FOULDS: Al Patel's beat goes on

Some wonder how Al Patel can wait so long for his dream of a catheterization lab at Royal Inland Hospital to come to fruition.

Then those people hear the founder of the ICCHA/Wish Fund speak and they understand.

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An Al Patel speech can make War and Peace seem like a tweet.

If he can spend that much time extolling the virtues of the years-long mission to improve cardiac care at the Kamloops hospital, waiting a decade or more for a cath lab to open would seem like a coffee break in comparison.

Yes, Patel can talk.

But it’s what he says that is key. And his words are indeed making a difference as the steps toward establishing a cath lab continue, dollar by dollar and syllable by syllable.

(A cath lab is a place in a hospital where doctors can diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease using catheters, small, flexible tubes. It is an alternative procedure to surgery that can access the heart and blood vessels. Patients in the Kamloops region must travel to Kelowna for such treatment, up to 800 people per year, according to statistics Patel received.)

The ICCHA/Wish Foundation is a non-profit entity that raises money each year to buy a crucial piece of medical equipment for Royal Inland Hospital.

Each year, a goal is identified and the fundraising begins, culminating with a sold-out gala at Colombo Hall to thank the donors and celebrate the successful fundraising goal and announce the new endeavour.

A week ago tonight, a diverse crowd of hundreds once again gathered at Colombo Hall, just east of downtown, where Indian food met Italian meals, silent auction items were bid up, various donors and sponsors were celebrated and music filled the building.

The night featured Patel’s trademark filibuster on all things cardiac care, including a poignant video featuring some Kamloopsians who survived brushes with death via heart complications.

They are all alive because much has been done year after year to improve the odds of survival.

But, as Patel and his ICCHA/Wish Fund supporters have been repeating with the regularity of a determined heartbeat, more can always be done.

This is why the annual fundraising campaigns will continue until a cath lab at RIH opens — and the fund will likely carry on after that goal is reached.

Last week’s annual gala revealed that $175,000 had been raised in the past year, money that will be used for cardiac care at RIH.

The next specific goal is to purchase a C-arm (a piece of medical equipment that can take X-rays of a patient from almost any angle) for RIH’s cardiac-care unit, which is under construction, thanks in no small part to more than $600,000 raised by the fund.

Since 2007, the ICCHA/Wish Fund has raised $1.2 million for cardiac care at the hospital and is now aiming to bring in $1 million to be used toward establishing a cath lab.

As Patel told KTW in a recent article, a cath lab will provide better diagnostics and therapeutic services in cardiac care, immediate diagnosis for residents and reduce risks to those cardiac patients by eliminating the stress of travel, which can be costly and hazardous, especially in the winter.

The cath lab campaign’s tag line is “Have a heart to give for a heart to live.”

But funds or no funds, whether a cath lab is ever opened at RIH is ultimately the decision of Interior Health and the provincial government, which is why Patel has started a petition on the ICCHA Wish Fund website, at

Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

© Kamloops This Week


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