Today, eight-year-old Imogen Padmore is the picture of perfect health. She loves cupcakes, gory makeup and anything fun. Standing alongside her mother Christabel Padmore at the Respiratory Therapy (RT) award ceremony during Spring Convocation, her bright smile gives no hint there was a time her family thought they might lose her.
A few days following her first birthday, Imogen experienced complete respiratory failure due to a superbug infection (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). As Imogen clung to life awaiting transport from Victoria General to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, TRU-trained respiratory therapist Jason Dennison became the difference between life and death.
“I was very, very frightened,” Christabel Padmore says, recalling the tense night waiting for the fog to lift so the helicopter could take her infant daughter to the help she needed. “We needed to get her to Vancouver to give her a chance, and the only person who could give her that chance was the RT. Jason was incredibly focused and did such a wonderful job.”
Due to the combined efforts of Dennison and many other health-care workers, Imogen pulled through the night and made a complete recovery. After six weeks spent mostly in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, she returned home where she relearned to walk and slowly recuperated. Imogen has no memory of that terrifying period of her life, but her family will never forget.
From close call to life-changing gift
Inspired to act, Imogen’s grandfather, Tim Padmore, created Imogen’s Award in 2017 to recognize those who played a part in her survival. He chose the TRU Respiratory Therapy program — the only university RT program in BC — to administer the award.
“Imogen’s Award recognizes Jason for his skills and character and celebrates those who follow him, holding lives in their hands. I hope it can create an impact within a health profession that isn’t always highly visible,” Tim Padmore said when the award was announced in 2017.
This year, for the first time since its inception, mother and daughter attended the ceremony to present Imogen’s Award themselves. The recipient: Pai Li, a recent graduate of TRU’s RT program. Not only was Li on the Dean’s List every semester at TRU and the top academic student in the RT program, she also received the TB Vets Charitable Foundation Awards in 2020, the Alvin & Lydia Grunert Undergraduate Scholarship in 2021 and the Faculty of Science Scholarship in 2021.
Meeting Li via live video was a highlight of the evening for Imogen. There is no doubt Li felt the same about meeting her award’s namesake.
“Imogen’s case is a life-changing story,” Li says. “I was so moved by this story, and I shared it with friends and family. It connects the RTs and the patients and their families. In the ICU (intensive care unit), most patients are intubated and cannot express themselves. Imogen’s story gives me a vivid picture of a patient’s family and helps me understand their hopes and feelings. Following Jason Dennison, I will continue to uphold the high standard of respiratory care. I hope Imogen’s family knows how inspiring the story is and its great impact.”
An international reputation
Li immigrated to Canada from China in 2016. She lives in Surrey with her husband and two young sons. Certified as a doctor in China, Li says she plans to work as an RT for at least two years while pursuing her goal of becoming a physician in Canada.
When she applied to TRU and discovered one of its former names — University College of the Cariboo — she realized she already knew of the RT program’s excellent reputation.
“I heard of (University) College of the Cariboo (UCC) before immigration. They helped medical schools in China start their RT programs and many professors from UCC went to China to deliver lectures.”
Li is currently working as an RT at Royal Columbian Hospital in Richmond and is making the most of being back home with her family.
As for Imogen, she is looking forward to a summer filled with fun adventures alongside family and friends.