Dean On Campus Blog

A Miracle of Modern Medicine at KGH

This past week, Toronto Star reporter Mary Ormsby, had a feature story that speaks to so many  important issues. The article, which details a miraculous medical event, speaks openly about mental health, speaks magnificently about the marvels of modern medicine, and speaks glowingly about Kingston General Hospital and its staff.  The full article is available online and I encourage readers to access it as Ms. Ormsby writes beautifully about the dramatic story.

In essence, the article details the saga of a Queen’s student, Tayyab Jafar, who last year was suffering from depression and other mental health conditions and attempted to take his life. And it’s a miracle that saved him. Having become unconscious in the middle of January from an overdose of sedatives in his system, he was found, what sounds like many hours later, with no vital signs and literally frozen; his core body temperature was 16°C lower than normal.

The first hero of the story was Queen’s student Alex Reid, who having found a suicide note, called 911 and started looking for his friend. The second heroes of the story were the team of paramedics, including Jonathan Andreozzi, Julie Socha, Andrew Liersch and Lise-Anne Lepage-McBain who started immediate CPR.

The next part of the story, is nothing short of amazing, and speaks to an incredibly dedicated team at KGH, and nothing short of a miracle of modern medicine. 

The hospital ER team dedicated themselves to an aggressive resuscitation plan, because even though Tayyab was not breathing and had no pulse, he was also incredibly cold, and brain and other organ functions, as we all know, can be preserved in the hypothermic state. The interventions were administered by a large team, including nurse Jane Lewis, E.R physician, Joey Newbigging, and cardiac surgeon Andrew Hamilton. The treatments were many. They included over an hour of CPR. Then there was insertion of tubes into the pleural space for warming. Then there was a bold attempt by Hamilton to use similar technology as one would for a heart bypass procedure, by instituting a procedure known as extracorporeal warming.


Tayyab also received approximately 100 units of blood or blood products. He subsequently was treated for “distressed lungs” using a sophisticated machine-based therapy known as ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.


Ultimately, a long period in the ICU, in part being treated by ICU nurses Vanessa Holmes and Jennifer Bird, and after a long period of rehabilitation, Tayyab has successfully recovered and has returned to Queen’s continuing his studies in mathematics.

If you can excuse the pun, this heartwarming story has many interesting elements; not the least of which is the whole issue of resuscitation after attempted suicide, which I think for health providers in the emergency situation, is an easy decision. Another interesting aspect to the story, is when do you “give up”. In reality, so many individuals in the “team” basically never gave up; his friend, the AMS team, the ER team, the surgical team, his ICU nurses and doctors…all were dedicated to providing a second chance to Tayyab. And finally, to me, the story speaks to how lucky we are that we live in a city which has such a great hospital system. There are not too many small cities like Kingston, which have an academic medical center. Without the quarternary care that Tayyab received, he may well not have survived. We should all be proud of the incredible work of our heath professional team here at KGH and Queen’s.

If you have any thoughts on this story, please respond to the blog, or better yet, please drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.






15 Responses to A Miracle of Modern Medicine at KGH

  1. Leslie Flynn says:

    Thank you for disseminating this story. As I read it in the Sunday Star, while drinking my morning coffee, I was filled with both awe and pride. This is a story that speaks to the impressive quality of care that is delivered here at our hospitals and Queen’s. I am very happy that you chose to share this story widely. It does indeed make one proud.

  2. qmed alum says:

    this is a remarkable story. the dedication and efforts of the individuals in the story, as well as their humility in being able to step back and wonder: “were we doing the right thing?” are what make it particularly remarkable.

    i can’t help but think this is a good opportunity to thank the physicians and health professionals involved in the story who weren’t immediately involved in the immediacy of the incredible save, but who are with patients for the long haul as they recover from debilitating physical or mental illness.

    the psychiatrist, the physiotherapists, OTs, and all the nurses and doctors involved in this patients’ care – i hope they all feel they contributed to this, yes, somewhat miraculous recovery, in some meaningful way.

    often those involved in the long haul of recovery, physical or mental, may not be doing glamorous highly technical work–but i hope they know, for me from reading this story, I think they are heroes all the same 🙂

    • reznickr says:

      Dear qmed alum,

      So well said! You are quite right. There are many unsung heroes in this story, and in many health care stories like it.


  3. Mike Fitzpatrick says:

    Dear Richard, Thankyou for highlighting this spectacular example of teamwork and dedication, with an outstanding result.

