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

Shawn Decaire does a blessing ceremony for the Hama?Elas Community Kitchen in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Community Kitchen blessed by Laichwiltach First Nation

Hama?Elas Community Kitchen will provide safe place to eat for Campbell River’s vulnerable

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

North Island mayors say their voices should be heard by DFO before final decisions are made about fish farms. (Black Press file photo)
Mayors asking to be let in on fish farm consultations

DFO evaluating 18 Discovery Island fish farms and transitioning from open-net farms

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read