Even though Steve Palen was faced with death for a long time, he never spoke about it.
Palen had been living with Hepatitis C, which attacks the liver, for more than four decades, when he was also diagnosed with liver cancer in 2007.
“My wife Liz and I put a downpayment on a condo that was being built and we weren’t sure if I was going to make it. We didn’t talk about it too much, but we knew the possibility was there,” said the 62-year-old Victoria resident. “It’s scary. At first you think ‘oh my god’. But I’m a positive person, and I wasn’t going to let it get me down.”
Doctors in Nanaimo, where he was living at the time, told him they couldn’t do anything else for him.
It wasn’t until Palen met Dr. Paul Sobkin, clinical section head, angiography/interventional radiology at Royal Jubilee Hospital, that things took a turn for the better.
Sobkin told Palen there was hope and that he needed to be put on a transplant list, an option not presented to him by his previous doctors. Sobkin then began using the interventional angiography system to perform two treatments on Palen.
First, Sobkin injected the tumours with alcohol and when that method was no longer effective, he found the arteries that supplied the tumours, filled them with chemotherapy and closed them off to deprive them of their blood supply.
Using the angiography system, it kept the cancer under control until Palen eventually received a liver transplant in 2012.
“Without those treatments, I wouldn’t have been able to last long,” Palen said. “Dr. Sobkin saved my life.”
Palen is just one of thousands of patients who have benefited from procedures done by the angiography system.
However, the roughly 13-year-old “work horse” machine is outdated and the Victoria Hospitals Foundation has launched a campaign to help the raise $1.5 million needed to purchase two new medical imaging systems for Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals.
Currently, doctors at both hospitals use the machines for roughly 10 to 12 procedures a day.
The new minimally-evasive machine allows doctors to see inside blood vessels and internal organs, providing virtually real-time images as doctors manipulate catheters. It can be used for more than 60 simple to life-saving procedures to treat a variety of conditions such as stroke, renal failure and osteoporosis.
“By giving us better images, better accuracy, it gives us greater confidence to expand the scope of our cases to maybe people we wouldn’t have been able to treat before and allows us to take on new projects,” Sobkin said. “It’s a workhorse. It’s used day-in and day-out. It’s very broadly applied and a lot of people can benefit from it.”
The hospitals hope to have the equipment up and running by the new year.
Contributions can be made by calling 250-519-1750, online at victoriahf.ca or mailing to Wilson Block (1952 Bay St., Victoria.).