Promising new projects thanks to donor-supported COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

More than $2 million has been generously donated by the community in support of our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Below are the latest projects that have received seed funding thanks to donor support.

Amidst exciting new updates from research projects supported in earlier rounds of funding from the COVID-19 Emergency Respond Fund, two new projects are now getting underway. Thanks to donor support from our generous community, more than 50 research and innovation projects are in progress and are helping us better understand and address COVID-19.

COVID-19 and rheumatoid arthritis: using big data to
understand risks and improve treatments

Dr. Sibel Aydin, The Ottawa Hospital
Dr. Sibel Aydin

With more than 30 million infections worldwide, researchers now have access to massive amounts of data to try to understand why COVID-19 causes severe illness in some people and mild or no symptoms in others. Factors like age, hypertension and obesity clearly play a role, and it is possible that certain immune disorders may also have an impact. Dr. Sibel Aydin is using a big data approach to determine if people with the immune disorder rheumatoid arthritis are more or less likely to get severely ill with COVID-19. Harnessing data from ICES and the Ontario Best Practice Research Initiative, her team will also look at the impact of immune-suppressing drugs that are commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. This research could improve our global understanding of COVID-19 and lead to better treatments for people with both COVID-19 and rheumatoid arthritis.

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on women

Dr. Innie Chen, The Ottawa Hospital
Dr. Innie Chen

Dr. Innie Chen is leading research to understand the impact of COVID-19 on women, thanks to seed funding through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

COVID-19 is affecting women in many ways, from increased caregiving responsibilities to increased risks of domestic violence. Women are also more likely to work in healthcare jobs that have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. Finally, women may be negatively affected by delays in access to health care associated with COVID-19.

Dr. Chen has assembled an internationally recognized team that will help understand and address this challenge by developing core outcomes for women’s health equity during Covid-19. The researchers will perform a systematic search of the literature and assemble a multidisciplinary panel of community patient partners and healthcare workers to identify the key issues in women’s health during the pandemic. This information will lead to evidence-based strategies to mitigate gender-based impacts and help improve the lives of women during the pandemic.

Keep checking back to read updates on these and other COVID-19 research and innovation projects supported by donors.

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health and research centre and teaching hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

Donate today to support the groundbreaking research and innovation projects of tomorrow.

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Long-time volunteer finds himself in a new role during the global pandemic

When COVID-19 hit Ottawa, Mike Soloski knew he needed to act. After volunteering in the Cancer Centre post-retirement, Mike was inspired to take on the new and challenging post on the frontlines as a COVID-19 screener.

For many, retirement is a milestone allowing them to finally relax and not worry about the stresses of work again. However, for Mike Soloski, that statement could not be further from the truth. At 61-years-old, Mike, a selfless go-getter, was a volunteer with The Ottawa Hospital when COVID-19 struck — a time when many volunteers were sent home as a safety precaution to limit exposure to this infectious disease. But Mike knew he needed to act. He decided to step out of retirement, and out of his volunteer role, and onto the frontlines of the pandemic as a COVID-19 screener.

Stepping out of retirement and onto the frontlines

Mike Soloski with his grandchild
Mike Soloski with his grandchild.

After retiring as a bank manager, this father and grandfather found himself wanting to volunteer outside of the fields of fundraising and finance. Having lost his wife to cancer in 2014, volunteering at the Cancer Centre at The Ottawa Hospital, where his wife had received such compassionate care during her illness, was a natural choice.

Volunteering gave Mike a sense of purpose and he enjoyed giving back to his community in a new way. In 2019, he welcomed another new adventure into his life when he remarried. Mike and his new wife, Leona, brought together their respective families, including their daughters and grandchildren, into a new blended family.

“I knew I was ready for something challenging and out of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t picture myself sitting at home and doing nothing.” – Mike Soloski.

Then, in early 2020, COVID-19 arrived in Ottawa. Volunteers were sent home from the hospital and Mike realized that he needed to help in some way. “I knew I was ready for something challenging and out of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t picture myself sitting at home and doing nothing,” said Mike. His hard work and dedication as a volunteer had been noticed and he was hired on as a COVID-19 screener. Suddenly being thrust to the frontlines of a global pandemic most certainly fit the bill of being out of his comfort zone.

His most important role

Practically speaking, Mike’s daily COVID-19 responsibilities are ensuring that patients, visitors, and staff are properly screened before entering the hospital. He has been promoted to a supervisor where he provides support to the screening team. Most importantly for Mike, he wants to create a welcoming environment and takes great pride in conveying a positive attitude when interacting with patients, visitors, and staff whom he knows are facing a stressful time.

