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Fundraising campaign honours longtime Peace Arch Hospital staffer

‘She just wouldn’t know that she was worthy of something so fantastic’

An effort to add equipment to the medical-imaging department at Peace Arch Hospital launched last week in honour of ‘Dr. Marcie’ – a longtime employee remembered for her dedication to the job and passion for the people accessing the hospital services.

Billboards sporting Marcie Unger’s photo have been strategically placed around the hospital grounds, in the hopes of inspiring $176,000 in donations by Christmas; funds to purchase a portable ultrasound machine and other equipment.

READ MORE: Construction starts on $83.7-million Peace Arch Hospital ER expansion

The ultrasound is a critical addition, officials with Peace Arch Hospital Foundation explained, because the existing one “is stretched thin across all our departments.”

“Because of its small size and ability to be mobile, it can be easily moved around the hospital, making it useful to all departments… allowing medical teams to check for life-threatening conditions in trauma and non-trauma patients and to provide immediate treatment.”

Unger, who spent 24 years in the department before her own diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in early 2020, “worked tirelessly for her patients and colleagues,” reads a tribute on the foundation’s website.

“She would often stay late, work extra shifts, and go out of her way to ensure that vulnerable patients received life-saving diagnostic scans and related care.”

Enthusiastic about anything to do with imaging – “she was a huge advocate for screening mammogram” – Unger “knew her stuff,” her husband, Randy told Peace Arch News.

“As (one doctor) puts it, she should’ve carried on a career in medicine.

“(Marcie) had said that she should’ve gone back to be a nurse. That is one thing that she did regret. That would’ve served her well, her care for patients.”

Randy said Unger got her start in the PAH emergency department, working an early morning, part-time shift in booking to get her foot in the door towards an eventual full-time gig with benefits that would ensure her family was well-looked after.

The couple had three young kids at the time – Sarah, Spencer and Naomi – and the early hours enabled her to be home in time to get them off to school, he said.

Over the years, the “fit beyond fit” Calgary native who called South Surrey home from about Grade 9 forward, was also active in her kids’ sports’ teams, whether they were on the baseball diamond, the soccer pitch or on the ice. An avid fan, she even earned the nickname ‘Coach Marcie’ at the rink, Randy said.

She and Randy were shopping for beds in December 2019 when her back began “giving her a hard time,” Randy said.

A doctor prescribed treatment for ulcers, but neither she nor Randy thought that ulcers were the problem.

An ultrasound found masses on her liver, the biggest of which was almost seven inches.

“That day… it was her last day of work,” Randy said.

She died five months later, on June 29, 2020 at age 53.

Randy described the hospital fundraising campaign as “a great, heart-tugging initiative” that his wife would be “ecstatic about.”

At the same time, “she would for sure not understand it,” he said.

“One of her co-workers, Lisa… always said that Marcie was always so much bigger than she gave herself credit for,” he continued. “She was big sister to many, she was mom to others. Just so much more.

“She just wouldn’t know that she was worthy of something so fantastic.

“For me to see that at the hospital there, we absolutely love what’s going on.”

To donate to the campaign, visit
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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