Lorna Callbeck has been living with heart troubles since she was a baby. At two, she was rushed from Turtleford to Royal University Hospital in cardiac failure. She underwent corrective heart surgery when she was ten. Today, she lives with a heart rhythm disorder that causes her heart to race uncontrollably.

The newly opened Kinsmen Telemiracle Foundation Electrophysiology Lab at RUH.

Instead of traveling out of province for treatment, she opted to wait until a level of care was available here in Saskatoon – and now it is.

June 20th, 2012 was a day of celebration, as the Kinsmen Telemiracle Foundation Electrophysiology (EP) Lab and Program officially opened at Royal University Hospital so patients living with heart rhythm disorders can be treated right here in Saskatoon.

“Having this lab and program available here means everything to me, and the many patients like me,” says Callbeck. “It means we can be treated surrounded by our loved ones.”

Saskatchewan’s first full-time Cardiac EP Lab and Program is a reality thanks to many generous donors to the Royal University Hospital Foundation’s $5.5 million Every Heart Matters (EHM) Campaign that was launched a year ago. The Kinsmen Telemiracle Foundation’s transformational donation of $1.5 million, coupled with donations from across Saskatchewan and beyond, shows that people wanted this standard of care in our province.

“We knew we were embarking on an ambitious campaign last September,” says John Cross, Volunteer Chair of the EHM Campaign. “But we knew we could count on the generous spirit of Saskatchewan people. They proved us right, and we are so thankful and grateful for the support of all of our donors.”

To begin the day, Saskatoon Regional Health Authority Chair Jim Rhode emceed a press conference to announce the lab grand opening. Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Dustin Duncan praised the partnership of the RUH Foundation, KTF and Saskatoon Health Region.

“These organizations had a vision and a willingness to work together for the best possible care for our patients. Now those patients will benefit from that cooperation for years to come,” said Saskatoon Regional Health Authority Chair Jim Rhode. He also noted the government is providing $1.25 million annually for operating the lab.

“Since 2008, we have worked out of the temporary lab one day a week: rolling in, setting up, taking down and putting away the temporary equipment,” says Lisa Bergen, Manager, Cardiac Catheterization & EP Services/Pacemaker & Heart Function Clinics. She adds that the EP team was grateful to have even a temporary place but seeing the new lab is a dream come true – a reality Bergen credits to the division of Cardiology and its leadership.

“Dr. Paul Basran believed in EP years ago as a necessary addition to the cardiology program and helped others to see that as well. Dr. Jawed Akhtar continued that support when he took on the role of division head,” she adds.

Akhtar says Saskatchewan is a pioneer in many aspects of health care and hopes cardiology will follow suit. “In the late 1950s, Drs. Horlick and Merriman started the cardiac program here. It was really a one-of-a-kind program. They established a few things that were never done in the world elsewhere, like a cardiac rehabilitation program.” Akhtar notes the cardiac program has grown tremendously over the past six decades to now include 13 cardiologists.

Electrophysiologists Drs. Carlo Stuglin and Kelly Coverett are thrilled to be able to practice their specialty in a state-of-the-art facility.

“Over the past decade, the cardiology program at RUH has grown to the cutting edge of cardiac care supported,” says Stuglin. “This EP lab and program is the final integral piece so essential to modern cardiac care. It means the world to us to be able to treat our patients here.”

To learn more about the history of Cardiology at RUH, take a few moments to see the new wall mural outside the Cath and EP Lab on the Ground floor.