When Darcy Gill boarded a plane in Toronto last summer, he had no idea that he was about to benefit from the kindness of strangers.

It had been an ordinary business trip for Darcy, 71, who’d been looking forward to returning home to family in Langley. But at the airport, he felt more tired than usual.

Then he boarded, and it got worse.

“I started getting really light-headed, and I knew something was wrong,” recalls Darcy. Given his health history — including open-heart surgery for a leaky valve at the age of 48 — he knew that dismissing it would be risky.

“I called over the flight attendant. I knew I needed oxygen,” he says.

As it turned out, the flight attendant he approached was a part-time nurse. Just rows away sat yet another nurse – one who specialized in cardiology at Hamilton General Hospital. Luck was on Darcy’s side: a paramedic was on board too.

They brought him to the back of the plane, where all three health care workers set to the task of gauging his vital signs and keeping him stable while the flight attendant communicated with health care staff on the ground.

“It was amazing. It was something you would see on TV,” he recalls now with a laugh.

As it turned out, the airplane drama was only the beginning of his health journey.

Darcy, a Langley resident and founder of Langley-based Cloverdale Fuel, was admitted to a cardiac bed within Langley Memorial’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), for about four days of monitoring through telemetry.

Getting “hooked up” to the telemetry machine (via small pads placed on the chest) allowed cardiac specialists, such as Langley hospitalist Dr. Daniel Negash to watch his heart health in anticipation for a trip to Surrey Memorial Hospital. There, he had a short procedure to install a pacemaker, a small device implanted in the chest to help regulate heart rhythm.

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His four-day stay at Langley Memorial made a world of difference, thanks to Dr. Negash’s careful attention, and the hospital’s capacity for telemetry monitoring in its ICU that provide signs of arrhythmia or flag any changes in the patient’s oxygen, respiratory or heart rate.

“I had lots of company at the hospital, and they took care of me very well,” he says.

Darcy’s wife Manjit Gill, an active community organizer, recalls her husband’s experience at Langley Memorial with a sense of gratitude.

“It brought home to me how lucky we are to have a hospital where we can get this type of care close to home,” she says. “Some people don’t get so lucky. They have to leave our community when the beds are full and can’t be near their family.”

At the same time, though, she recognized that the hospital’s need for telemetry-equipped beds would make a huge difference in the experience of patients who visit LMH for urgent cardiac care.

“We all know how fast Langley is growing, and it’s important that the cardiac unit and entire hospital grow in pace with change.”

Thanks in large part to LMH’s cardiac team, the father of two and grandfather of four is recovering well at home and eager to get back to his regular busy schedule at the family business, he says.

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“Right now, my mind is saying ‘go’, but my ticker is saying ‘no’.”