Mike Soloski, screener at The Ottawa Hospital
Mike Soloski, COVID-19 screener.

“I find it really rewarding to provide people with a sense of comfort, especially if it means melting away a patient’s nervousness, tension, and apprehensiveness.” – Mike Soloski.

As one of the first masked faces they see when entering the hospital, Mike prioritizes building that rapport and comfort for people approaching the screening table. “I find it really rewarding to provide people with a sense of comfort, especially if it means melting away a patient’s nervousness, tension, and apprehensiveness.”

Words of wisdom

While this new role was an unexpected challenge for Mike, he knows he’s where he needs to be. “You sometimes get this weird sense of what retirement is supposed to be – for me it is just a different type of busy. This work is very rewarding,” said Mike. While he would never have guessed this is how he might re-enter the workforce, he is grateful that he has been able to accomplish what he set out to back in 2016 – to help in any way he could. Mike’s words of wisdom for anyone contemplating volunteering with The Ottawa Hospital? “Just jump in and do it.”

Join Mike in giving back to The Ottawa Hospital by making a donation today!

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High-risk twin pregnancy during COVID-19 pandemic

An ultrasound revealing twins was the first of many surprises experienced by Meagan and her family throughout her pregnancy — including prolonged hospitalization during the worst public-health crisis the world has seen in 100 years.

At just 28-weeks pregnant and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Meagan Ann Gordon was admitted to the hospital with placenta previa. Alone and unable to see her husband and young daughter, she began an unexpected journey of resilience, optimism, and compassionate care in the midst of an uncertain time.

Meagan's UltrasoundThe beginning of a special journey

Just a few weeks into her pregnancy, Meagan Ann Gordon went for her first ultrasound appointment. Her husband, Kyle Gordon, was out of town and unable to join her. Having already gone through a full-term and healthy pregnancy together with their first child, Maeve, Meagan felt confident going to this appointment on her own. After all, what could be so different this time around?

What her appointment revealed was an unexpected and happy surprise — twin boys! This was the beginning of many unanticipated turns Meagan would experience throughout the duration of her pregnancy — including the emergence of a novel coronavirus that would alter life in previously unimaginable ways.

Pregnant with twins

Megan Gordon's sidewalk message
On Mother’s Day, Kyle and daughter Maeve, visited Meagan outside of her hospital window, leaving her a sweet message to remind her how much they love her.

Pregnancy comes with so much anticipation and excitement. When Meagan discovered she was having twins, she was elated. Aside from standard nausea and mild discomfort, her pregnancy was going smoothly — up until midway through her second trimester. Her doctor observed that her placenta, shared by both babies, was covering her cervix — Meagan had placenta previa. This can cause significant bleeding throughout pregnancy — a reality that Meagan was all too familiar with. She experienced several bleeds that required her to stay at the hospital overnight so that her doctors could monitor her health and that of her babies. But at just 28 weeks pregnant on April 22, 2020, she experienced a bleed so large they called an ambulance. She was once again admitted to the hospital, where her care team felt she needed to stay until delivery.

For five long weeks Meagan remained at the hospital, confined to her room, away from her husband and her three-year-old daughter, Maeve. Due to the emergence of COVID-19, like many hospitals across the globe, The Ottawa Hospital has been under visitor restrictions, preventing Meagan from receiving any visitors or being able to leave the unit to visit loved ones. Pleasures that she might normally experience had she been at home, like having a baby shower with her family and friends or decorating the nursery, she missed out on.

“Being away from my husband and my daughter was really hard,” said Meagan. “But I wasn’t alone. I was with my boys and I was doing what was best for them and their health. I was also being so well taken care of by the nursing staff. They knew how hard it was to be away from my family, especially on Mother’s Day and they went above and beyond to be kind and supportive.”

Throughout the duration of her stay, nurses treated Meagan more like a friend than just a patient, helping to bring a level of comfort in a time when she was so isolated from her own friends and family. “They stopped by my room even if they weren’t assigned to me on their shift just to say hello and to chat. They shared stories of their life outside of the hospital walls and met my family over FaceTime. They even treated us to donuts and coffees. But it’s less about what the nurses “did” and more about how they made me feel,” Meagan explained.

Emergence of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how patients are cared for across the country and the world. More than 1,700 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa, many of whom have received treatment at The Ottawa Hospital. As a result, even the most well-thought-out birthing plans are being adjusted.

