Health sidelines White Rock councillor

White Rock Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson reviews an article on the doctor and procedure that recently gave her a new lease on life. - Tracy Holmes photo
White Rock Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson reviews an article on the doctor and procedure that recently gave her a new lease on life.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

A longtime White Rock councillor is recovering in hospital following complications from a “life-changing” heart procedure.

But Mary-Wade Anderson said she wants citizens to know she’s none-too-pleased that she can’t take care of city business at the moment, and fully intends to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.

“That’s my absolute aim,” Anderson said Tuesday, from her sixth-floor room at Peace Arch Hospital.

“I hate missing meetings. I am so aggrieved and aggravated and mad and furious when I miss meetings, because I spent 12 years not missing them.”

Anderson, 85, has been in hospital since developing fluid around her lungs about two weeks ago. The condition came on about 2½ months after doctors in Vancouver implanted a cow artery in her heart to replace a faulty aortic valve.

In an interview last month, Anderson described the heart procedure – known as a ‘transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI)’ – as “better than magic.”

The operation, pioneered and performed by Dr. John Webb, involved having the bovine piece slid into place through the femoral artery in her groin – avoiding the need for open-heart surgery, which Anderson had been told was not an option.

“If this had not been available, I would not be here,” she said matter-of-factly. “I was told right from the beginning that if I had to have open-heart surgery, I wouldn’t survive. I was a candidate they didn’t think would make it.”

Doctors have been keeping an eye on Anderson for years, she said, ever since she began visiting PAH’s emergency department due to an irregular heartbeat.

Anderson added she has kept her condition “very quiet,” priding herself on being able to carry on with the work she loves – city business – without anyone being the wiser.

“Usually, after they corrected the heartbeat, I felt fine – I was able to carry on and nobody took any notice,” she said.

“I got much more ill than people ever, ever knew.”

Anderson learned 2½ years ago that she might be eligible for the less-invasive TAVI procedure, but suffered a setback in March 2011, when she broke her hip in a fall in council chambers.

When word came last fall that she’d been put on a six-month waiting list for the TAVI, it brought her to tears, she said.

“I’m not very emotional… but I just broke down. I felt I’d been given another opportunity to live. I didn’t know at that time how much it would change my life.”

Shortly after that news, in the midst of her election campaign, she received another morale boost.

A son and daughter whom Anderson had given up for adoption – and who had been searching for five decades – found her.

In April, they reunited. She has since met a great-grandson she never knew she had, and plans are in the works to make up for lost time.

“He’s going to be spoiled rotten,” Anderson said of the four-year-old.

That part of her life is yet another chapter many people aren’t aware of, she added, describing it as “quite the story.”

Although Anderson had been made to give up her children while married to a Canadian soldier stationed in the U.S., she never stopped looking for them.

“I debated about going public (with the details),” she said.

“(But) I think people should know something about people; what they’ve been through and where people get their strength.”

Tuesday, Anderson expressed frustration that a complication with her daughter – who is a nurse in the U.S. – over being issued a passport continues to separate them physically.

“She’s prepared to concentrate on getting me better,” she said. “I know I would have been better by now.”

While Anderson waits for news that the passport problem is resolved, she is determinedly following doctor’s orders, to ensure the best outcome and a quick return to her seat in council chambers.

As much as Anderson despises being out of commission, she knows her health has to come first, she said.

“It’s not like me to take this much time off, but it’s like me to make sure this is behaving itself in a proper manner.

“I think that the ending is going to be a happy one. I’m looking for a new beginning in my own personal living and in my life with my family.

“Who could ask for anything with more worth than that?”


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