UPDATE FROM THE CRUPI FAMILY (DECEMBER 21, 2020):
On behalf of our entire family, we would like to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your generous donations and continued support as we continue to battle through this very difficult time in our lives. This has been a true testament to our father's spirit and the positive effect that he had on all our lives. There is no doubt that his smile is beaming down on us all.
The fact that we have managed to raise such a significant amount of money is only half the battle. We must continue to raise awareness and educate people on the negative impact that COVID-19 can have on our lives if not taken seriously. We urge you all to continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and stick to your own family bubble (especially during the holiday season).
We want to emphasize how astounded we are at how quickly we were able to rally together and raise such a significant amount of money in such a short period of time. Due to your generosity, we are now in a position to make an even greater impact inside the ICU at TGH. After several discussions with Dr. Granton, Dr. Ferguson, and our fundraising team at TGH, we have decided to allocate the funds as follows:
- State-of-the-art Cardiac Ultrasound Machine (Cost: $150,000) - Enables the ICU staff to better assess the true function of the heart in patients with end-stage lung disease and may also help predict which patients will develop severe heart complications. This would allow the ICU staff to detect and intervene earlier to prevent organ failure. The ICU at TGH currently only possesses two ultrasound machines with basic functionalities;
- Advanced Respiratory Monitor (Cost:$25,000) - Enables measurement of respiratory parameters in a fast, reliable and simple way; reduces treatment times; and significantly improves the quality of medical care. Within the ICU at TGH, there is currently only one of these monitors and it is dedicated for research initiatives. Having a second monitor available exclusively for clinical use would enable enhanced tailoring of mechanical ventilation for patients with advanced respiratory distress, including COVID-19 patients, improving care and health outcomes;
- TEE Probe Machine (Cost: $25,000) - Enables clinicians to image the heart through the esophagus instead of through the chest wall, and is especially helpful to monitor the heart function of patients on ECMO support. It uses ultrasound waves to produce detailed pictures of the heart muscle, chambers and blood vessels allowing healthcare providers to safely guide insertion of ECMO. TEEs can be performed at the bedside without transfer to the operating room, which reduces the risk of transport of COVID-19 patients in the hospital and limits the exposure of additional OR personnel to the virus; and
- Balance of funds (approx $10,000) to be used to implement a new research database for COVID patients that will assist the ICU team in identifying new and better ways of caring for the sickest of patients so as to help improve health outcomes.
The Crupi Family
Our father, Joe Crupi, was a 65 year old man with no preexisting conditions whatsoever. His life was cut abruptly short by a virus that a lot of us are taking very lightly. While our father was not lucky enough to survive, it was through the efforts of Markham Stouffville Hospital ("MSH") and Toronto General Hospital ("TGH") that he was given a fighting chance through intubation and ECMO technologies that we must not take for granted.
Our father tested positive for COVID-19 on October 21, 2020. At the time he had slight muscle aches and a minor cold. He was sent home from MSH with minor pneumonia and was given antibiotics. A few short days later, his condition detererioted. His case of minor pneumonia had evolved into a very severe case as he struggled to breathe. When the ambulance arrived, his blood/oxygen levels were at 50 (well below the normal range of between 95-100). He was again admitted into MSH where he was intubated within a few hours.
After minor complications, Dr. S. Thirugnanam of MSH decided it would be best to air lift him to TGH in case he required ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) life support . This technology is a treatment used to transmit oxygen into blood cells, turning them from blue back to red, when the lung is so badly damaged it can no longer perform this function on its own. The ECMO machines have become the tool of last resort in areas hard hit by COVID-19.
A team of surgeons and nurses draw blood from a large vein in the body, bringing it to a machine with a pump and an artificial membrane that recreates the process of adding oxygen to the blood and taking away carbon dioxide. That blood is then put back into a different vein in the body. It is used in cirumstances when the lungs are no longer capable of providing oxygen into the blood stream even with the help of a ventilator.
