He wanted to start ‘Make a Wish’ for adults, then a superbug took his life

The wife of an Aldergrove man says not only did a superbug cost her husband his life, it also denied him a peaceful and comforting death. John Hua reports.

George Gould was on a mission in the final years of his life — a mission that ended Thursday, in an isolation unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

Two years ago, the Aldergrove man spoke to Global News as he was fighting stage four colorectal cancer. At the time, he wanted to start a “Make a Wish”-style foundation for adults.

READ MORE: BC man wants to create a bucket list foundation for adults with cancer

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During that summer, he was undergoing procedures at Vancouver General Hospital’s (VGH) endoscopy clinic.

One year later, he received a letter from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) saying that he was one of three patients who had visited the clinic that had been infected with New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM), an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

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READ MORE: How superbugs are threatening Canada and the world

The superbug took away any chance that Gould might have had at fighting for his life.

For his family, the superbug took away his chance of having a dignified death.

“It’s not right, it should never have happened,” his wife Wendy Gould said.

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Wendy wanted George to be transferred to a palliative care unit at the same hospital, after he underwent “18 months of suffering, 22 times in hospital because of infection,” she said.

There, he would have had care from nurses and doctors who are experienced in dealing with end-of-life pain.

Instead, his life ended in isolation, with his family by his side.

“We sincerely apologize to the patient and their family for the situation,” Vancouver Coastal Health said in an email to Global News.

The health authority said that it follows “established standards and procedures” and that includes “reprocessing all medical devices at or above the recommendations provided by the manufacturer.”

But despite those standards, “VGH had a cluster of molecularly identical carbpenemase producing E. coli cases (CPO) that were identified by the BC Centre for Disease Control and are possibly connected to endoscopy.”

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VGH subsequently implemented more sterilization procedures.

“Oh we’re sorry and we’ve taken these precautions so it doesn’t happen again,” Wendy said.

“But you know what, it’s already happened. It’s wrong.”

Gould’s family hopes that they can honour his desire to help other people and keep this from happening again.

“He was such a sweet man and you took him from us,” Wendy said.

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