Given Meagan’s unresolved placenta previa, she required a scheduled cesarean delivery at 34 weeks pregnant which would prevent her from going into labour naturally. Her boys were to arrive on June 3, 2020, but they had other plans. At 2 a.m. on May 25, 2020 Meagan’s water broke. Her husband rushed to the hospital just in time to see Meagan for a few moments before Teddy and Rowan were delivered by emergency cesarean. “It was a huge relief to see him before I went into surgery,” said Meagan.

Up until that moment, Kyle had only seen Meagan’s growing belly over FaceTime. When he walked in the room, and saw Meagan for the first time, he gave her a big hug before putting his hands on her belly. Feelings of pride and excitement washed over him. Kyle was in awe at how much her belly had grown since he last saw her in April. Meagan remembers their last hug before she went into the operating room. One of the twins kicked him in the chest. “It was a big moment for us because we often talked about how he might not get to feel the twins moving again, knowing I was there in the hospital until I delivered,” explained Meagan.

Meagan with Teddy and Rowan

Due to COVID-19 protocols set in place to protect patients and hospital staff, Kyle wasn’t allowed in the operation room throughout her delivery. But he was by her side over FaceTime, supporting her every step of the way. “It was definitely a very unique experience. I was happy to be able to see Meagan and talk with her and experience the births from her perspective while it was actually going on. I just kept telling her how strong she was… And being able to hear the boys cry for the first time over FaceTime,” said Kyle, “it was as good as we could possibly hope for given the current circumstances.”

Meagan’s team of nurses and doctors even went so far as to take photos and video footage of Teddy and Rowan’s first breath. The boys were then admitted to the NICU. While Meagan recovered, Kyle was able to meet the boys and get a report on their health. Shortly after, he was back by Meagan’s side where they reminisced about the delivery and marveled in the fact that life had changed so quickly. A few hours later, Meagan was out of the recovery room and well enough to visit her boys in the NICU for the very first time. “It was the beginning of the next stage of our adventure – the NICU journey!” exclaimed Meagan.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Though the twins were healthy and growing, measuring the size of a head of lettuce right before her cesarean at 33 weeks, Meagan knew her mandated cesarean would take place before the twins reached full term. This meant that her boys would stay in the NICU once born until they had grown enough to safely go home.

For the first three days, Teddy and Rowan remained in the NICU at the General Campus. While recovering from the cesarean in hospital, Meagan was finally able to have Kyle stay with her. This allowed both of them to visit their sons in the NICU frequently. With each visit they learned how to care for their premature babies, who were born at just 5lbs 2oz, including learning how to bathe them and change their diapers. “The staff was great about welcoming us into the NICU, giving us full updates and really involving us as part of the care team for the boys, which was different than caring for our full-term daughter,” says Meagan. “I found it was a very supportive environment.”

Megan Gordon with her twin boys

 

Kyle Gordon holding his twin boys

 

Home at last

After spending just over two weeks in the NICU, Teddy and Rowan were healthy and strong enough to go home where they could finally meet their older sister for the first time. “We’re settling really well into our new norm as a family of five,” said Meagan.

Ever grateful for the care she received at The Ottawa Hospital, Meagan is quick to express how thankful she is for her doctor, Dr. Karen Fung-Kee-Fung, Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at The Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Samaan Werlang, who delivered her boys, and each nurse that took part in her care and that of her boys.

“We’re just so grateful for the incredible care we received as a family. Everyone we encountered was so compassionate and kind. It made a hard situation one that I will look back on fondly.”  – Meagan Ann Gordon

Listen to Pulse Podcast, where Meagan Gordon reveals what it’s like to be pregnant with twins during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donate today so that we can continue to provide patients like Meagan exceptional care during times of great need.

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Recovered COVID-19 patient will always be grateful for his extraordinary care

Diagnosed with COVID-19, Fr. Alex Michalopulos remembers the fear he felt battling the virus while in hospital. He’ll be forever grateful for the compassionate care he received at The Ottawa Hospital. 

As someone who has dedicated his life to being at the bedside of others during an illness, Fr. Alex Michalopulos now has a better understanding of that fear others faced after his recent COVID-19 diagnosis in April. Today, as a recovered patient of COVID-19, Fr. Michalopulos says the experience was a real eye-opener for him and he’s grateful for the compassionate care he received.

Condition deteriorates

The Michalopulos family
Fr. Michalopulos with his wife and three daughters.

The Greek Orthodox priest wasn’t feeling well at the end of March—a busy time for this church community. By April 5, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and he self-isolated at home. Over time, his condition worsened with extreme headaches, and a progressing cough, resulting in respiratory issues and fever. He was admitted to The Ottawa Hospital, General Campus on April 9.

