Imagine living just down the street from your community hospital, but it does not offer the test you need. Instead, you have to drive almost an hour to another hospital in the middle of winter. Doreen Burkholder, a Markham resident who lives just down the street from Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH), found herself in just that position in December 2017.

She went into the MSH emergency department, where doctors had her bloodwork tested and found something that required a further look. She waited two months for the trans-esophageal echocardiography (TEE) procedure at another hospital, 45 minutes away.

“We were all pretty anxious, wondering how we were going to get mom there in her debilitated state and how we were going to find our way around. They just didn’t know us there,” said Sandi Lofgren, Doreen’s daughter and patient care director at the MSH Uxbridge site, one of Doreen’s primary caregivers.

MSH recognized an opportunity to offer more cardiac services to patients. Markham has one of the fastest growing senior populations in the country and, as that community grows, the hospital wanted to ensure that it continues to meet to the demand.

When it was time for a follow-up appointment in May, Doreen was able to have the TEE procedure at MSH.

“It just so happened that my mom’s follow-up TEE procedure was scheduled to coincide with the arrival of the new TEE equipment,” said Sandi. “We were thrilled. It was just so nice for her to be at her home hospital, where everything was familiar.”

“Dr. Johnathan Lu and his staff were really kind and did a wonderful job explaining the procedure in a way I could understand,” said Doreen. “They walked me through every step and were very thorough with their exam.”

The TEE is the best way for a cardiologist to look at the valves and structure of the heart.

“It’s an ultrasound probe that allows us to receive far better images than we might get with a traditional echocardiograph,” said Lu, MSH cardiologist. “We can take a three-dimensional picture of the heart valve and essentially recreate what a surgeon might see in the operating room.”

The TEE exam at MSH enhances the cardiac program and provides patients with high-quality care, closer to home. None of it would have been possible without years of planning and work from the hospital staff, MSH Foundation and the generosity of the supporters at the Festival of Colours gala.