Suzie Bruce, left, and Ray Bruce, right, holding Ray’s heart after his transplant. His old heart was donated to the Cardiovascular Tissue Registry at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, where it will be used for research and educational purposes. (Submitted photo)

Suzie Bruce, left, and Ray Bruce, right, holding Ray’s heart after his transplant. His old heart was donated to the Cardiovascular Tissue Registry at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, where it will be used for research and educational purposes. (Submitted photo)

Police officer shows a lot of heart in overnight effort to get B.C. senior a new heart

Qualicum Beach man just makes transplant deadline in amazing story out of Vancouver Island

When a heart became suddenly available last autumn for a Qualicum Beach man awaiting a desperately needed transplant, time was of the essence.

But he couldn’t be reached.

So on that fateful night, many worked in concert to alert William ‘Ray’ Bruce, including an unlikely person an Oceanside RCMP constable who just happened to be on duty.

Cst. Tyler Jensen knew all too well that fast action was critical when awaiting an organ transplant: his father-in-law just received a new liver two weeks prior.

“I knew how important it was and wanted to help and do everything I could,” he said.

On Sept. 26, 2020, Jensen received a call just before midnight from Dr. Margot Davis, a cardiologist from St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver.

Dr. Davis had already spent several hours trying to get in touch with Bruce, his wife and anyone else on the contact list, but wasn’t having any luck.

“The cardiologist and I had batted around ideas and I said in the end, ‘let’s just call the police’. Because what civil resources are there in the night, and who else can you call to help?,” said Dr. Jamil Bashir, the surgeon who performed Bruce’s heart transplant.

At first Jensen attempted to call Bruce and his family, as Dr. Davis had done, but he too could not reach them.

For a brief moment the constable even considered Bruce’s previous address on Lasqueti island, though soon realized there wasn’t enough time to physically get there. In his research, Jensen was able to locate the address of Bruce’s daughter and son-in-law’s property in Spider Lake, a small community approximately 20 kilometres inland from Qualicum Beach.

READ MORE: B.C. sets records for lung, heart, liver transplants in 2020

Bruce told the PQB News cellphone service can sometimes be weak in the area and assumed that had been the case, as neither his nor his wife’s phone rang once throughout that night.

Jensen decided to drive out to the property and assumed he could simply walk up to the front door and knock.

“I couldn’t get up close to the house because of a tall fence that had big spikes on top and then the rest of the property was guarded by thorn bushes,” he said.

The constable then turned on his vehicle’s lights, sirens and spotlight, hoping the commotion would at least get someone’s attention.

He tried Bruce again, still without an answer.

Time continued to tick by.

Eventually Jensen had to call St. Paul’s and advise them that he couldn’t get in touch with Bruce either.

“If you don’t have the right person at that point, you have to let the organ go. And letting an organ go means letting the chance at life for someone go, too. So it was either Ray, or it was going to get wasted,” said Dr. Bashir.

Shortly after the call to St. Paul’s, however, Jensen spotted a neighbour with a flashlight. He advised the neighbour what he was trying to do, and fortunately the neighbour had a cell number for Bruce’s son-in-law, and was able to reach Bruce’s daughter.

Thanks to the officer’s persistence, Bruce and his wife, Suzie, caught the 6:30 a.m. ferry from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay the next morning.

READ MORE: Organ transplant recipients express thanks and also thank new donors in advance

Dr. Bashir said the latest time Bruce absolutely had to be on the operating table by was 11 a.m. on Sept. 27.

He and Suzie made it to St.Paul’s with just enough time to prep for surgery.

His needed for a new heart started in August 2019 after he survived an immense heart attack while chopping wood at his home on Lasqueti Island.

According to Dr. Bashir, Bruce had Ischemic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle was weakened as a result of a heart attack. In the months following, Bruce underwent several rigorous assessments to ensure he was a good candidate for a transplant. He was officially placed on the list nearly a year after his attack, and received the transplant only 31 days later.

He was one of 30 adults to receive a heart transplant from St. Paul’s in 2020.

“We actually have quite an exceptional donor supply that is really a tragedy in some ways, because a lot of it is related to the fentanyl epidemic and overdoses. The organ supply has been unfortunately large. It’s a double-edged sword, for sure,” said Dr. Bashir.

Since Bruce came to Canada from England in the early ’90s, he said he now considers himself a ‘true Canadian at heart.’

When possible, he and Suzie plan to meet Const. Jensen and properly thank him for the amazing effort he made.

Bruce also asks the public to seriously consider registering as an organ donor. Doing such a small thing can have a huge impact on someone else’s life in the future, he said.

Registering as an organ donor can be done online at transplant.bc.ca.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Healthqualicum beachRCMP

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

Just Posted

District of Vanderhoof municipal office. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof district rejects FOI request for business name

Officials will release more information about the restaurant on May 21

Audrey McKinnon is seeking the NDP nomination for the federal riding of Cariboo-Prince George. (Twitter)
Audrey McKinnon puts name forward for NDP for federal election

McKinnon preparing for a contested nomination for Prince George-Cariboo riding

Michael Rees at his studio on the first floor of the old Burrard Market Square building. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Painter and print-maker showcased at Vanderhoof Street Art Show

Michael Rees uses narrative in a majority of his work

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

Most Read