The gravity of this illness and the resulting discussions became serious very quickly. “There was a discussion about the ventilator that could be needed at some point for my care. DNR consent (Do Not Resuscitate) was discussed and how I should talk with my family about it,” remembers Fr. Michalopulos.

The 61-year-old was transferred from the Emergency Department to a floor where a specialized team could care for him. “It was very scary to go through this experience. I had no idea how this was going to evolve. Doctors and nurses coming in dressed like you see in the movies with their PPE. Not being able to breathe—coughing continuously, headaches—at times I just wanted to die they were so bad.”

Dr. Samantha Halman
Dr. Samantha Halman (left) keeping patients connected to families through technology.

Extraordinary care

While Fr. Michalopulos recalls the fear he felt as he fought for his life, he’s grateful his condition never deteriorated to the point where he needed to be on a ventilator. That gratitude also extends to each person who helped care for him while he was at The Ottawa Hospital. “The doctors, nurses, and cleaning staff were amazing. I take my hat off to them.”

It wasn’t easy to be going through this illness without his wife and daughters by his side. With visitor restrictions in place to protect patients and staff, he could only connect with his family by phone. He adds his care team put him at ease during the times he was in extreme pain.

“All those medical professionals were so caring—it was reassuring that I was in good hands. They put me at ease.”
– Fr. Alex Michalopulos

Dr. Samantha Halman, General Internal Medicine Specialist, has been caring for COVID-19 patients since the arrival of the virus in March. She says for patients like Fr. Michalopulos and others, her medical team served a dual role.

“It wasn’t always about the medical care when treating our COVID patients. Sometimes it was about spending that extra five minutes with a patient. It was important for people to know we were there for them not only as patients but as people.”
– Dr. Samantha Halman

Being on the frontlines during these unprecedented times has been challenging at times. While Dr. Halman never imagined working through something like this, she’s proud of the efforts of her colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital. “This pandemic exemplifies why we went into healthcare – we want to help people.”

It was compassionate care coupled with his faith, that carried him through. He admits it was an eye-opening experience. While Fr. Michalopulos had minor surgery in the past, it wasn’t until his COVID-19 diagnosis and extraordinary care he received at The Ottawa Hospital that he realized how fortunate he is to have this caliber of healthcare in our community. “I was so grateful to all of them for the care; I had pizza delivered to staff when I was leaving.”

Thankful to be on the mend

Fr. Michalopulos was released from hospital on April 19 — Greek Orthodox Easter. As he reflects on his time in hospital, he couldn’t be more thankful to be on the road to recovery today. “For the times when the doctors or nurses came in to see me, for the times when I was reassured—I’m thankful I was well taken care of with love and respect for human life.”

As tears well up in his eyes, and he stops briefly to regain his emotions, Fr. Michalopulos says it’s sometimes good to be on the other side, to feel what others are going through. “I have a lot more respect for the medical professionals. I always had, but this time it was at a different level. They were there for me.

Fr. Michalopulos in Church
Fr. Michalopulos at the Greek Orthodox Church.

“They held my hand. They showed compassion. They showed a lot of respect and love. I will be forever grateful for them.” – Fr. Alex Michalopulos

It was that special touch, and care from complete strangers that helped give Fr. Michalopulos the strength to get back home to the family he loves and eventually to his parish family.

“I will always remember how I was treated by strangers. I admire them and will always pray for them.”

Research update

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are exploring more than 60 research projects to support the world-wide effort to find better ways to treat and prevent COVID-19.  A number of those projects have been supported by the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, including a study led by Drs. Sara J. Abdallah and Juthaporn Cowan. Their research is looking into the long-term effects of the virus. They will be checking in on participating patients at three, six, and 12 months after they were initially infected. Survivors of mild, moderate, and severe infections will be included in the study and researchers will assess the healthcare resources, such as visits to the Emergency Department, hospitalizations, and medications that were used by survivors. Results will help improve care for COVID-19 survivors and optimize how healthcare resources are used.

Fr. Michalopulos agreed to take part in this study. “I thought it would be useful to help researchers understand the effects and lingering effects of the virus in gathering information to help create a vaccine and or a cure.”

He’s grateful to have survived the virus, and this is another way to show his appreciation for the care he received while also helping others. “I also feel it is important to participate as my results will add to the information used to make gains in fighting this contagious and aggressive virus that has changed the society all over the world as we know it.”

Listen to the latest episode of Pulse Podcast, where we go behind the scenes with Dr. Halman and hear what it’s like on one of the units at the Ottawa Hospital caring for COVID-19 patients.

