CALGARY: The Justice Centre is calling attention to a dire situation that has resulted in the cancellation of scheduled essential surgery at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton for a Tumbler Ridge, B.C. senior. Debbie Head Golhof, a 60-year old mother and grandmother, requires skull surgery that had been scheduled for November 30, 2020 at the University of Alberta, but which has now been cancelled due to Alberta’s latest lockdown measures.
Mrs. Golhof had a stroke on August 28, 2020, and was admitted to Dawson Creek Hospital in B.C. She suffered another stroke while in hospital, and was air-lifted to Edmonton’s U of A hospital for emergency surgery on September 4. The surgery involved removing part of her skull, and storing it on ice, to allow enough time for the swelling in her brain to go down. This flight to Edmonton saved her life, says her husband Garret Golhof.
As Mrs. Golhof was stable and needed time to reduce swelling, she was temporarily sent back to Dawson Creek, while waiting for her Alberta neurosurgeon to book her operating room time in Edmonton to reattach her skull. This crucial surgery was scheduled for November 30 at U of A hospital. On November 29, the morning she was scheduled to be flown to Alberta, the neurosurgeon’s office emailed Mr. Golhof and profusely apologized. “I regret to inform you that the people in charge here at the University of Alberta hospital have decided that no out of province surgeries are taking place at this time.” The staff member said, “I had no idea that they were doing this,” adding she would have to discuss the next steps with the surgeon because Mrs. Golhof’s bone flap is here in Alberta.
Unfortunately, within the past week, Mrs. Golhof accidentally re-injured her head where the skull is still missing. Mrs. Golhof is experiencing severe headaches and requires her skull cap to be surgically reattached as soon as possible. Her husband is extremely concerned, because his wife cannot receive much rehab without her skull covering. “They are scared she will fall and bang it. She now needs rehab to gain upper body strength to be able to get from her bed to a chair. She has been forced to use diapers for three months and is only 60 years old. Her mind, memory and speech are good!”
But Mrs. Golhof’s brain is open and vulnerable, and the bone flap is deteriorating the longer it is goes unattached. If she does not receive surgery soon, her husband fears she will need multiple surgeries and possibly a plastic or steel plate in her head. She will not be released from hospital with an open skull, and cannot come home.
The surgery to reattach the skull cap is estimated to take one hour.
Mr. Golhof has asked for help from his Provincial MLA Mike Bernier and from his federal MP Bob Zimmer, and now he just hopes his wife can be home for Christmas.
“My wife does not have Covid! She needs her skull reattached. She has lost 40 pounds and sits in the Dawson Creek Hospital with hardly any rehab waiting for all this to end. I pray this ends before she does. Also, there is a time limit for her bone to be reattached before it’s too old and expires. Then they have to make a plastic or metal cap meaning many more visits to the hospital and a longer surgery. I just want her home,” says Mr. Golhof.
“This is just one example of the damage and suffering that overbroad, fear-based government policies are inflicting on Canadians. Politicians have thus far not produced any models projecting harm from delayed and cancelled surgeries, nor have they answered questions about how many deaths are resulting from cancelled surgeries,” states lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre. “Covid-19 is not the only thing making people sick.”
“Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw owe Mrs. Golhof an explanation,” continues Carpay.
“Politicians have yet to provide persuasive evidence that their lockdown measures have saved lives. Fear and speculation are not science, and conjecture is not evidence. Yet lockdown harms are real. Denying surgery to Mrs. Golhof is not saving anyone from COVID-19,” states Carpay.
“Canadian hospitals have been over-crowded and over-run for many years, with ‘hallway medicine’ a common practice in many hospitals. This is not a new problem, or Covid-related,” adds Carpay.
“Mrs. Golhof deserves to have her surgery re-scheduled immediately, and should not have to file a court application to preserve her health,” concludes Carpay.
Update to this story: The University of Alberta Hospital decided to fly Mrs. Golhof in for her neurosurgery on December 15, 2020, while her husband drove eight hours straight from BC to Edmonton to be with her. Upon arrival at the U of A, it was discovered that a hospital employee had mistakenly discarded Mrs. Golhof’s bone flap, and her surgery was cancelled again. She will now require a plastic bone flap to be made for her which will take weeks. It is uncertain where Mrs. Golhof will be sent for ongoing care while she waits.