John Tossounian

John Tossounian wasn’t the type to get sick.

A busy man with boundless energy and drive, John worked six days a week at his business of 32 years.

But in the early hours of April 22, 2013, his partner, Shelley Boales, found the 62-year-old sitting on the couch, unable to breathe and fighting a terrible pain in his chest. Panicked, she called 911.

At the General Campus of The Ottawa Hospital, John was moved into the intensive care unit. His CO2 levels were so high, he had to be intubated. Within hours, he failed to recognize Shelley, and suffered a double lung collapse.

The diagnosis was bacterial pneumonia.

“They didn’t know if he was going to make it 48 hours,” Shelley remembered.
Fortunately, John’s condition stabilized, and he remained in Hospital for 10 days before being released.

Less than a month later, John – who is the owner of Toshcan.ca, an office equipment supply company whose clientele includes TOH – was readmitted to TOH, this time for one week, and again, several weeks after that.

These days, his condition is much improved, but John, who also suffers from a heart condition and diabetes, continues to receive treatment at The Ottawa Hospital.

John, who credits The Ottawa Hospital for saving his life, has been a TOH supporter since 1984 – long before was ever a patient. He recently attended Behind the Scenes, an event which invites donors to meet the physicians and researchers of TOH and to see firsthand the equipment. There, he met Dr. Jennifer Beecker, a doctor in the Division of Dermatology at The Ottawa Hospital.

John became particularly interested in one piece of equipment – the FotoFinder, which can detect minute changes in the mole that lead to skin cancer. When Dr. Beecker told John that there was only one FotoFinder for the entire Ottawa Region, and that the waiting period for someone to be tested on the machine was two and a half years, he was floored.

“A light went off in my head,” said John. “I thought, if they had a second machine, it would cut down on the wait and perhaps save a life.”

The next morning, he called The Ottawa Hospital Foundation and said he wanted to purchase the FotoFinder. John and staff at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation recently surprised Dr. Beecker with a cheque for $35,000. Dr. Beecker was moved to tears to learn about the gift.

Before the first gift was out of his hands, John had already pledged a second gift to the Division of Dermatology – a $60,000 Verisante Aura, a non-invasive system that aids in the detection of skin cancer in its early, most easily treatable stages – in honour of his late parents, Yeghia (Elie) and Mary Tossounian, who were themselves longtime community donors.

John can’t say enough about the excellent care he received from all staff at The Ottawa Hospital, but in particular, his ICU nurse Gordon Robertson, who he said “inspired me to give back.”