Your donation today will help create better healthcare tomorrow for patients, like Fr. Michalopulos, when they need The Ottawa Hospital.

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Innovative 3D printing sets The Ottawa Hospital apart

The Ottawa Hospital’s 3D Printing Laboratory takes an innovative approach and develops PPE to help safeguard colleagues who care for patients critically ill from COVID-19.

The Ottawa Hospital was the first Canadian hospital to have an integrated medical 3D printing program for pre-surgical planning and education. Since the arrival of the program, made possible by the generosity of a donor, The Ottawa Hospital has been a leader in innovative advancements in this area. Doctors have been able to harness 3D printing to create detailed anatomical plans before a patient arrives in the operating room, reducing the need for invasive surgery, and ultimately improving outcomes with a significant cost savings. It’s this program, which positions the hospital’s Medical Imaging Department at the forefront of international developments in radiology and is revolutionizing the way surgery is done. It’s this kind of forward thinking that allowed The Ottawa Hospital to be ready when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Ottawa, mobilizing innovative 3D printing technology at the hospital, in local companies, and out in the community, to quickly create PPE for front-line workers.

Ready to face the pandemic

Dr. Adnan Sheikh
Dr. Adnan Sheikh holding a 3D printed replica

As members of The Ottawa Hospital’s 3D Printing Laboratory watched how COVID-19 was spreading throughout China and Europe, they quickly became aware of how some parts of the world were facing dramatic equipment shortages. That’s when Dr. Adnan Sheikh, Director of the 3D Printing Laboratory, and his team started to think creatively about how they could help their colleagues be better prepared for the pandemic.

“I reached out to Dr. David Neilipovitz, Department Head of Critical Care, to offer help and we identified many areas where the 3D Printing Lab would be in the best position to help in case of any shortages,” says Dr. Sheikh.

From that conversation, the 3D printing team started developing several different designs of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to help safeguard colleagues who would be caring for patients critically ill from COVID-19.

“We were able to create oxygen tents, goggles, tube connectors, intubation shields, and face shields which are a key piece of equipment,” explains Dr. Sheikh.

These transformational advancements wouldn’t have been possible just five years ago.

“This is an innovative technology. It’s really evolved and it’s changing the way we practice medicine.” — Dr. Adnan Sheikh

Testing the prototypes

Once the 3D lab began producing pieces of PPE, each one needed to be tested. Dr. Neilipovitz played a key role in testing these designs in advance, allowing The Ottawa Hospital to be innovative during challenging times.

“Thanks to our 3D team, they allowed us to think outside the box and quickly find us solutions to be ready to help our patients.” — Dr. David Neilipovitz

In fact, Dr. Neilipovitz and his team in the ICU were instrumental in helping the 3D team refine and test prototypes to ensure they were up to the task. A crucial step in the process and one that required patience, expertise, and an open mind.

A perfect example was an intubation shield designed with the help of Leonard Lapensee, an Imaging Technician, who works at the hospital. The ICU team tested this prototype; they modified it and it was later mass-produced. This is now used in the ICU, operating rooms, and emergency rooms.

Dr. Neilipovitz trying on a prototype mask
Dr. David Neilipovitz trying on a prototype mask

 

3D face mask with valve
The end result which includes a 3D-printed blue valve at the top

 

Community support takes The Ottawa Hospital to the next level

Once they received the green light for the 3D equipment, The Ottawa Hospital was then able to produce as much quantity as the lab could handle. However, the collaboration went beyond the lab and even the walls of The Ottawa Hospital.

“We knew we had limited resources and were aware that we wouldn’t be able to manufacture and print everything in the lab. So, we prototyped these devices and pushed them out for production at different sites at The Ottawa Hospital. We also reached out to volunteers in the community who had offered to help.”

There was a collaboration with the University of Ottawa Makerspace led by engineering professor Dr. Hanan Anis and her team to help with the design and prototyping process. It didn’t stop there—the community support continued to grow to help produce PPE such as face shields, and even headbands.

A good example of that support was when Ottawa resident Marc Beal stepped forward to lend a hand. “Due to resource constraints, we needed help printing headbands for face shields. Marc and his friends, who have home 3D printers, approached us and printed these headbands for us,” explains Dr. Sheikh.

Marc Beal working at home
Marc Beal working at home on his 3D printer

 

Dr. David Neilipovitz with an oxygen hood
Dr. David Neilipovitz testing an oxygen hood

 

Another key piece of equipment was the oxygen helmet, which is used with patients who require a constant flow of oxygen. Once again, the 3D lab was able to prototype it. “We tested it and once we were convinced that it would help our patients, we reached out to Darcy Cullum at Ottawa Mould Craft, who was happy to work with us.”

