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Friends indeed

Health care centre buys new gear with $50,000 U.S. donation



Diagnosing whether a snowboarder or mountain biker is bleeding to death internally will be a whole lot easier for Whistler physicians by the end of January.

Whistler Health Care Centre is purchasing a bedside ultrasound machine thanks to a $50,000 donation last week from the American Friends of Whistler.

"I was flabbergasted," said Marnie Simon, Whistler Health Care Foundation chairperson. Simon found out at an American Friends of Whistler board meeting last week that the group is donating the entire cost of the ultrasound machine to the health care centre.

The clinic has a stationary unit dependent on a two-day a week technician. The portable ultrasound can be operated by doctors and will be invaluable in making accurate blunt trauma diagnoses and can also be used with obstetric cases.

American Friends of Whistler president Rod Rohda said the group’s 15 board members decided to take the unusual step of completely funding the machine’s cost because of its life and death urgency.

The popularity of accident-prone sports like snowboarding and mountain biking has caused a spike in blunt trauma cases seen at Whistler’s health care centre in the last few years.

Simon said the centre treated 23,000 residents and visitors for medical emergencies in 2004, a dramatic increase from its first year, 1987, when it treated 500.

Rohda says the board decided to make their largest single donation in the three-year old group’s history because of concerns local doctors have raised about needing to make timely, accurate assessments, which weren’t always possible because of not having a full-time ultrasound technician on staff.

"There is clearly a need for this technology," Rohda said from his Whistler home where he spends six months a year.

"It’s quite exciting – we didn’t expect to receive this money so quickly," said Cindy Welsh a program director with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

"This bedside ultrasound will allow us to confidently assess whether or not patients need further diagnosis or immediate surgery which would require medivac transportation," she said.

Welsh said having the machine in place will allow better tracking of numbers of blunt trauma patients for the centre.

There are 1,500 Americans who own property in Whistler. More than 100 American Whistler property owners donated toward the cost of the machine. Rohda says American Friends of Whistler is dedicated to helping its members feel they’re part of Whistler but is also focused on developing better relations between Canadians and Americans.

In addition to funding the ultrasound machine, in the past three years the group has given money to Whistler Community Services Society, Millennium Place, the Bear Society and the Community Foundation of Whistler’s arts and culture legacy fund.

Simon said physicians will decide between two machines and place an order within the week for delivery by the end of the month.

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