him. Photo by Joseph Quigley.

Geoff Pheaton could feel something was wrong with him as he experienced heavy dizziness when he woke up Oct. 25.

His head cleared, but after he came home in the afternoon from work, the dizziness was back. With a heart rate down to 45 beats per minute – slower than the average 60 to 100 – he rushed to the hospital where he was taken to the emergency department.

“Was it scary? It was the scariest thing in the world,” Pheaton said, with a new pacemaker installed over his heart. “I’m totally dizzy, can’t really walk.”

Through care in both Haliburton and Peterborough, he would make it through the experience. That process included getting hooked up to a new electrocardiogram machine (ECG) bought with community fundraising by the Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) Foundation, according to Pheaton and his wife, Cheryl McCombe. Doctors and nurses used the machine to help them discover he had a third-degree heart block.

“They were very calming,” McCombe said about hospital staff. “The doctor showed me the report out of this ECG machine and the fact that they can read that on this report was quite amazing to me … I think they were happy they had the new machine and they were all freshly trained on it.

“It just goes to show you that investing in your local hospital can pay dividends.”

Pheaton was then taken to a hospital in Peterborough, where staff placed him in an intensive care unit. He said they planned to install a pacemaker the following Monday,
but pushed that up to the next day when his heart stopped three times during the night.

“Now that I have it, I’m still anxious about it. I still take my pulse a lot,” Pheaton said. “It’s starting to get better.”

“It does change the way you do things,” McCombe said. “Just be a little more careful.”

But Pheaton added his heart remains strong, with no disease. The issue was a failure of the top part of the heart to communicate with the bottom.

“The cardiologist basically said ‘bad luck,’” Pheaton said. “Usually happens in old people.”

The foundation worked to fundraise for new ECG equipment over several months through events such as the Haliburton Highlands Health Radiothon, which raised more than $30,000.

Foundation director Lisa Tompkins said she is “certainly glad to hear of a positive outcome for the patient.”

HHHS CEO Carolyn Plummer said she could not comment on Pheaton’s case specifically for privacy reasons. But she said the organization is appreciative of donors and foundation fundraising for helping to purchase the new equipment.

“Our staff have found it has improved efficiency which helps support high-quality care,” Plummer said. “We appreciate the positive feedback.”

McCombe said Haliburton hospital staff did a good job and their doctor was friendly and helpful.

“Thank you for your professionalism and your communication, which was clear and unwavering,” she said.


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