Ultimately, that community support allowed The Ottawa Hospital to ensure staff have the PPE needed to keep both care team members and patients safe during the peak of COVID-19.

The best part of all, notes Dr. Sheikh, is that this all came about organically. “Colleagues helping colleagues—having an open mind and being willing to integrate what we can contribute. That included assessing the gear and testing it out to make it reality. I feel privileged to live in Ottawa; our community support system is the best in the world!”

COVID-19 may have turned the world upside down but it was a forward-thinking donor in 2016, who allowed The Ottawa Hospital to have the technology in place to be ready when our patients needed us most.

“With COVID-19 everything has changed. 3D printing now has a different role in the medical world.” — Dr. Adnan Sheikh

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

Donate today to ensure The Ottawa Hospital is equipped with the most advanced technology when patients need it most.

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World-first clinical trial aims to protect cancer patients from COVID-19

Our researchers are leading the way in a world-first clinical trial to protect vulnerable cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Surgeon-scientist Dr. Rebecca Auer is leading a world-first clinical trial that she hopes will protect cancer patients from COVID-19 and other respiratory infections by boosting their immune systems during treatment. The trial was funded in part thanks to donor support to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

“A cancer diagnosis is scary at the best of times, but the pandemic has made it even worse,” said Dr. Auer, surgical oncologist and Director of Cancer Research at The Ottawa Hospital and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “Cancer patients have weakened immune systems, which makes them more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19.”

At best, a severe infection could delay a patient’s cancer treatment. At worst, it could kill them.

Patients receiving cancer treatments are the most at risk because the treatments further weaken their immune system. This at-risk population is quite large – over 90,000 people received radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments in Ontario alone in 2019.

“While there are many specific vaccines for COVID-19 in the works, they won’t be available for at least a year. Cancer patients need protection now.” – Dr. Rebecca Auer

Boosting the immune system during treatment

Dr. Auer and her team at The Ottawa Hospital came up with the idea of testing whether boosting cancer patients’ immune systems during their treatment could help prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. In collaboration with scientists at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research, they explored an immune-stimulator called IMM-101. Then she worked with Canadian Cancer Trials Group at Queen’s University to design and run the clinical trial at nine cancer centres across Canada.

The researchers will recruit 1,500 patients currently receiving cancer treatment to this clinical trial. Patients will be randomly assigned to receive either regular care, or regular care plus IMM-101. This preparation of harmless heat-killed bacteria had been developed as an anti-cancer therapy because it stimulates the immune system. It has already been safely given to 300 advanced cancer patients in earlier trials.

Training the innate immune system

This trial takes advantage of a lesser-known aspect of the immune system — innate immunity. This first-response arm of the immune system plays a key role in detecting viruses.

Innate immune cells recognize features that are common to many viruses, allowing them to attack viruses the body has never seen before. This is different from the adaptive immune system, which only recognizes viruses the body has already encountered through prior infection or through a vaccine.

The research team hopes that because the IMM-101 treatment can train the patient’s innate immune system, it will help to fight off the COVID-19 virus, in addition to other viruses that cause respiratory infections.

Dr. Rebecca Auer speaks with a colleague
Dr. Rebecca Auer speaks with a colleague (Photo taken before COVID-19)

“There is good data to suggest that the reason some people have no symptoms from COVID-19 while others get very sick is their innate immune system’s ability to respond early and quickly to the virus. This made us consider whether we could use an innate immune booster to prevent COVID-19 infections.” – Dr. Rebecca Auer

Based on data from other immune stimulators, it’s likely that this immune-boost would be temporary. But researchers hope it will last long enough to get a patient through their cancer treatments. Once the treatments have ended, the patient’s immune system would return to its regular strength and be strong enough to fight off viruses on its own.

Protection from more than COVID-19

The advantage of this immune-boosting approach is that it could help cancer patients fight off all sorts of viruses while they are undergoing cancer treatments and are at their most vulnerable.

“The treatment we’re using trains the immune system to do a better job fighting the next viral infection,” said Dr. Auer. “It’s not specific to COVID-19, but actually applies to any viral respiratory illness.”

If successful, IMM-101 could also offer benefits to people with other chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems who are similarly at a heightened risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19. It could also help protect people with cancer from other respiratory infections like the seasonal flu.

Preparing for future pandemics

“In 20 years, we’ve had three coronavirus epidemics or pandemics –SARS, MERS and COVID-19—so it’s likely that we’ll see another,” said Dr. Auer.

