Suzie Bruce, left, and Ray Bruce, right, holding Ray’s heart after his transplant. His old heart was donated to the Cardiovascular Tissue Registry at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, where it will be used for research and educational purposes. (Submitted photo)

Suzie Bruce, left, and Ray Bruce, right, holding Ray’s heart after his transplant. His old heart was donated to the Cardiovascular Tissue Registry at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, where it will be used for research and educational purposes. (Submitted photo)

Police officer shows a lot of heart in overnight effort to get B.C. senior a new heart

Qualicum Beach man just makes transplant deadline in amazing story out of Vancouver Island

When a heart became suddenly available last autumn for a Qualicum Beach man awaiting a desperately needed transplant, time was of the essence.

But he couldn’t be reached.

So on that fateful night, many worked in concert to alert William ‘Ray’ Bruce, including an unlikely person an Oceanside RCMP constable who just happened to be on duty.

Cst. Tyler Jensen knew all too well that fast action was critical when awaiting an organ transplant: his father-in-law just received a new liver two weeks prior.

“I knew how important it was and wanted to help and do everything I could,” he said.

On Sept. 26, 2020, Jensen received a call just before midnight from Dr. Margot Davis, a cardiologist from St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver.

Dr. Davis had already spent several hours trying to get in touch with Bruce, his wife and anyone else on the contact list, but wasn’t having any luck.

“The cardiologist and I had batted around ideas and I said in the end, ‘let’s just call the police’. Because what civil resources are there in the night, and who else can you call to help?,” said Dr. Jamil Bashir, the surgeon who performed Bruce’s heart transplant.

At first Jensen attempted to call Bruce and his family, as Dr. Davis had done, but he too could not reach them.

For a brief moment the constable even considered Bruce’s previous address on Lasqueti island, though soon realized there wasn’t enough time to physically get there. In his research, Jensen was able to locate the address of Bruce’s daughter and son-in-law’s property in Spider Lake, a small community approximately 20 kilometres inland from Qualicum Beach.

READ MORE: B.C. sets records for lung, heart, liver transplants in 2020

Bruce told the PQB News cellphone service can sometimes be weak in the area and assumed that had been the case, as neither his nor his wife’s phone rang once throughout that night.

Jensen decided to drive out to the property and assumed he could simply walk up to the front door and knock.

“I couldn’t get up close to the house because of a tall fence that had big spikes on top and then the rest of the property was guarded by thorn bushes,” he said.

The constable then turned on his vehicle’s lights, sirens and spotlight, hoping the commotion would at least get someone’s attention.

He tried Bruce again, still without an answer.

Time continued to tick by.

Eventually Jensen had to call St. Paul’s and advise them that he couldn’t get in touch with Bruce either.

“If you don’t have the right person at that point, you have to let the organ go. And letting an organ go means letting the chance at life for someone go, too. So it was either Ray, or it was going to get wasted,” said Dr. Bashir.

Shortly after the call to St. Paul’s, however, Jensen spotted a neighbour with a flashlight. He advised the neighbour what he was trying to do, and fortunately the neighbour had a cell number for Bruce’s son-in-law, and was able to reach Bruce’s daughter.

Thanks to the officer’s persistence, Bruce and his wife, Suzie, caught the 6:30 a.m. ferry from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay the next morning.

READ MORE: Organ transplant recipients express thanks and also thank new donors in advance

Dr. Bashir said the latest time Bruce absolutely had to be on the operating table by was 11 a.m. on Sept. 27.

He and Suzie made it to St.Paul’s with just enough time to prep for surgery.

His needed for a new heart started in August 2019 after he survived an immense heart attack while chopping wood at his home on Lasqueti Island.

According to Dr. Bashir, Bruce had Ischemic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle was weakened as a result of a heart attack. In the months following, Bruce underwent several rigorous assessments to ensure he was a good candidate for a transplant. He was officially placed on the list nearly a year after his attack, and received the transplant only 31 days later.

He was one of 30 adults to receive a heart transplant from St. Paul’s in 2020.

“We actually have quite an exceptional donor supply that is really a tragedy in some ways, because a lot of it is related to the fentanyl epidemic and overdoses. The organ supply has been unfortunately large. It’s a double-edged sword, for sure,” said Dr. Bashir.

Since Bruce came to Canada from England in the early ’90s, he said he now considers himself a ‘true Canadian at heart.’

When possible, he and Suzie plan to meet Const. Jensen and properly thank him for the amazing effort he made.

Bruce also asks the public to seriously consider registering as an organ donor. Doing such a small thing can have a huge impact on someone else’s life in the future, he said.

Registering as an organ donor can be done online at transplant.bc.ca.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Healthqualicum beachRCMP

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

Just Posted

Some Saanich firefighters have expressed concerns about first responders in the Island Health Region not being prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as an outbreak at a fire station would make service delivery a challenge. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich firefighters not prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine despite working on frontlines

Members express frustration, department calls on Island Health to take action

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of UVic varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A total of 10 flight exposures have affected the Victoria International Airport in April so far, making it the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures

As of April 21, 10 flight exposures reported for the month

Victoria police are searching for Andrew Swanson who was last seen in Victoria April 7 and is wanted on warrants for choking related to a domestic assault and obstructing police. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police searching for missing man wanted for domestic assault

Andrew Swanson, 47, last seen in Victoria April 7

The Esquimalt Fire Department was called to a residence on Glengarry Place Tuesday afternoon for a fire that has displaced two families. There were no injuries and damage is being assessed. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt fire displaces two families

Fire damage at residence on Glengarry Place still being assessed

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Most Read