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Yukon man medivaced to Vancouver, then waits 5 days in ICU for surgery

Yukoners Dave Lorenzon, left, and his partner Carson Dugal. Dugal waited for 5 days in ICU at Vancouver General Hospital to get an abscess removed from his neck.    (Dave Lorenzon - image credit)
Yukoners Dave Lorenzon, left, and his partner Carson Dugal. Dugal waited for 5 days in ICU at Vancouver General Hospital to get an abscess removed from his neck. (Dave Lorenzon - image credit)

A Whitehorse couple is calling on health officials in B.C. for answers as to why it took so long for one of them to be treated at the Vancouver General Hospital, even as their condition seemed to grow more serious.

Carson Dugal was medivaced to Vancouver on Jan. 28, after doctors in Whitehorse found he developed an infection after getting a tumour removed from his neck earlier that month.

"He developed an abscess on the neck," said Dave Lorenzon, Dugal's partner. "It was about the same size as the tumour."

Lorenzon said doctors needed to remove Dugal's abscess but not before performing a conscious intubation on him first. That keeps a patient's trachea open so that enough oxygen can get through.

"They were trying to do that because they were trying to avoid a tracheotomy," Lorenzon explained. "Because if they did the tracheotomy it would have popped the abscess on his neck."

A tracheotomy is a medical procedure to help air and oxygen reach the lungs by creating an opening into the windpipe from outside the neck.

Lorenzon said medics at the Whitehorse General Hospital told him that when a Yukon patient is medivaced to Vancouver, surgeries are typically done within 24 hours of being admitted to the hospital there.

Lorenzon says that wasn't the case for Dugal, though.

Carson Dugal was medivaced to Vancouver General Hospital on January 28. He had to wait until February 2 to get a 30 minute surgery.
Carson Dugal was medivaced to Vancouver General Hospital on January 28. He had to wait until February 2 to get a 30 minute surgery.

The Vancouver General Hospital. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"He basically sat in the ICU from Monday all the way until Friday," Lorenzon said. "I was with him for eight to ten hours a day, and every two hours the nurses were calling, 'Is there an operating time? Is there an operating time?' — and just kept getting pushed back."

During that time, Lorenzon said he and Dugal weren't given a reason for the long wait. He said all they were told was that Dugal was on the list.

In the meantime, the abscess went from being rock-hard to "liquified" a couple of days later, Lorenzon said.

Surgery day finally rolled around last Friday — five days after Dugal was flown to Vancouver.

Lorenzon believes it might have been an even longer wait, if a doctor at the hospital hadn't decided enough was enough and pushed to get an operating room for Dugal.

At that point the abscess, according to Lorenzon, had "started splitting open and was oozing pus."

The procedure took about 30 minutes, Lorenzon said.

In a statement emailed to CBC News, Vancouver Coastal Health said it couldn't provide details, citing patient confidentiality. It said it's committed to ensuring every patient receives safe, quality and timely care, and that patients requiring urgent surgery are "prioritized based upon the acuity of care required."

"We understand the anticipation and concern that many patients may feel while they await care and appreciate their understanding," the statement reads.

Full recovery 

Lorenzon said Dugal's abscess has been removed and he is expected to make a full recovery. He said the entire procedure took only half an hour — but it will take a lot longer just to get over the whole experience.

"He has been through hell," Lorenzon said. "I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

"It's psychological torture. I'm sitting there not knowing if your partner's going to be OK. And all they're doing is just delay, delay, delay ... Like, that's a load of crap."

Lorenzon did say he is grateful to all of the medical staff who cared for Dugal, at the Vancouver General Hospital and at the Whitehorse hospital.