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What it's all about

by Ivan Berkowitz, September 29, 2013

In 1965, my family began to learn the hard way that heart diseases were BAD.  We lost my uncle who had collapsed in his doctor’s office. The next year my mother was immobilized in hospital; we were told “she looks like she is going to have a heart attack”; and she died that day. In a continuing series of tragedies, heart attacks took my father, another uncle, my mother’s cousin with whom we were very close, two fathers-in-law, my special friend Myles Robinson (in whose memory we created a fund which we built to $500,000 and have been able to help I A C S) and a tragic loss one morning of our friend who had been treated for breast cancer but was felled by a blocked artery.

I have learned that CVD Research and translational training have made it possible now for people to survive even more dangerous conditions and carry on to healthy and fulfilling lives.

The most intimate for me was the experience of my grandson Christopher. When he was born, he was rushed into intensive care where they discovered he has Down syndrome and, as is often the case, he had a hole in his heart. I was able to build possibly the best team in history to study the DVD of the echo of his heart and advise on his treatment including Drs. Lois DeBakey, Sir Magdi Yacoub, Alan Menkis, Jamil Tajik and Navin Nanda. At home, in California, Christopher was also blessed by the care a number of great people. Their assessments led to the conclusion that he required surgery to close the hole which was growing. Fortunately the California system made available one of the best pediatric cardiac surgeons in the world – Stanford’s Dr. Frank Hanley.

Through a 3 cm incision, he was able, as I am told, to provide the only cardiac treatment which completely fixes a problem. Indeed Christopher is quite amazing as evidenced by his conducting an orchestra of their friends which he requested for his 6th birthday - you can enjoy it on my blog:

As I have accumulated information for this article, I am delighted that I was able to chat with one of Winnipeg’s most precious assets, Kathleen Richardson who is a Canadian philanthropist and supporter of the arts. It is amazing that she sounds so vigourous and continues to be so full of optimistic enthusiasm. She told me that in 1980, she underwent successful surgery to replace a heart valve. Subsequently, several people asked why she hadn’t gone to Minneapolis or Dallas where she would have had excellent surgeons and th best care. She always replied that there were surgeons here that were the equal or better than those anywhere.

Her surgeon at St. Boniface Hospital was Dr. Morley Cohen. He was born at Winnipeg on November 18th, 1923. Dr. Cohen received his undergraduate and medical school education at the University of Manitoba (1948). He then went to the University of Minnesota for post graduate surgical training, completing his residency and PhD in Surgery before returning to Winnipeg in 1955. He joined the Department of Surgery at the University of Manitoba where he performed Manitoba’s first open-heart surgery in 1959. As the driving force behind the introduction of cardiac surgery to the Province of Manitoba, he served as head of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery from its inception in 1967 to 1984. He retired in 1987. In 2002, in recognition of his contributions to the province’s medical community, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal. He died at Winnipeg on 18 August 2005.

Kathleen changed her post-op lifestyle, diet and engaged in caring for her own heart health. Obviously, her health 33 years later is proof of “WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT” right here in Manitoba.

I recently read about Kristin Millar, who was just 18-years-old when she was diagnosed with heart disease, in a publication of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation: 

“’During a regular workout, I suddenly collapsed. This had never happened to me before. I immediately met with my doctor, and received news that would change my life forever,’ says Kristin. Kristin was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition that can cause sudden death.

Despite her condition, she continued to live a healthy, active life until a few years later when she began to develop flu-like symptoms. ‘I began to feel nauseated, weak, and tired,” says Kristin. “I couldn’t even climb the stairs to my apartment. I thought I was coming down with the flu. After six weeks of symptoms, I realized it was much more serious.’

During a routine visit to St. Boniface Hospital, Kirstin went into cardiac shock. Her heart was functioning at less than six per cent; she had no measurable blood pressure; her organs were failing. St-Boniface Hospital’s incredible cardiac team saved her life by implanting a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) into her heart. For two years, the LVAD pumped blood throughout Kristin’s body, keeping her alive until she could receive a heart transplant. That day finally came in January 2012. ‘I finally got the phone call I had been waiting for,’ says Kristin. ‘I heard the words I had been hoping to hear for two years: Kristin, we have a heart for you.’ After successful heart transplant surgery in Ottawa, Kristin immediately returned to St. Boniface Hospital, where staff were there post-surgery to help her recover from the operation.

Three years after her live-saving surgery, Kristin is an accomplished public speaker, and recently received a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Winnipeg. She is currently enrolled in Red River College's Creative Communications program and also works with Literacy Partners, a not-for-profit aimed at supporting learners and practitioners in their efforts to improve literacy and essential skills in Manitoba.”

I also have a link to an interview with Kristin on our web site:


With over 35 years experience, Gary Bachman, a long time Winnipegger, is not just a real estate professional, he is a professional negotiator, an entrepreneur and a good listener. He has the unique ability to apply common sense solutions to business and real estate issues. Undoubtedly, the pressures of that career contributed to problems and Gary had open heart surgery. But it has not slowed him down. Indeed, his surgeon Alan Menkis chuckles that Gary is his first patient who was talking as soon as he awoke from the operation.

Local realtor Peter Kaufmann who earlier endured stressful careers as a grocer and municipal politician shared with me:  “I had the heart attack in my friend’s cottage on McKenzie Portage on Lake of the Woods.  I drove

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