“We think harnessing innate immunity could be one of our best weapons for fighting COVID-19 and could be easily adapted to tackle future pandemics.” – Dr. Rebecca Auer

The trial has been approved by Health Canada and will run at cancer centres across Canada this summer and into the fall. The researchers expect to see preliminary results in about nine months.

Donate today to support promising research and clinical trials like this one.

Cancer patients undergoing active treatment who are interested in participating in this trial should speak with their cancer specialist.

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation provided seed funding for this project through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, funded by generous donors in the community. Read about other projects that have received funding thanks to donor support and are making a difference in the fight against COVID-19.

Additional funding and in-kind support for this trial have been provided by the Canadian Cancer Society, BioCanRx, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, The Ottawa Hospital Academic Medical Organization, ATGen NK Max Canada, and Immodulon Therapeutics, the manufacturer of IMM-101.

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

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Care, innovation, and research projects underway thanks to latest round of COVID-19 donor support.

After only a few short weeks, $1.7M has been donated to support our hospital’s fight against COVID-19. This incredible generosity from our community has allowed us to provide seed funding for 21 different care, innovation, and research projects.

In the latest round of funding from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, supported entirely through the generosity of donors, new research, innovation, and care projects have been approved for seed funding and will now get underway. These vital projects are the latest initiatives chosen out of more than 160 ideas submitted to the COVID-19 Ideas Hub.

The Hub was created by the hospital to allow any staff, regardless of background or role, to submit innovative ideas to combat COVID-19. Teams of experts evaluated the feasibility, available funding, and whether the idea could positively impact The Ottawa Hospital, patients, and the community.

The following care, innovation, and research projects have been selected for seed funding which is made possible by the many generous donors who supported the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund – thank you to all who have donated.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for COVID pneumonia

Dr. Boet 
Dr. Sylvain Boet

When COVID-19 takes over the lungs, it can feel like you can’t get enough air into your body, no matter how much you gasp. When this kind of COVID pneumonia sets in, the only option is to hook the patient up to an artificial breathing machine (a ventilator), with a tube down the throat (intubation). Unfortunately, only half of people with COVID-19 who require intubation will survive after this invasive, last-resort treatment. Dr. Sylvain Boet and his colleagues believe that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) may be able to help some people with COVID-19 pneumonia avoid mechanical ventilation and increase survival. HBOT involves placing patients in a pressurized room or chamber so they can breathe 100% oxygen. It can increase the delivery of oxygen to tissues by 10 to 20-fold and can also boost the immune system and help the body fight infections. Small studies in other countries suggest that HBOT may help treat patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, but more research is needed. Dr. Boet and his team will initiate a study of HBOT in people with COVID-19 pneumonia at The Ottawa Hospital, and will work with colleagues around the world to explore the possibility of expanding the trial to other hospitals.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is safe and non-invasive, and our aim is to help COVID-19 patients with pneumonia avoid the need for an artificial breathing machine.”
– Dr. Sylvain Boet, scientist and anesthesiologist at The Ottawa Hospital

UPDATE:
Dr. Boet has assembled a team of national and international experts in hyperbaric oxygen therapy and has carried out a systematic review and a media appearance in support of the study. His team has secured approval from Health Canada and Clinical Trials Ontario and recently applied for over $1.2 million in funding for the study. Funding from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund provided seed funding for this research project.

Innovative prototypes to protect our people

Developing innovative solutions to address staff safety is critical during this pandemic. It is vital that our people have the best tools to support them for the duration of the crisis. This initiative will use seed funding to support the development and testing of prototypes for priority Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), devices, and supplies to support patient care and staff safety.

Some of the projects supported by this initiative will look at developing, piloting and evaluating equipment like a helmet-based ventilation system for patients in respiratory distress, 3D printed custom-fit sterilizable masks and glideoscope blades for fast intubation, and producing N100 masks for Operating Room staff. It will also look at evaluating barrier methods such as a negative pressure COVID box to improve the safety of aerosol-generating medical procedures (such as intubation or suction), and at creating virtual reality educational videos for safe practices in clinical settings, including various treatment scenarios and how to safely put on and remove PPE.

