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Hearts for Hospital gala changing lives

It's the time of year for the people of Cold Lake to open their hearts to a cause that impacts every single resident: healthcare. May 5 will mark the eighth annual Hearts for Hospital gala.

It's the time of year for the people of Cold Lake to open their hearts to a cause that impacts every single resident: healthcare.

May 5 will mark the eighth annual Hearts for Hospital gala. Hosted by the foundation Hearts for Healthcare, all of the money raised at the event will go towards improving health services within Cold Lake.

“It's a cause that it doesn't matter how the economy is doing, our healthcare is always very important. We're always going to need healthcare,” said Theresa Nickel, Hearts for Healthcare executive director. “The pieces of equipment that we've purchased in the past, knowing that it's actually saving lives is huge. It's important this foundation stays afloat.”

Raising just over $200,000 at the 2016 gala, Hearts for Healthcare was able to purchase a cardiac telemetry system. Used to detect heart conditions, the device allows medical staff to constantly monitor a patient's heart on different displays stationed on the third floor and emergency department in the hospital. This ensures they are able to catch what's going on in patients who are experiencing frequent yet short-lived symptoms.

“There was actually a person that came into the hospital and was having heart problems. No one could tell what the problem was because they couldn't catch it on the old equipment. Finally, because of the 24-hour monitoring from the different stations, they could detect the problem and had to airlift him out immediately to Edmonton. Potentially it saved his life,” recounted Nickel.

While the organization doesn't boast its significant impact, cases like this aren't uncommon. On more than one occasion, the equipment purchased by Hearts for Healthcare has had a life-changing impact on local families.

“The Panda Warmer that we focused on at the last gala as well, they believe it saved a little baby's life that was born at the hospital.”

The Hearts for Hospital gala itself has humble beginnings. It all started eight years ago as a simple dinner and dance.

Nickel, a volunteer at the time, and her friends were reading about how desperate the hospital was for fundraising and help from the community. At the time, the group known as CLR3 was in need of funds to attract physicians to Cold Lake.

“Our first year, we raised $125,000. In our minds we were thinking maybe $50,000. In the second year, it was even double that,” said Nickel. “We were just blown away by the response from the community so that made it worth all of the hard work and effort we put in to keep doing it every year. By the response we got, we could tell it was well-needed.”

The CLR3 foundation liked the name the event was given, Hearts for Hospital, and from there, Hearts for Healthcare was born.

Known by many as the event of the year in Cold Lake, this year's Hearts for Hospital gala will be held at the Energy Centre on May 5 starting at 5 p.m. The evening kicks-off with cocktails and appetizers, with a dinner catered by Joly's Fine Cuisine. Danny Hooper will the Master of Ceremonies for the night, as well as the auctioneer as there will be silent and live auctions throughout the event.

“We have a band called Wake-Up Starlight from Calgary. They have never been in Cold Lake before so we're very excited about them, they reviewed really well,” said Nickel, adding there will be lots going on during the evening from speeches to a martini bar.

“The gala is black jeans to black tie; we don't want to eliminate anybody for not wearing a fancy dress.”

The goal this year is to raise at least $200,000, and with at least two new physicians on their way to the city, it's money that's greatly needed. From the funds collected, at least $40,000 will be used for the doctor incentive program, which offers new physicians $20,000 to get started.

One new doctor is scheduled to arrive in June, and a second in September. However, Nickel noted that AHS is searching for a third family physician and a full-time obstetrician/gynecologist. Should those spots be filled, $80,000 will be needed for the physician incentive program.

“Then, we are looking at possibly putting money into the palliative care rooms. That's not a definite, we're just working with the palliative care foundation but we're hoping that's going to be a go.”

Hearts for Healthcare wish list for equipment includes a $42,000 pediatric endoscope, two intelivue portable monitors priced at $14,000 to allow unstable patients to be monitored during scans and tests, a second Panda Warmer for $35,000, as well as a portable ultrasound, pediatric crib for acute care, and multiple portable vital signs machines. Once the money from the gala is tallied, Hearts for Healthcare will meet with hospital officials to determine the priority of equipment based on the dollars raised.

While the need is there, this year's ticket sales aren't matching up.

“In the past years, we've sold out in four hours and this year it's just not that way. We're really struggling with ticket sales this year,” stressed Nickel. “Our goal is big but we're just going to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.”

For more information on the Hearts for Hospital gala, or to purchase tickets, contact Nickel at 780-812-1312.