Regionalism is Perception, not the Reality of an Exceptional Population

This headline “Dr. Bill Wall performed 1,885 liver transplants during career that helped put London on world medical map” stopped me in my tracks this weekend. ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME?

Full disclosure, I am a huge fan of UH. We have a fairly intimate relationship with one another. They saved my husband’s hand. For real. He’s their banner picture on their homepage. Bizarre and strangely proud of that fact.

The work that they do there is amazing. Truly world class. I think that we forget that here in Canada and in London especially.

You can see in the article above how much regionalism existed at the time Dr. Wall was doing his work and continues today — “London, really?” Even relative to Toronto, not to mention what the perception would have been in North America broadly.


A personal anecdote and then I will get down to brass tacks. Before the first surgery my husband underwent 7 years ago, the resident that rushed to the ER to help called one of his superiors and I could hear him on the phone saying “yes, he’s 40…uh huh, his dominant hand. No, I’m not sure the type of work that he does” and at that moment the gravity of the situation descended upon me like a ton of bricks.

They were assessing whether or not to amputate his hand. Calmly and with facts. I will never forget that moment. When I relayed the story to my father who came to sit with me during his next surgery a week later he said “You are lucky to be here and not somewhere in the middle of nowhere — they’d have just lobbed it off” A little harsh at the time, but certainly true.

So after 3 surgeries later under the excellent care of Dr Lisa Fortin who had done a specialization in hand plastics, he was whole again. We are so fortunate that this was the outcome, and in large part this was because of the talent inside University Hospital specifically and more broadly the critical mass of specialists that draw and raise the profile of the community here in London Ontario for healthcare.

I saw this article and tweeted it because I had such a clear image of Dr. Wall back in the day. Him getting the call, sleeping on private planes to travel to the donor, then doing the organ harvest. Quickly loading back on the plane taking a cap nap on the way home, and doing the transplantation single-handedly. This storyline makes the god in the god complex of surgery seem reasonable. A few friends in the US were wowed…so I tweeted “#ldnont, you know, the birthplace of #insulin and in the cross hairs of the #Pill — no biggie”

Typing those words brought it home for me — that’s a huge deal. We play bigger than we are and we should at least own that proudly. Not to be brash or brag, just own the fact that was and continues to be an amazing concentration of grey matter here in the Forest City.

Flash to last week when I was heartened to see a PR release “Supporting London’s Digital Creative Sector Through Learning” because quite frankly as much as I would have loved to take part in medicine and save others, this English Lit grad will leave the saving of lives to those who excelled in math and science and stand on the sidelines in awe. Creative tech is my bag.

Lots has been said about the gaming companies and the curious fact that London has a concentration of super successful firms. See: Digital Extremes, Big Blue Bubble, and Big Viking Games. Maybe you’ve never heard of Diply — also local and the FASTEST GROWING WEBSITE IN THE INTERNET’S HISTORY. Yep, you read that correctly.

I know that there will be more successes to come as London continues to purposefully grow its tech sector. I won’t apologize for moving to and staying in London. Despite the fact that 99% of my colleagues are in Waterloo and Toronto I think that the history of London says something — we quietly play bigger than we are and have and will achieve amazing successes together.

I simply implore you to also have some civic pride for what we have done and will done in the healthcare space, but what I know we will achieve in the tech sector. I think our turn is coming up next. Be part of it.

In a weird twist of fate next week we’ll be living in the center of that intersection — health and technology. To deal with the resulting pain of his injury and surgeries Kirk will be getting an Electro Stim machine trial implanted in his spine. Talk about a wearable! The neurosurgeon who performs them is right here in London.

image: Boston Scientific

I will keep you posted on the surgery and the trial via @annafoat — maybe pictures of the device being connected to the iPad to program the device. I am totally in my element here, would love you along for the ride.

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