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QEH Foundation raising money for CT scanner to give emergency room quick access

Michelle Hughes will always remember the long trip through the corridors of P.E.I.’s biggest hospital to get a CT scan after she collapsed in August of 2021.

Hughes had suffered from undiagnosed pain for years. Blood tests and ultrasounds had not provided answers.

When she turned up in the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, doctors decided to try a computerized tomography scan, which combines X-ray images taken at different angles to create a fuller picture of what is going on inside the body. The hospital has had one since 2005.

But there is no CT scanner in the QEH emergency department, so Hughes had to be wheeled to diagnostic imaging.

“I can remember this long, winding hallway trying to get to that emergency scanner,” said Hughes.

It wasn’t an ideal situation for her, or any patient facing that trip. That’s why buying a second machine has been made the focus of the annual Friends for Life campaign.

A patient entering a CT scanner is shown in this file photo.
A patient entering a CT scanner is shown in this file photo. (PHILIPPE MERLE/AFP/Getty Images)

“It’s all about patient safety,” said MaryEllen Hughes, director of philanthropy for the QEH Foundation.

“Patients have to travel down a number of hallways, corridors, that sort of thing, to get to diagnostic imaging to have a CT scan there. So they have to leave the well-resourced emergency room behind, all its equipment, all of its doctors, everything.”

Emergency department staff also have to go with them, spending time walking down hallways rather than seeing patients.

$100K donation kicks it off

With a $1.3 million target, the fundraising campaign for the CT scanner is a big lift for a small community, but Hughes is confident the foundation’s supporters will answer the challenge.

The QEH Auxiliary launched the campaign Thursday by making a $100,000 donation.

MaryEllen Hughes smiling at the camera.
Raising $1.3 million for the CT scanner will take a big effort, says MaryEllen Hughes of the QEH Foundation. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Hughes was eventually diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, after numerous tumours and lesions were found on her lungs and liver. The cancer is incurable, but sometimes manageable for years.

She doesn’t know how long she has, but speaking at the Friends for Life launch event, she said she is honoured to be part of this campaign.

“I feel this campaign, in my heart, is so important,” she said.

Hughes added that joining the drive is part of the approach to life she has adopted since her diagnosis, which she summed up as: “Don’t just sit back and wait. Have fun. Make good change.”