Patient for open heart surgery sent back to Woody Point home

Cory Hurley
Published on August 18, 2014
Jim Major
Jamie Bennett

Jim Major’s voice has been silent all his life, but his family says it’s time he is heard.

The 71-year-old Woody Point man has been mute and deaf since a case of meningitis as a baby. He lives with his sister Emily and her husband Fred Blanchard. They enjoy his company, even if there is no conversation, and he can be as handy as any man to have around the house.

He has had a healthy life, according to his brother in-law. That changed recently when it was discovered Major had an aneurysm and three blockages in his heart. He had an appointment at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s for surgery this week. It was requested he arrive Tuesday.

The family was concerned, said Blanchard. Major can typically get his point across when he needs to, but he does not do sign language and his degree of literacy is low.

Major is aware of his heart condition, according to his brother in-law, and the doctors showed him in great detail the surgery he would have. Blanchard said he seemed to understand.

Family members escorted him to his scheduled checkin at the hospital in St. John’s. Emily, his concerned sister, sat alongside him on the 700-kilometre drive.

Major went through the preparations for surgery Tuesday and Wednesday, including fasting on the day before Thursday’s bypass. That morning, as he was about to be prepped for surgery, it is cancelled due to a bed shortage.

Back in Woody Point, Blanchard is furious. He has been frantic on the telephone with politicians and media.

“I wants to blow this to hell,” he said. “We are being treated like shit on the west coast.”

The long drive back to Woody Point was being made Friday. Major has been re-scheduled for surgery on Sept. 8.

“They don’t even know where the west coast is to out there, I don’t think,” said Blanchard.

He expects the trip will cost the family about $2,000. They will have to do it all again in about three weeks.

Blanchard cannot understand how an aneurysm and three heart blockages would not get priority. He also said a person who travels across the island for a procedure should not get postponed.

“They were upset as hell, you know that,” he said. “I was so upset yesterday, I did not stop trembling.”

Major must live more than three weeks with the aneurysm and three heart blockages and the family is worried it could be fatal. Blanchard wonders if his brother in-law might have trouble communicating if there is a problem.

There is also a concern because of the way he lives. His brother-in-law said he always wants to have his hands into something, enjoying small engine repair or other mechanical things. Doctors orders are to take it easy and not lift anything over 10 pounds.

“We are on pins and needles all the time,” Blanchard said. “He goes for a walk, and we say, ‘I don’t suppose he dropped dead somewhere.’ That’s an awful strain.”

Legally, Eastern Health representatives are not permitted to speak about individual patient cases. It was confirmed via email that two open heart surgeries were cancelled Thursday due to a shortage of available beds in the cardiovascular intensive care unit.

Patients of open heart surgery require post-operative care in the unit. If patients are not well enough to be discharged, and there is no available bed, Eastern Health may have to delay or cancel an open-heart procedure.

The spokesperson stated patients’ surgeries rebooked based on the patient’s surgical priority as determined by the operating surgeon. There was no mention of whether a person’s travel or accommodations is factored into the decision and a response to that question was not received as of deadline.

Eastern Health apologized for the inconvenience caused to patients and their families.


In an email Monday, Eastern Health pointed out that eligible patients can receive assistance through the Department of Health and Community Services’ Medical Transportation Assistance Program. Information about this program is available at