May 26, 2010
Physicians worldwide, from a U.S. army base in Japan to Sweden's Nobel-prize-awarding Karolinska Institute, call Dr. Anthony Chan's 1-800 line in Hamilton to tap into his expertise in blood clots in children.
Chan received 1,200 calls on the line last year alone, which averages out to 3.2 calls a day. And Chan, who runs both the pediatric thrombosis clinic and the hemophilia clinic at McMaster Children's Hospital, volunteers all of the time he spends on these calls.
"I'm using my best skills to volunteer," he said when asked why.
He also considers the line a way to continue the work of his mentor, the late Dr. Maureen Andrew, who started the 1-800 line in 1994.
With more children getting blood clots, the phone line is helpful for doctors who don't know how best to help these young patients. In the thrombosis clinic, Chan saw about 75 new patients in 2008 and about 100 in 2009.
Chan attributes the increase in childhood thrombosis (a blood clot formed in a blood vessel) in part to more doctors now recognizing the problem, and to childhood obesity and treatments that can induce blood clots, such as chemotherapy.
The 1-800 line has also been valuable to Chan, giving him yet more expertise through the feedback he gets, he said.
The 1-800 line is strictly for doctors treating children. Most of the calls are from the U.S., but doctors from Australia, the U.K. and Argentina have also called.
The call from Sweden's Karolinska Institute during Christmas Eve dinner a few years ago led to some good-natured ribbing from Chan's brother, who jokingly asked if he was up for a Nobel prize.
There was also a call from a U.S. army base in Japan, where the doctor told Chan the base would airlift the child to U.S. soil if he thought it was necessary. It wasn't and the child recovered.
The line also helps locally. For example, Chan recently got a call from Oakville while he was on his way into a Wendy's with his children. It was about a 17-year-old boy with a pulmonary embolism or blockage -- a case Chan had already discussed with the boy's doctor earlier in the day. But this call was from the boy's mother, and under normal circumstances Chan wouldn't take it.
"She was almost in tears and wanted to be assured I'd see her son," he said. "I said, 'I will make sure to see your son in the next 24 hours.'"
Chan is now following the boy through the clinic at McMaster and says he is doing quite well.