At age 29, Kyle Sandness thought his shortness of breath must be the onset of asthma.
Imagine the shock when he learned his heart is failing and he’ll need a transplant.
That was a few months ago. Now to make matters worse, his souped-up pickup truck, his pride and joy, was stolen two weekends ago from the parking lot at Metropolis at Metrotown mall.
Inside was medical equipment necessary to keep his temporary artificial heart operating.
Sandness, who lives in Surrey, said he was only in the mall for about a half hour or so on Saturday, Sept. 27.
When he returned to the parking lot outside Sears along Kingsway, the truck was gone.
Burnaby RCMP Staff Sgt. Major John Buis confirmed police are investigating the theft, which happened sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. in “broad daylight.”
The pickup truck is described as a dark grey, 2007 Ford F350 with licence plate HL 8891. It’s “significant,” Buis noted, because it’s a Harley Davidson edition, with chrome rims, a black toolbox in the rear, an eight-inch lift kit on the wheels, red RDF sticker on the rear window, with a hitch and loud exhaust. Also taken were tools in the rear toolbox.
The stolen medical equipment included batteries (four-inches-by-three-inches with a grey cord) and battery chargers for the artificial heart, and medications. It’s valued at about $70,000, Buis said.
“Although he’s had the batteries replaced, it’s a significant cost to the taxpayers of British Columbia.”
Of the medical equipment Sandness said in an interview that “there’s no chance [the thieves] can make any money off it at all. Who’s going to buy this equipment?”
He said the truck was all he had left of his life prior to his diagnosis.
Left: After thinking he was coming down with asthma, Kyle Sandness learned several months ago that he needs a heart transplant. (Facebook)
Sandness’ nightmare started in May when he noticed he was getting short of breath and it was getting worse and worse. He thought maybe he was getting asthma.
His doctor gave him some inhalers, but when things didn’t improve, he began seeing a cardiologist. Before they could reach a diagnosis, he suddenly found himself at the emergency room at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
“They said I was knocking on the door. I passed out. They had to cut my neck and put a whole bunch of IVs in me, ‘pretty much died,’ they said.”
Sandness spent the next 45 days in hospital, first in Surrey, then at St. Paul’s in Vancouver. He was eventually told his heart was swollen and had become very weak. The artificial heart was put in to help his own heart pump until he can get a transplant, expected to take up to a year, or on the “slight chance” his damaged heart can recover.
Before his health challenges, it wasn’t unusual for Sandness to work six or seven days a week as an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) installer, then head to the gym to work out on his time off.
That’s how he was able to afford the truck, which he still hasn’t paid off, and the $15,000 in engine, lift and other modifications he made to it, he said.
“I lost everything when I went in the hospital but I managed to keep the truck.”
He can no longer do the physical work of HVAC installations, so he couldn’t pay his rent and had to move back in with his parents. “I couldn’t even pack my own stuff up. My parents had to go and pack my house, deal with the landlord, I just couldn’t do anything.”
Sandness sprinkles his story with self-deprecating humour, noting he’s been forced to rent a vehicle, which ended up being a “soccer mom” station wagon.
Having a vehicle is crucial at the moment because he has three to four doctors appointments a week, and twice a week he’s at St. Paul’s participating in their specialized exercise programs for heart patients.
He had a glimmer of hope for his truck when someone found his wallet in the middle of the road in Aldergrove. The cash was missing but his identification was still inside. He drove around the area for two hours in hopes of spotting his truck to no avail.
In the meantime, he’s doing his best to stay positive.
“It’s just so hard because I’ve been through a lot,” Sandness said. “It’s a lot of stress and stress on my heart is not a good thing … I try to keep happy, keep myself occupied to not think about things.”
And while he said he is reluctant to ask, anyone who wants to help him financially can contribute to a Paypal account that can be found under firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone with information on the theft of his truck and the medical equipment can call Burnaby RCMP at 604-294-7922.