Jerry (Ched) Dunham died in hospital in Medicine Hat, Alberta, at the age of 46. He leaves behind two daughters, now ages six and nine, and his soul friend Krista Lambier. Jerry had a heart attack on May 30. An ambulance took him to Medicine Hat Regional Hospital, where he did not recover, remaining unresponsive until his death on June 7, 2020.
Krista and her two daughters flew in from Ontario, but it was too late to say goodbye. Krista describes the “most terribly sad time of my life” as seeing her daughter hugging her unresponsive dad in ICU, crying and begging Jerry to wake up, while her other daughter was sitting in the corner, hugging her knees, rocking back and forth, and crying.
The doctors said he would last a few minutes to a couple hours, but his body stayed alive for another 2½ days because Jerry’s lungs and the rest of his body were still healthy. Doctors explained to Krista that the lack of oxygen to Jerry's brain, from the time of heart attack to when the ambulance attendants got his heart pumping again, was too long for the brain to ever function again.
While every death is painful and tragic, preventable and unnecessary deaths are even worse.
Jerry had been hospitalized during the previous 18 months due to heart complications, and he had almost died. With Jerry’s heart operating at 25 percent capacity and not improving, doctors determined that he needed a pacemaker as soon as possible, before eventually obtaining a heart transplant.
On April 16, 2020, Jerry went to see his doctor to set a date for his pacemaker surgery. But a nurse told him that his surgery was “non-essential” and would not be happening. Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw had cancelled all “non-essential” surgeries like Jerry’s a few weeks earlier, in March. Jerry posted on Facebook: “…my government told me they’re willing to let me die, which according to them is for my own safety.”
Like many other Albertans, Jerry received no medical care because of government lockdown measures. Six weeks later, he had a heart attack and died. During those final weeks, Jerry suffered with anxiety as he worried about his chest pains, and about who would provide for his children if he died. He was too weak to work.
On May 3, in response to the news that 35 cardiac patients had died because the Ontario government had cancelled surgeries as part of the lockdown, Jerry wrote on Facebook: “hopefully I don’t turn into a statistic.”
In light of Jerry’s urgent need for pacemaker surgery, a family member contacted hospital officials and government officials on Jerry’s behalf. Nobody replied.
Jerry died just two weeks prior to Father’s Day. Some nurses at the hospital told Krista the death was a shame, because the operating room had been almost empty since March, when Dr. Hinshaw cancelled 22,000 “non-essential” surgeries. One of the same nurses also asked Krista whether they should "put this down as a Covid Death" because “it is related since his surgery got delayed."
Krista responded “absolutely not!” since Jerry had tested negative for Covid upon admittance on May 30. In Krista’s words: “This is a prime example as to why these numbers are so inflated.”
Jerry was killed by the lockdown, not by COVID-19.
The tragedy of Jerry’s death is magnified because it was unnecessary and entirely preventable. Krista struggles each day with the injustice of it. “I am having a challenging time supporting my children, let alone myself, emotionally through this time. Father's Day is just around the corner, and our girls cannot understand why their dad is gone. This is incredible. I promised Jerry on his death bed that I will not let this go. I really don't know what to do, but this entire situation is wrong.”
Although Jerry cannot be brought back to life, there is something that Krista and all concerned citizens can do: hold Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Hinshaw accountable for their decision to cancel 22,000 “non-essential” surgeries, even while Alberta’s hospitals remained empty for weeks on end.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the rule of law require politicians to provide a full accounting of all of the harms caused by lockdown measures, including the unnecessary death of Jerry Dunham. Common decency and public accountability require that citizens hold politicians accountable for lockdown measures which have prevented Jerry, and many other Canadians like him, from receiving essential medical care.
Of equal importance, people can donate to directly benefit Atlin and Reydian, the daughters of Krista Lambier and Jerry Dunham, to support their most basic needs during this time of great difficulty and sadness.