February is heart month, and one Nelson business owner has his sights set on a new one.
Chris Dawson owns the specialty foods shop Culinary Conspiracy with his partner Barb Williams. Since late January, Dawson has been in Vancouver being monitored by cardiologists at St. Paul’s Hospital while he awaits heart surgery. He is set to get a ventricular assist device (VAD), as a stand in for his failing heart until he can receive a heart transplant.
“A new heart would mean everything to Chris. It would vastly improve his quality of life,” Williams said. “Right now his heart is so compromised that it is not efficiently pumping the blood throughout his body. He goes through his day with less than half the oxygen that a healthy heart would provide.”
Dawson’s heart trouble began just as he was launching his business. The month after Culinary Conspiracy opened on Baker Street in 2006, he developed congestive heart failure and was airlifted to Kelowna. He now has an internal pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in his chest. Still, he frequently has heart complications that can leave him in the hospital for weeks at a time.
“It’s a rollercoaster,” said Williams. “It puts a lot of strain on our family but Chris is not one to complain. He continues to take it all in stride.”
Though the heart issues have been ongoing, the sudden need for transplant came as a shock.
“We had come down to Vancouver on a buying trip for the store and for Chris to have a follow-up cardiology appointment,” Williams recalled. “After completing the test, the doctors immediately admitted him into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and proceeded with additional assessments needed in order to approve him for a heart transplant.”
What was meant to be a quick, three-day trip has turned into an extended stay. After Dawson gets his VAD, he will need to stay in Vancouver for monitoring for two to three months. The hope is that the VAD will improve the blood flow and after a few months Dawson may become a viable candidate for a transplant. If he is approved for a transplant and a donor heart becomes available, they will have to live in Vancouver for another three to four months.
All this instability has taken a toll on their life and their business. Culinary Conspiracy is a small, family-run shop. With no staff to step in while they’re away, the store was closed for two weeks. Williams returned in early February to reopen the store, their daughter will be coming back home to temporarily run it. However, they’ve decided to start the process of shutting it down as they need to focus on Dawson’s recovery.
“We’re going to miss the business very much. We’ve had so much fun with it over the years and have made lots of foodie friends,” Williams said. “We really want to thank our many wonderful, loyal customers who have supported us over the past 14+ years. There’s still a bit of time for them to come in to get their favourite products before we close for good.”
Culinary Conspiracy opened in the Trading Company in 2006. It moved to its current location in the 600 block of Baker Street in 2011. The store sells a wide selection of hard to find and specialty ingredients including vinegars, oils, sauces, spices and a whole lot more. For details about its going-out-of-business sale, check the Facebook page: facebook.com/CulinaryConspiracy.