  4. Phyllis Durnford says:

    Like your previous correspondents, I also read this story with great interest and a lot of pride, being a KGH nursing/Queens nursing science alumna! This article illustrates what ‘teamwork’ is all about, and it gives credit liberally where it is due, starting with Alex Reid and going through the whole team right to rehab. It truly is a ‘heartwarming’ story-sorry, couldn’t miss the pun.

    Phyllis Durnford
    KGH ’67, Queens Nursing Science ’69

    • reznickr says:

      Thanks Phyllis,

      I agree with your comments and thanks for writing from your perspective as a long time clinical nurse.

      All my best,


  5. WOW, the stars were aligned on this medical event. It is a testimony to skill and NEVER, NEVER, EVER, giving up on a young person! Lucky in that the temperature was well below zero, favouring a daring intervention! Saved by another student who CARED … acting fast on the suicide note, and from then on a superior team working as one.

    However, I wonder whether, and I must ask …

    1. Whether Mr. Jafar (who must have been desperate for help} would have been given timely help in an over-crowded emergency room, even if a friend had got him to hospital? Pleading for help when trapped in a depression is not an easy task. Yet he got himself to the pier, but not to hospital.

    2. Would, or could, he have been admitted to a safe bed where his depression could have been effectively tended?

    3. Would there have been an available bed to keep him safe? Too often there is not. A skilled physician is hamstrung when there is not a safe place to protect a person.

    It is time for Ontario to step up to the task with more beds. A stitch in time saves nine.

    • reznickr says:

      Dear Patricia,

      You bring up some very important issues. Not having any expertise in psychiatry, I am not knowledgeable of just what might have happened had he come to the E.R. Undoubtedly he would have received care, but I am not sure I know about admission. However, you underscore an important issue, and that is too often people in distress don’t seek help, likely for many complex reasons. One reason, for sure, is the stigma of mental health disease, and you may know, we are working hard on this issue under the leadership of “anti-stigma expert” Dr. Heather Stuart.


      • Dear Dean, I must quibble. You mention anti-stigma, which to me is an issue, but perhaps just smoke and mirrors. If real services are not there, they are not there. Funding is crucial. Discrimination in medicine towards those who suffer from serious mental illnesses is the real issue. Patients are often considered a nuisance, who really should be able to just pull themselves together! Clearly the Bell Anti-stigma money does well for the university coffers, but does it deliver services?

        I have seen many wonderful professionals at work in psychiatry, but I have seen some pretty dismal attention afforded to ill people in emergency. The wait times were sometimes all night. Sometimes, they were seen by a suitably trained person in the morning. Often the agitated patient walked away, leaving over-stressed family members looking like the ones who were ill! Wait times may now have improved but inpatient beds have decreased. I have often witnessed patients committed for assessment on a Justice of the Peace order. One, to my astonishment, was walked in and walked out by the police in almost a blink of an eye. That family was desperate to get needed help to avoid further catastrophic events.

        The fact is that psychiatry is at the bottom of the pecking order in medicine. If it is not funded adequately, and there are not enough professionals to meet needs, the anti-stigma talk is just crying in a cave. Politically correct talk just slows things down even more. These are illnesses. They do not go away, but often they can be managed with timely care.

        Patricia Forsdyke

        • reznickr says:

          Dear Patricia,

          Thanks for your comments. I share your view that there is much work to be done to improve the care of patients with mental health challenges. That said, I am seeing more and more investment into this area of health care. I do also quibble with you that I think the work in anti-stigma is of utmost importance. It certainly is not instead of added resources to the “coal-face” but as an important component of a complex puzzle.

          As always, thanks for your contribution.


    • Anon Ymous says:

      Having personal experience with being admitted to Burr 4 (the psychiatric ward at KGH), I would say he would have been admitted, as long as he was honest about his suicide plans. Usually what doctors look for is a specific suicide plan, intent to carry out that plan. lethality of the plan, and level of insight the patient has. If a patient is deemed to be a threat to her/himself, they will be admitted on a Form 1 which requires them to be involuntarily hospitalised for up to 75hrs for evaluation. He also has a history of mental illness and recent stressors, which would have also concerned the doctors. As for timeliness, it can be a long process indeed. I once had to stay in emergency overnight before I was transferred to the ward. The ward isn’t always full, however.

  6. Donald Braden says:

    A wonderful story of modern medicine. Almost all Psychiatrists in clinical practice have lost patients to suicide.It is refreshing to read of such a successful saving of a life.The very complex team work of such dedicated people fills one with admiration of their skills and with thanks for the success of their efforts.D.H. Braden

Leave a Reply