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

Tanvi Pandhi, a Grade 12 student at Fleetwood Park Secondary, took part in the Surrey school district’s survey of students in grades 10 to 12, with a focus on health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey students voice concerns about mask wearing, distancing in schools

Surrey school district has been surveying students in grades 10 to 12

Cambridge Elementary School music teacher Darlene Lourenco is “on the mend” after contracting COVID-19. She had a two-week stay at Surrey Memorial Hospital, including in the ICU. (Photo: submitted)
Surrey music teacher at home after two-week hospital stay battling COVID-19

Meantime, Surrey Teachers’ Association sends letter with safety demands to board of education

Keir Macdonald, CEO of Phoenix Drug and Alcohol Recovery Education Society, with the “first of its kind” Adult Residential Substance Use and Supportive Recovery Facility Homelessness Count. It was done around the time of the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count (March 3 to 4, 2020) to complement the count. (Photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey homeless, recovery counts show need for long-term solutions

This was the first time recovery, substance use facilities were included in the count

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Hail to the chief – an in-depth interview with Surrey Police Service’s first boss

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski will assume his historic new role on Dec. 14

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Newton Elementary School in Surrey, according to an information bulletin Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Image: Google Street View)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at second Surrey elementary school

Newton Elementary closed for two weeks, set to reopen Dec. 14

(Photo: Amy Reid)
VIDEO: 2020 Community Leader Awards recognize Surrey’s unsung heroes

They don’t often receive recognition and don’t necessarily have a high profile in the community

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Most Read