A 46-year-old Canadian man has died from heart failure after a procedure to install a pacemaker was delayed when the COVID-19 lockdown saw all 'non-essential' surgeries cancelled at his hospital in Alberta. Jerry 'Ched' Dunham was told in April that a decision had been made not to operate on him due to fears over coronavirus, despite his history of heart problems. 

On the day the crushing news was delivered, Dunham, who is originally from Ontario, ended up waiting 45 minutes to see his doctor in an effort to plead with him to change his mind. Instead, he was brushed off and was told the was doctor was 'too busy' to see him, despite having an appointment. Feeling completely helpless and with no options open to him, Dunham took to Facebook to explain his situation to friends and family.

'I was basically told that the government is willing to risk my life to save my life,' he wrote. 'Let me say that again, my government told me they're willing to let me die, which according to them is for my own safety...'

No follow-up appointments were made and there were no plans to have the pacemaker surgery rescheduled. Just weeks later on May 30th the dad-of-two young daughters suffering a cardiac arrest. The heart attack ended up  depriving him of oxygen to his brain  and he was taken to hospital and placed on a ventilator. He passed away on June 7th.

Dunham had first became aware something was wrong with his health when in 2018 he found himself unable to catch his breath. Despite being reasonably fit, a hockey player and a construction worker, he was eventually diagnosed with congestive heart failure and told that he might need a heart transplant, but in the meantime would be fitted with a pacemaker.

After being diagnosed with serious heart issues, his commercial driver's license was suspended, which prevented him from working on building sites. Dunham ended up losing his home and had to move back to his parents home in Ontario. In his post on Facebook, he wrote: 'So six months later or so, time for surgery and boom, all non-essential surgeries postponed..

'Heart surgery, apparently considered non-essential. Now I know some say that's non-essential, but it's pretty goddam essential to me. Now I'm told today possibly could be a year or two?

'So what I'm just supposed to kiss my ass goodbye? I'm starting to freak out here. Wondering what I should do?' he asked. 

His former spouse Krista Lambier, 42, told  Yahoo Canada: 'I vowed to him on his death bed — with our daughters sobbing for their daddy to wake up — that his death would not be in vain. I promised him that.' 'He lost everything he worked so hard for' — his home, his truck and ultimately his community', Lambier said. 'We're all alternating between feelings of profound sadness, disbelief and total rage. How many people have died on waiting lists for surgeries in hospitals that are empty and have no patients in them?' 

'How many have had their health deteriorate beyond repair? Why couldn't each province have left some hospitals open to deal with essential surgeries and sickness unrelated to COVID?' Lambier took the couple's two daughters, six-year-old Atlin and Reydian, nine, to see their father after he had been taken to hospital and placed in an induced coma. 'When they saw him they were absolutely crushed,' Lambier said. 'Our oldest, Reydian, got up on the bed, hugging her dad, begging him, "Please Daddy, please Daddy, come back to us. Please Daddy. It's Reydian".'

But the only thing their daughters could do was to say their goodbyes to their doting dad. After being taken off the ventilator Dunham remained alive for another two-and-a-half days. Dunham's mother Karen, 63, told the Calgary Herald that her son deserved better.

'The system failed him. I just don't understand how a heart can be called non-essential. You can't live without a properly functioning heart.'