By the time Agostinho Albuquerque was in his early 50s, he had significant blockage throughout his arteries and was not a candidate for bypass surgery.
He survived three heart attacks and suffered from advanced congestive heart failure and arrhythmia. He lived much longer than his cardiologist – and his family – ever dreamed. But in July 2014, his condition worsened and his care was re-evaluated as palliative.
Agostinho was a patient of North York General Hospital’s (NYGH) Heart Function Clinic for many years before transitioning to the Supportive Cardiology Clinic. Offered in partnership between Cardiology and Palliative Care, the Supportive Cardiology Clinic is the first program of its kind in Canada to give patients with end-stage heart disease access to pain and symptom management and end-of-life planning, through specialized palliative care services.
“Thanks to North York General, my father enjoyed another two years at home with his family,” says grateful daughter and member of the hospital’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, Brenda Albuquerque-Boutilier. “And my son, Kyle, who was just 12 at the time, made wonderful memories with his grandfather that he will cherish for a lifetime.”
Brenda smiles as she remembers the time they spent together – playing dominos, catching soccer matches on TV, and enjoying family dinners with lots of laughs and the best Caldo Verde outside of Portugal. “Having the simple comforts of home meant the world to him,” she says.
NYGH’s Heart Function Clinic focuses on improving the quality of life for patients living with chronic heart disease and other conditions. It’s comprised of an Arrhythmia Clinic, Pacemaker Clinic and Heart Failure Clinic, as well as a Rapid Cardiology Assessment Clinic and the Supportive Cardiology Clinic, which work together to provide timely assessment and ongoing monitoring, education and end-of-life planning for patients and their families.
“Having the Heart Function Clinic and Supportive Cardiology team in my corner meant that I had a group of medical professionals that I could always count on to help me figure out the best steps to manage my dad’s health,” Brenda explains.
Over 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure – it’s the leading cause of hospital admissions for adults 65 and older. Unfortunately, one in five heart failure patients in Canada will be readmitted to hospital within 30 days of discharge.
NYGH’s Heart Function Clinic and Supportive Cardiology work with patients and their families to educate, manage symptoms and provide access to care that helps avoid visits to the Emergency Department and reduces readmission to the hospital. “They got to know us as a family,” says Brenda. “They knew the roles we each played in his care.” They also understood the role that Agostinho played in his family – he was a rock for his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Keeping Agostinho healthy and at home made an impact on her well-being, too.
With NYGH’s support, Brenda and her family managed Agostinho’s care so well that, after his initial admission in July 2014, his only subsequent readmission to hospital was more than a year later. When he passed at age 79, in March 2016, his family found comfort in the way he lived his final years.
“It’s amazing what the Clinic and Supportive Cardiology can do,” says Brenda. “They helped make what was a really challenging time in our lives more manageable.”
NYGH gave the Albuquerque family the tools they needed to manage Aghostinho’s health at home. But not every family has this support. That’s why we are raising funds to redevelop and expand NYGH’s Heart Function Clinic. With your help, all families in our community will have access to the palliative resource and consultation that is so vital to their quality of life.