It was an unexpected phone call that recently took the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation by surprise.
“To get the call fairly out of the blue…certainly doesn’t happen every day but what an incredibly wonderful surprise to have,” said Doug Rankmore, the CEO of Kelowna General Hospital Foundation.
The surprise Rankmore is referring to was a very large donation an Albertan couple wanted to make.
“A $1.4-million gift,” Rankmore said. “It’s a very generous contribution to the community.”
The huge donation comes from Edmonton couple Marshall and Judi Eliuk.
“I just so happened to be in the Okanagan and my nephew lives here and he says the Kelowna General Hospital is looking for $1.4 million to complete the heart services,” Marsahll Eliuk told Global News.
Having just sold his last business, Eliuk decided to take some of those proceeds and put them to good use.
The auto industry businessman knows first hand the importance of health care. He himself has had open heart surgery and back in 2000 was diagnosed with a very rare blood condition, which nearly took his life.
It required him to live off blood transfusions for nine months.
“During the nine month period, there’s been good people that were going every day to blood services to donate their blood so I could live off it, “Eliuk said.
Now he said is his chance to pay it forward.
“It’ll save other lives and it’s a way to pay back these people who took their time to donate their blood so I can keep on living,” he said.
Eluik’s contribution completes the $7-million “Right Here at KGH” campaign, which was launched early this year.
The funds will bring what’s called an electrophysiology (EP) lab to Kelowna General Hospital, providing
advanced heart rhythm services.
“It means we are able to go forward and start building the room, ordering the equipment and getting the program,” Ranmore said. “What it really means is it’ll be here on schedule, it’ll be open when people need it.”
Right now, thousand of patients have to travel to the south coast every year to receive advanced heart rhythm services.
“It’s going to be huge for the patients,” said Dr, Frank Halperin, head of cardiology at KGH. “Right now patients have to travel down to Vancouver or Victoria anytime they need any advanced services and now they will be bale to have that service provided right here in the Okanagan, right close to home and it’ll make a huge difference. They won’t have to travel, they will get care closer and it’ll be better care overall.”
The completion of the campaign means that other than transplants, all heart-related services will be provided at KGH.
To honour the couple’s big contribution, the KGH Foundation is naming the program in their honour.
“It will be the Marshall Eliuk Cardiac Interventional and Advanced Heart Rhythm Program,” Rankmore said. “It’s a great honour to be able to name it in their honour.”
The program is expected to be up and running in the summer of 2020.
While this is Eliuk’s first gift to KGH, he’s well known for his health care philanthropy in Alberta, where in 2018, he donated $3 million to fund improvements and research to the University Hospital at Edmonton’s Hematology ward.
In 2014, Eliuk also made the largest single donation to Canadian Blood Services, $1.5 million, Services to help establish cord blood/ stem cell banks in Edmonton and Ottawa.
These facilities collect, analyze and freeze stem cell taken from cord blood to be used for future stem cell transplants.
Eliuk said it’s always a good feeling to help save lives.
He added it also makes sense financially.
“It’s a good tax write-off and I think people who sell businesses like myself should probably remember this,” Eliuk said. “Rather than giving the big cheque back to the government, you’re better off to donate to a good cause that will help a lot of people down the road.”