Aldergrove resident Wendy Gould lost her husband George last year in January after he battled cancer, and a superbug he may have contracted from an endoscopy at Vancouver General Hospital. Gould said her “life was ripped away from her,” holding a picture of the two on their wedding day in 2010. (Canadian Press photo)

Aldergrove resident Wendy Gould lost her husband George last year in January after he battled cancer, and a superbug he may have contracted from an endoscopy at Vancouver General Hospital. Gould said her “life was ripped away from her,” holding a picture of the two on their wedding day in 2010. (Canadian Press photo)

B.C. widow sues health authority after ‘untreatable’ superbug killed husband

New Public Agency Health report puts Canadian death toll at 5,400 in 2018

Aldergrove resident Wendy Gould is all too familiar with the impossible nature of superbugs.

Gould had her “future ripped away from [her]” after her husband George – who battled stage-four colorectal cancer – was exposed to a superbug during an endoscopy at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) in 2016.

New data released Tuesday from an expert panel warns medication-resistant bacteria could kill as many as 400,000 Canadians and drain the economy of $400 billion over the next 30 years.

The “When Antibiotics Fail” report, commissioned by the Public Health Agency of Canada, says drug-resistant bacteria or “superbugs” killed almost as many people as Alzheimers disease in 2018 – 5,400 annually.

“We found out later the endoscope had been contaminated. So for 18 months, George battled that bug on top of the cancer he had,” Gould posted to Facebook.

Gould said it was the superbug he contracted that made George’s cancer untreatable.

“Isn’t fighting cancer enough?” she said.

The 268-page document said Canadians with medical conditions and compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for consuming bacteria resistant to medication.

READ MORE: Report predicts drug resistance likely to kill 40,000 Canadians by 2050

Wendy and George had met later in life, fallen in love, and married in October 2010. 

After George’s cancer diagnosis five years later, her husband – the teacher, former lawyer, and “best hug giver” – even set in motion a Make-A-Wish-type foundation for adults with terminal diagnoses.

He was a man with a determination to help others.

Gould was made aware of the “possible” contamination during his 2016 endoscopy in a letter from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

The authority admitted George was one of three patients who had visited the endoscopy clinic that had been infected with New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM).

NDM is a highly-infectious superbug.

Gould alleges it complicated all future attempts that George underwent to treat his colorectal cancer.

“He ended up in hospital 22 times because of infection” Gould said, attributing his in-patient stays to the violent nausea and frightening hallucinations that resulted from intravenous antibiotics given an attempt to treat the bug.

A Canadian Public Health Agency report released in March warns the public of the looming dangers of bacteria resistant to medication, also known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

If left unaddressed – it said AMR will “cause serious infections to become untreatable, existing treatments to become more expensive, and procedures like chemotherapy for cancer to become so risky that they may not be readily available.”

READ MORE: Infants more vulnerable to measles than previously thought: Canadian study

The report considers superbugs “a slow-moving tsunami that carries a significant burden on human health, health care, and the Canadian economy as a whole.”

Days before his death, George was denied palliative care at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH).

“There was a room available and George was expected to be transferred there,” Gould alleged.

“He could not go to that unit because of the superbug. I was told by the manager of the unit where he [was] that the palliative care nurses [would] not even come up to his room and treat him.”

She then found out her extended health coverage would not cover out-of-hospital palliative care.

Gould said she expected to grow old with George by her side.

Instead, George passed away in January of 2018 in an isolation unit at ARH at age 58, three years after his initial cancer diagnosis on Sept. 5, 2015.

Now, the Gould family hopes to prevent this from ever happening again, and live in the legacy of George’s wish to help others in pain.

Gould has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of B.C. against Vancouver Coastal Health which operates Vancouver General Hospital – alleging the superbug ultimately led to George’s death and denied him a fighting chance at battling his cancer.

Her claim has not been proven in court.

– With files from Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“He’ll be bowling for dollars — $30,000 to be exact. Matt Hancock, 15-years-old of Lake Cowichan won in the Coca-Cola B.C. championship finals and will now bowl in the international championship with a chance to win a $30,000 scholarship. Hancock will go to the international competition in Columbus July 10. He is coached by Karen Smith of Cowichan Lake and plays on the T.G.S. bowling team.” (Lake News/May 8, 1996)
Flashback: Taxes, school district amalgamation, logging licences and student news

A look back through the pages of Lake Cowichan’s history

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Give me a brake!

It was clear that none of these drivers had done a pre-trip inspection

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars”

Trying out a corn variety called “Midnight Snack, grown near Cache Creek, as well as my saved Bantam/Sunnyvee Cross (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Early sowing gets a jump on corn season

‘I’m planting three batches of corn, two weeks apart for a steady supply’

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read