The reality is that there are very few hospitals in the country that can provide this type of support as it requires not only the ECMO machine which is very costly (roughly $60,000 - $80,000 per machine), but it also requires a team of specialized doctors and nurses who are specifically trained to monitor the patients in subsequent days. TGH is one of the only hospitals in the country that is trained and has the resources to provide this type of treatment.
As was correctly predicted by Dr. S. Thirugnanam, our father's condition worsened and he required the use of ECMO technology to have a fighting chance at defeating COVID-19. We are so grateful that the team at TGH considered him an eligible candidate for the ECMO Program as this is not typically normal practice for patients over the age of 65 years old. It is only provided to the sickest of patients who are deemed to have the best chance at survival based on their health prior to contracting the virus.
Despite our father being accepted into the ECMO Program, he was still only given a 60% chance of survival based on the limited data that had been collected at that point in time from other patients who required the same support. The use of ECMO technology does come with its own set of complications and risks the longer a patient is on this type of support (such as blood clotting and infections).
Our father was on the ECMO Program for 33 days. On day 21 he was no longer testing positive for COVID-19, however the virus had done so much damage to his lungs that he was not able to regain any function in them whatsoever. The team at TGH kept him stable while we hoped for the possibility of a lung transplant, which was later determined to be impossible due to the complications that arose from the amount of treatment that he received and the fact that he most likely would not survive the procedure. He was simply too sick.
Thanks to the ECMO Program, our father was able to rid COVID-19 from his body which gave my mother, sister and I the opportunity to be with him during his final days. It also afforded us the chance to give him the proper funeral that he so greatly deserved. We are forever indebted to the teams at both MSH and TGH for believing in him the way we always did.
After speaking to Dr. Granton at TGH with respect to funding requirements for the TGH's ICU and the ECMO Program, the most urgent need at this time for it's patients is a "TEE" (Trans-Esophageal Echocardiography) probe. This machine enables clinicians to image the heart through the esophagus instead of through the chest wall, and is especially helpful to monitor the heart function of patients on ECMO support. The TEE probe uses ultrasound waves to produce detailed pictures of the heart muscle, chambers and blood vessels allowing healthcare providers to safely guide insertion of ECMO. TEEs can be performed at the bedside without transfer to the operating room, which reduces the risk of transport of COVID-19 patients in the hospital and limits the exposure of additional OR personnel to the virus. The cost of this probe is approximately $25,000, and we are asking for your help to provide as many of these machines as possible to TGH in order to provide patients with the best care possible during their stay in the ICU. As cases continue to rise in Canada, there will inevitably be a growing need for this type of support in order to save as many lives as possible.
This platform is being used not only to raise money for a wonderful and beneficial cause, but to raise awareness on the many negative perceptions out there surrounding COVID-19. Just remember, you are NOT indestructible. Our father was very healthy prior to this unfortunate series of events and, despite that, he was still taken from us well before his time. We must take this virus very seriously and continue to practice social distancing while wearing a mask. The future of our world depends on it.
Our father spent his entire life giving back, whether it was his days serving food at the local food banks to those less fortunate, his fundraising efforts at places such as Sick Kids Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, our local parish of St. Patricks, as well as contributions he made personally throughout our community. It is our greatest honour to continue his legacy of charity and giving back. Your charitable donations, big or small, are greatly appreciated and will not go overlooked.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the caregivers who were involved in our father's treatment, especially Dr. S. Thirugnanam of MSH, Dr. Granton of TGH, as well as all the nurses and spiritual workers who helped us through this difficult time. You all know who you are! We are forever indebted to you.
For more information about the ECMO Program at TGH, we direct you here and urge you to educate yourself:
We are now proud to announce that MSH has set up a fundraising page in our father's honour and the proceeds will be directed towards funding a piece of equipment for the ICU at MSH (details to follow). We ask that you strongly consider donating to the ICU at MSH, as our father would not have been considered for the ECMO Program without their foresight. The link to MSH's fundraising page is below:
In times like these we must all band together.
With lots of love,
The Crupi Family