It was a warm summer day in Surrey and Linda and Murvyn Austin’s dog, Katie, a 15-year-old Sheltie, was waiting to be fed. Linda reminded her husband of 43 years that the dog was hungry. “Katie’s waiting for you; she wants her lunch,” Linda recalls. But when Murvyn appeared in the family room holding his socks and shoes staring blankly, Linda was bewildered. She asked her husband if he needed help, but he could not speak.

“I said, ‘put your arms up.’ Only one arm moved, and that was it; I called 911,” says Linda.

Murvyn and Katie. Photo Credit: Linda Austin

Residents Commute for Cardiac Care

Instead of taking Murvyn to Surrey Memorial Hospital nearby, paramedics rushed Murvyn to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. Linda jumped in the back of the speeding ambulance with her husband that fateful day in September 2022. “That was such a long journey going over that bridge.”

When Murvyn arrived at the emergency department, physicians ordered a CT scan. Murvyn was diagnosed with a brain bleed, also known as an intracranial hemorrhage, a type of stroke.

“They showed me the picture of his brain and how extensive the damage was and explained to me that he wasn’t coming home,” Linda says.

Surrey Hospitals Foundation is working to ensure that future cardiac and stroke patients living in the Fraser Health Region don’t have to take the long drive across the Fraser River to receive life-saving care in the future. In partnership with Fraser Health Authority and the Provincial Government, the Foundation has plans to support two new catheterization labs to ensure residents have faster access to urgent cardiac interventions.

“It’s important that people know what’s happening; we must help the community,” Linda says. “There’s such a need. So, we need to be there,” says Linda, who, along with her husband, donated regularly to Surrey Hospitals Foundation since 1993.

Why Catheterization Labs are Needed Close to Home

The need for catheterization labs is critical due to Fraser Health Region’s rapidly rising population. The City of Surrey is growing by 1200 to 1,400 people every month, making Fraser Health the fastest-growing healthcare authority in the province. The population is also aging. With heart disease being the second leading cause of death in Canada behind cancer, the need for cardiac care at Surrey Memorial Hospital will only escalate.

“There’s so much new technology, research, and support that the donations are helping with. It just makes sense to donate,” Linda said.

Linda and Murvyn learned about Surrey Hospitals Foundation through their involvement with the North Shore Lions Club, which also gives to the charity. The couple decided to follow the organization’s lead. “We thought, ‘if they’re willing to donate, then that’s good enough for us because it’s a good charity and does a lot of neat things.’”

Emergency doctors at Surrey Memorial Hospital treat more than 1,800 patients yearly with heart-related issues. A British Columbia Ambulance Service report from 2021 shows that 1,373 patients were transferred from Surrey Memorial Hospital to other cities in the province offering cardiac care.

Linda feels her husband would be over the moon to know that his family’s donation will help residents south of the Fraser River access and receive advanced cardiac care. “This would be really important for Murvyn to know that our money was going to something that would help somebody else.”

Community Donations Make a Difference

Tragically, Linda’s husband passed away on Sept. 2, 2022, after six days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Four days later, their dog Katie died too. The ICU “looked after Murvyn so well, and they looked after me too. They would send me home and say, ‘You know, you need to get a little rest so you can look after him.’ ” Linda reflects, “The two of us could never say enough good things about the Foundation, the hospital, and the staff. They are wonderful.”

Surrey Hospitals Foundation wants to help residents access the best cardiac specialists, services, and facilities. The Foundation needs your help in bringing the vision of two catheterization labs to Surrey Memorial Hospital to life.

Linda wants to remind the community that everyone can help, and that no donation is too small. “We’re not philanthropists. We’re not like Jim Pattison or anybody like that. We never presumed to be big donors; we just realize that every little bit helps,” says Linda.

When asked how giving to the Foundation makes her feel, Linda smiles. “It’s like gee…I think this is going to help someone. I don’t know who, but it will help somebody, somewhere along the way.”