Ultrasound machine helps save Barry’s Bay man’s life

Submitted by St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation.

Help Give the Gift of Enhanced Images. Every Patient. Every Time.

Imagine having to drive hours just to get the images you need to monitor a life-threatening condition. Travelling in daunting weather conditions and into unfamiliar territory is simply an added and unneeded stress for most people dealing with a medical ailment.  

Dawn and Dorothy Hannah of Barry’s Bay count themselves lucky to have the healthcare equipment close to home, when they need it. In fact, a vital piece of healthcare equipment at St. Francis Memorial Hospital helped contribute to saving Dawn’s life. Above Dawn and Dorothy Hannah of Barry’s Bay are featured in the St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation’s Tree of Lights Campaign letter. Photo submitted.

Dawn, 83, and Dorothy, 74, met at a barn dance decades ago in Maynooth. Dawn worked at the CP Railway before starting Hannah’s convenience store in Palmer Rapids, which he and Dorothy ran for 34 years. Dorothy worked at St. Francis Memorial Hospital for 55 years as an RPN. Today, as she approaches retirement, she is working as a part-time PSW. The couple has been married for 53 years.

Around 15 years ago, Dawn began experiencing pain in his abdomen. His physician at the time ordered an ultrasound image at St. Francis Memorial Hospital. It was after that very scan that Dawn discovered he had a very small aortic aneurysm. Doctors continued monitoring the problem area every six months with the use of the on-site ultrasound machine.

Sonographer Cathy Amyotte conducts an ultrasound scan on a patient’s leg. Photo submitted.

“The ultrasounds were very important to us because he didn’t have to travel to Pembroke every time his doctor ordered an ultrasound to see if it had grown,” Dorothy said. “And it had kept growing and growing.”

Dawn was advised by a specialist during a telehealth consultation done at St. Francis Memorial Hospital to remove the aneurysm. Dawn was 80 years old at the time and strong willed. He never had an operation before and was hesitant to undergo a risky surgery. He was mainly concerned about his advanced age and the possibility of underlying health issues causing problems during the surgery. So he declined.


In March 2020, Dorothy received a call from Dawn. He was in immense pain, so she rushed home to Dawn who was weak and could not stand up.

“You could see that he was in distress,” she said.

She called 911 and the operator almost immediately asked if he had a history with aneurysms. Despite Dorothy’s healthcare background, she admits it didn’t “click” until the operator asked her that vital question. She knew right away that his aneurysm had ruptured and they only had a matter of time to get him to hospital.

Dawn was whisked away by ambulance to St. Francis Memorial Hospital, where he was stabilized and rushed to a hospital in Ottawa for surgery.

“I really have to give credit to the staff at St. Francis Memorial Hospital,” Dorothy said. “Everything just fell into place.”

With Dawn in surgery and the feeling of helplessness setting in, Dorothy did the only thing she could do that evening. She prayed.

The surgeon called the next morning and said Dawn had made it through. However, the doctor relayed to Dorothy that most people die in their home with these kinds of aneurysms. “I don’t know how he made it,” the physician commented to Dorothy.

“It’s like a miracle,” Dorothy continued. “We call him the Miracle Man.”

Had it not been for the diagnosis and continuous monitoring of Dawn beforehand, he wouldn’t have even known he had an aneurysm. When time is of the essence, knowing the cause of the problem saves precious time, and in this case, Dawn’s life.

“Without the ultrasound machine at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, we wouldn’t have known he had an aneurysm and we wouldn’t have known what size it was growing to,” Dorothy said.

Following his surgery, Dawn was transferred to St. Francis Memorial Hospital to recuperate and be closer to family. He says the doctors, nurses, paramedics and staff all did an “excellent job” from the time he was admitted to the local emergency department to the time he checked out of the inpatient unit.

The only visible evidence of Dawn’s lifesaving procedure is a long scar that stretches from his chest bone down to his lower abdomen. Otherwise, he is keeping busy around the house, going for walks and enjoying time with his extended family.

Tree of Lights campaign under way

The current ultrasound machine at St. Francis Memorial Hospital continues to be utilized, but a new one is needed as it is reaching its end of life.

“Although our current ultrasound machine continues to be operational, a new one is required to keep up with the advancements in new technology. It will give us the opportunity to offer the level of healthcare our patients deserve,” SFMH Charge Diagnostic Imaging Technologist Amanda Dumas said. “The diagnostic imaging department, including the ultrasound machine, is the backbone to St. Francis Memorial Hospital and diagnoses everything from blood clots in a leg to the health of an unborn baby and its mother. We simply could not function as a hospital without it.”

Meet the ultrasound team at SFMH, from left: Cathy Amyotte, Amanda Dumas and Amanda Verch. Missing from photo is Pam Moore. Photo submitted.

Hospital medical equipment is not covered by the government, and certainly does not come cheap. In fact, a new ultrasound machine for St. Francis will cost more than $200,000.

This year’s Tree of Lights Campaign will help raise money for a new ultrasound machine, which gets used approximately 1,500 times per year.

St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation’s Executive Director Erin Gienow explained that the ultrasound machine is incredibly important to St. Francis Memorial Hospital. 

“Almost everyone knows someone who has used the ultrasound machine at some point in their life,” Gienow said. “Having reliable medical equipment close to home ensures that our loved ones do not have to travel far to access quality healthcare.”

To Give the Gift of Enhanced Images. Every Patient. Every Time, call the Foundation office at 613-756-3045 ext. 217, go online at www.sfvhfoundation.com, or drop off your donation in person at 7 St. Francis Memorial Drive in Barry’s Bay.

The Foundation would like to thank its Tree of Lights mail out sponsors including the Quadeville and District Service Club, Killaloe Lions Club, St. Casimir’s Knights of Columbus, and Barry’s Bay Knights of Columbus.

Although the Campaign lasts until December 31, the community is invited to a Tree of Lights celebration on Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. Held at the Railway Station, the tree lighting ceremony will feature horse-drawn sleigh rides, hot chocolate and coffee, a visit from Santa and much more. A special thanks goes to event sponsors including the Township of Madawaska Valley and Madawaska Coffee.

Match it on Giving Tuesday

On November 29, the Foundation will be taking part in Giving Tuesday, the world’s largest generosity movement.

This year, thanks to the kindness of several sponsors, the Foundation will be offering a Match-It program on Giving Tuesday. Every donation, up to $15,000, will be matched, dollar for dollar. All proceeds will go toward the Tree of Lights Campaign and help St. Francis Memorial Hospital purchase a new ultrasound for its diagnostic imaging department.

To have your gift matched on Giving Tuesday, visit www.sfvhfoundation, call 613-756-3045 ext. 217 or drop by the office located inside St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

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