Aldergrove resident Wendy Gould lost her husband George last year in January after he battled cancer, and a superbug he may have contracted from an endoscopy at Vancouver General Hospital. Gould said her “life was ripped away from her,” holding a picture of the two on their wedding day in 2010. (Canadian Press photo)

B.C. widow sues health authority after ‘untreatable’ superbug killed husband

New Public Agency Health report puts Canadian death toll at 5,400 in 2018

Aldergrove resident Wendy Gould is all too familiar with the impossible nature of superbugs.

Gould had her “future ripped away from [her]” after her husband George – who battled stage-four colorectal cancer – was exposed to a superbug during an endoscopy at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) in 2016.

New data released Tuesday from an expert panel warns medication-resistant bacteria could kill as many as 400,000 Canadians and drain the economy of $400 billion over the next 30 years.

The “When Antibiotics Fail” report, commissioned by the Public Health Agency of Canada, says drug-resistant bacteria or “superbugs” killed almost as many people as Alzheimers disease in 2018 – 5,400 annually.

“We found out later the endoscope had been contaminated. So for 18 months, George battled that bug on top of the cancer he had,” Gould posted to Facebook.

Gould said it was the superbug he contracted that made George’s cancer untreatable.

“Isn’t fighting cancer enough?” she said.

The 268-page document said Canadians with medical conditions and compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for consuming bacteria resistant to medication.

READ MORE: Report predicts drug resistance likely to kill 40,000 Canadians by 2050

Wendy and George had met later in life, fallen in love, and married in October 2010. 

After George’s cancer diagnosis five years later, her husband – the teacher, former lawyer, and “best hug giver” – even set in motion a Make-A-Wish-type foundation for adults with terminal diagnoses.

He was a man with a determination to help others.

Gould was made aware of the “possible” contamination during his 2016 endoscopy in a letter from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

The authority admitted George was one of three patients who had visited the endoscopy clinic that had been infected with New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM).

NDM is a highly-infectious superbug.

Gould alleges it complicated all future attempts that George underwent to treat his colorectal cancer.

“He ended up in hospital 22 times because of infection” Gould said, attributing his in-patient stays to the violent nausea and frightening hallucinations that resulted from intravenous antibiotics given an attempt to treat the bug.

A Canadian Public Health Agency report released in March warns the public of the looming dangers of bacteria resistant to medication, also known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

If left unaddressed – it said AMR will “cause serious infections to become untreatable, existing treatments to become more expensive, and procedures like chemotherapy for cancer to become so risky that they may not be readily available.”

READ MORE: Infants more vulnerable to measles than previously thought: Canadian study

The report considers superbugs “a slow-moving tsunami that carries a significant burden on human health, health care, and the Canadian economy as a whole.”

Days before his death, George was denied palliative care at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH).

“There was a room available and George was expected to be transferred there,” Gould alleged.

“He could not go to that unit because of the superbug. I was told by the manager of the unit where he [was] that the palliative care nurses [would] not even come up to his room and treat him.”

She then found out her extended health coverage would not cover out-of-hospital palliative care.

Gould said she expected to grow old with George by her side.

Instead, George passed away in January of 2018 in an isolation unit at ARH at age 58, three years after his initial cancer diagnosis on Sept. 5, 2015.

Now, the Gould family hopes to prevent this from ever happening again, and live in the legacy of George’s wish to help others in pain.

Gould has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of B.C. against Vancouver Coastal Health which operates Vancouver General Hospital – alleging the superbug ultimately led to George’s death and denied him a fighting chance at battling his cancer.

Her claim has not been proven in court.

– With files from Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Port Hardy called in record number of black bear sightings last year

Conservation Officers attended 74 of the 314 calls made

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Ruined picnic tables are the main damage

Port McNeill’s outdoor swimming pool will stay closed this summer

The Town of Port McNeill typically hires 12-13 staff for the pool every year.

Bird contacting wires causes massive Port Hardy power outage

The power outage started at 1:18 p.m. and lasted until 3:00 p.m.

Port Hardy Salvation Army serving lunch daily during pandemic

Centre is closed to the public, but overnight shelter, daily lunch and one-on-one services available

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Most Read