At the end of an evening of dinner, dancing and donating, the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation raised a record $243,000 to purchase life-saving medical equipment.
And as a local patient shared his story Saturday, the need for donations hit home.
Mario Bitoiu told the crowd how he was leaving work as manager of the Chameleon Restaurant in Maple Ridge last March when he felt chest pains. This is a man who spends a half hour on the treadmill at Club 16, then another half hour or more on a fitness circuit, so his first thought was not a heart attack.
But as he got closer to home, he knew something was wrong. Living near the hospital, he decided to stop by emergency.
“As I was driving, the pain got a lot more severe,” he said.
The hospital staff determined that he had suffered a heart attack.
“They took me in right away, and realized that this was something serious,” he said. “They saved my life.”
The next day, he was transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital, where he had quadruple bypass surgery – two of his arteries were 90 per cent blocked, another 60 per cent and one 40 per cent.
Bitoiu shared his story to assist the fundraising effort in the From the Heart portion of the hospital gala event, Carinval. His experience highlighted the emergency department ‘s need for a central monitor system, and a linked cardiac monitor at every bed in the emergency department.
It will be $32,000 system upgrade.
After he shared his story, the money was raised on the spot at Meadow Gardens Golf Course.
“I really wanted to do something like that,” said Bitoiu. “If it saves one life, that’s good enough. The equipment at the hospital saves lives.”
Gala committee chair Lisa Prophet, publisher of The News, spoke about her personal experience with the hospital, as her father battled pancreatic cancer last year, and passed away days before the 2015 gala event.
“What happens here tonight, the support you give to our foundation, I experienced the direct result on the other side of the spectrum… as a family member,” she said, thanking the doctors and nurses who cared for him.
“Many times he would tear up just talking about how they care for him,” Prophet said.
“What helped them do their job better? Pieces of equipment like vein finders, purchased by the foundation, directly affected the experience he had.”
It wouldn’t be possible without donors.
Fraser River Pile and Dredge, sponsors of the event, was recognized for 10 years of supporting the gala, and this year donated $15,000.
In an unscripted moment, Inderjit Rai shared her story of needing dialysis for eight and a half years before finally receiving a kidney transplant. Then she and husband Harjit, who own H&I Roofing, gave $10,000 to the From the Heart effort.
An anonymous donor pledged to match all of the funds raised on the live auction. One of the 12 live auction items alone – having a crew of local firemen cater a dinner – was auctioned off for $7,500.
The net result was a record total of more than $243,000.
“Some amazing donors in our community always step up and make it happen,” said foundation chair Ron Antalek, who was the evening’s emcee. “It was very exciting.”
He explained the gala is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the foundation, which has committed to funding $600,000 worth of equipment this year, and another $650,000 toward the Two West Project – an update of the hospital’s west wing.
The foundation raises money year-round and works with each department to identify needs.
“The foundation does make a huge difference, and the physicians and nurses tell us that every day,” Antalek said. “If you take the donors out of it, the foundation doesn’t even exist.”
The theme was Carnival, with women in feathered costumes right out of Rio, and latin dancers providing the atmosphere. There was a dinner, live and silent auction, various fundraisers and an evening of dancing.
“Everything was just as perfect as it could be,” Antalek added. “That was our 28th annual, and it keeps getting better.”