Gino Odjick surprised and delighted hundreds of fans by making an appearance at the rally held in his honour outside Vancouver General Hospital Sunday.
The Former Vancouver Canucks enforcer Gino Odjick has a rare terminal illness affecting his heart, and doctors say he may have as little as a few weeks to live.
"I really appreciate you guys coming. It means a lot to me," he told members of the crowd gathered near the front entrance to the hospital.
"It's pretty amazing," he said, as more fans, gathered across the street, cheered. "I'm a little bit overwhelmed, and really touched."
The 43-year-old Odjick played from 1990-2002 in the NHL, including two years in Montreal and eight years in Vancouver.
In a letter published Thursday on the Canucks' website, Odjick thanked fans for their support over the duration of his career.
"Your 'Gino, Gino' cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing," he wrote.
In response, a number of fans organized an event through Facebook to make sure he hears his favourite chant one more time.
Almost 500 people registered that they would meet outside Vancouver General Hospital Sunday at 1 p.m. PT and indeed, hundreds turned up, chanting "Gino, Gino."
After hearing several rounds of the chants from a fourth-floor room, Odjick himself came down in a wheelchair to greet his supporters.
Helped along by family and friends, he stood, waved, and thanked the crowd.
He said it "feels great" to hear his name being cheered again.
"I wanted to say thank you. I can't stay too long, 'cause I got to get some medication and stuff, but I really appreciate you guys coming out," Odjick said, before waving and sitting back down in his wheelchair.
Rare, terminal disease
Experts say there's no-known cause or cure for the rare and fatal heart condition known as AL (Primary) amyloidosis, which is threatening Odjick's life.
The 43-year-old was diagnosed with the disease two days after Pat Quinn was added to Rogers Arena's Ring of Honour
Dr. Saul Isserow, director of Sports Cardiology B.C., says the disease causes a gelatin-like protein to be deposited in the heart muscle, which affects the organ's ability to expand and contract.
He says the disease is caused more by nature than nurture, and has nothing to do with the time somebody spends on the ice, although it's linked to underlying conditions such as multiple myeloma.
Symptoms include heart failure, shortness of breath and fluid retention, often in the form of swelling in the legs. The condition typically culminates in sudden death due to a fatal heart arrhythmia.
Isserow says the prognosis is very poor, with patients often living 12 to 18 months after diagnosis, and there is no known
treatment or cure.