Quesnel’s Natasha Wasmuth, left, poses with her neurosurgeon and VGH head of surgery Dr. Gary Redekip, middle, and VGH Foundation president and CEO Barbara Grantham at VGH Foundation Gala November 2017. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Cariboo woman raises funds for Seizure Investigation Unit beds at VGH

VGH Foundation gets VCH approval to begin fundraising for SIU beds; local efforts are paying off

Quesnel’s Natasha Wasmuth has suffered with epilepsy for the past 20 years.

In 2011 during a consult with one of Vancouver General Hospital’s (VGH) epileptologists, she learned that with only two Seizure Investigation Unit (SIU) beds for adults in the entire province, she could be waiting up to two years to be admitted to determine if brain surgery would benefit her.

As her seizures became progressively more out of control, Natasha was admitted to the SIU after just 14 months and it was determined to be a surgical candidate.

The purpose of the VGH SIU is to determine brain surgery candidacy, but it also helps specialists diagnose and treat the more complex cases.

Since the SIU was launched in 1979, there has been little additional funding or provincial support. British Columbia is the third largest province and one of the least funded for epilepsy treatment and research, and although more than 32,000 adults in B.C. have epilepsy and more than 7,000 are possible surgery candidates, the number of SIU beds has remained at two.

Although life would soon be altered in an extreme way, Natasha couldn’t stop thinking about the lack of funding for such vital equipment and services.

Through research, she learned, due primarily to red tape, the addition of beds in the SIU was not a priority at the time. This galvanized the Quesnel woman to do something about that.

In 2014, six months post surgery, Natasha founded epilepsyQuesnel (eQ) to start raising funds for SIU beds three and four.

Knowing the roadblocks she was up against, Natasha committed herself to 10 years, or until the VGH Foundation had the go ahead to take over the fundraising for additional beds.

Since eQ began, Natasha has had numerous meetings with the Foundation. Late last fall, Natasha met with Foundation Associate Director Stephanie Forgacs for an update and had barely sat down when Forgacs proudly gave her the news – Vancouver Coastal Health has finally given approval.

Although the VGH Epilepsy Clinic’s efforts for more beds began well before her surgery, eQ’s fundraising endeavour is said to be “the inspiration.”

The cost for the SIU project (equipment, installation etc.) is $865,000. The account opened with eQ’s funds, close to $19,000 (raised in just 18 weeks over four campaigns), and the goal is to reach $25,000.

After its 2018 campaign, eQ will pass the SIU torch to the Foundation.

VGH fundraising abilities are considerable and it is aiming to finish the project some time in 2019. In addition to eQ’s donation, $144,000 has already been raised for a total of $163,000 to date.

VGH is also working hard on recruiting more epileptologists and the Foundation has started other separate fundraising projects related to seizure research.

“Here in Canada, one in 100 people live with epilepsy. With the medical community learning more about seizures diagnosis is on the rise and the SIU wait list has grown to more than three years,” Natasha says.

March is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, so join eQ in its fifth and final SIU fundraising campaign.

Locations of events are coming soon in the Quesnel Observer and Coffee Break, and on the ‘Purple Day’ posters throughout the city.

International superstar Alex Cuba is again performing for eQ’s benefit concert on March 3 at The Occidental; there are limited tickets left.

“Thank you Quesnel for helping us put our great city on the map as B.C.’s first SIU endeavour! Because of the SIU and highly trained medical staff at VGH, I am now 1,690 days grand mal free,” says Natasha.

For the second year, Natasha was invited to attend the VGH Foundation Gala, which honours its donors.

“This is something I could never have believed possible before 2011, but I’m proud to have taken this fundraising project to such a successful conclusion and help others who live with uncontrollable seizures take the next steps to wellness.”

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

Just Posted

Fire truck, police car hit in chain of crashes on Hwy. 99 in South Surrey

‘People weren’t paying attention,’ says Surrey assistant fire chief

Chilliwack man who sexually assaulted young boys released from prison

Statutory release for Don Putt who Parole Board calls an ‘untreated sex offender’

Greedy family’s maid overcomes them all in Surrey Little Theatre’s latest play

‘The Late Christopher Bean’ is staged at Clayton-area theatre for a month starting Jan. 23

Two-vehicle crash leads to argument in South Surrey

Police investigating after one driver left the scene

Surrey man charged in 2019 Vancouver homicide

Chad Harry, 32, charged with second-degree murder in killing of 35-year-old Cong Tran

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Should winter tires be mandatory in the Lower Mainland?

ICBC dial-a-claims go up as winter storm takes toll

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

Abbotsford bank ATM robbery thwarted by woman standing her ground

Police arrest alleged known robber running down South Fraser wearing balaclava

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Dad of missing Abbotsford woman charged after allegedly exposing himself in park

Barry Shpeley charged with sexual assault and assault

Most Read