Dr. Castellucci
Dr. Lana Castellucci

Preventing dangerous blood clots in COVID-19 patients

Drs. Marc Carrier, Lana Castellucci and colleagues are contributing to an international clinical trial  to find out whether a high dose of blood thinner can prevent dangerous blood clots in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. About 60 percent of these patients develop blood clots, which can be deadly if they travel to the lungs. Not only can blood thinners prevent clots, there is some evidence that they may also alter the course of a COVID-19 infection by interfering with the ability of the virus to latch onto and invade human cells. Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 already receive a low dose of blood thinner as part of their normal care. The researchers will test whether a higher dose can reduce death, transfer to intensive care or the need for mechanical ventilation. The team will also look at how the treatment affects blood clots and major bleeding. This study will immediately impact the clinical care of patients with severe COVID-19 in 13 sites across Canada as well as at sites in the United States and Europe.

“We know patients with COVID-19 are at higher risk of blood clots, which is why we are looking at ways to protect them,” – Dr. Lana Castellucci, associate scientist at The Ottawa Hospital

UPDATE:
The COVID-19 Emergency Fund has helped this team to participate in two blood thinner studies assessing different dosing of blood thinners in COVID-19 patients. To date, 22 patients have been recruited in the ATTACC trial and one in the RAPID COVID COAG trial, which has only recently been open for recruitment.

Leading the way to a common approach for testing strategies in the region

In order to enhance the efficiency of COVID-19 testing, more research is needed to better understand the various testing approaches available and in which settings (e.g. hospital-based or community-based) these testing approaches are most effective.

Currently, a variety of testing approaches are being investigated throughout the region by multiple healthcare groups.  Through this project, our hospital will assume a leadership role and create a team that will help to centralize and guide testing strategies adopted across the region.

Having this centralized oversight is especially important to ensuring the safety of healthcare workers, patients, and the public as procedures and surgeries resume.

The team will also develop predictive algorithms for determining the probability of COVID-19 prior to a test being administered and will streamline the use of innovative apps for contact tracing.

Data Dashboard_COVID Cases
A view of just some of the information a real-time active monitoring system can produce.

Using big data to find promising drugs for COVID-19

Dr. Derek MacFadden and his colleagues plan to identify promising drugs to treat COVID-19 by analyzing past data from 3,000 Ontario patients treated for other kinds of coronavirus infections between 2014 and 2018. Once the team identifies which drugs are associated with the best patient outcomes, they will use the same process to see how effective those drugs have been at treating patients with COVID-19. The drugs they identify in this screening process would then be tested in a lab to confirm their anti-viral activity against COVID-19. Drugs that pass this stage could potentially be used in future clinical trials for patients infected with or at risk of contracting COVID-19. Unlike most lab-based drug screening approaches, this big data approach has the benefit of seeing how drugs work in humans infected with the virus, and what dose is needed to be effective.

Dr. Derek MacFadden 
Dr. Derek MacFadden

“By looking at which drugs have been successful at treating past coronavirus infections, we can predict which ones are likely to work against COVID-19,” – Dr. Derek MacFadden, scientist at The Ottawa Hospital

UPDATE:
Researchers are finalizing their analysis, combing through large amounts of data. Once the analyses are finalized, the research team will be publishing their methods and results. The hope is that these results will be a guide for further research.

The Ottawa Hospital - Virtual Care

 

Optimizing the capabilities of virtual care

To help limit the spread of COVID-19 or any future widespread illness, while also avoiding disruption of care services, it will be essential to explore enhancements of the hospital’s virtual care offerings. With this project, a team will be assembled to evaluate the virtual care initiatives at The Ottawa Hospital.

This initiative will explore topics such as post-discharge virtual care following a surgery, virtual care for populations with chronic illness or disability, adapting ambulatory care to virtual visits, and looking at how virtual options could be used to provide support to our health partners in the community.

Thorough evaluation, including understanding the potential challenges and barriers from the perspective of patients and providers, will be key to determining the feasibility and sustainability of virtual care programs.

Enhancing patient care through data and analytics

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a significant demand for COVID-19 data to support a variety of work at the hospital including research efforts, quality improvement activities, and clinical care. This project will see the creation of a common data mart that leverages the data within Epic, the hospital’s digital health network. This will link data at the individual patient level to COVID-19 infection status, demographics, medical history, lab and medical imaging testing, and pharmacy orders.

This initiative will enable projects using data to look at a variety of topics from evaluating treatment protocols in ICU patients to predicting COVID-19 in certain populations. Ultimately, it will enhance the hospital’s ability to support high-quality patient care and our COVID-19 research agenda.

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health and research centre and teaching hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

There is still work to do! Donate today to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to support our researchers, innovators, and care providers who are combatting this virus each day.

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Community generosity funds a second round of promising COVID-19 research projects

As funds continue to be donated, they will be put to work to support upcoming COVID-19 research, innovation, and patient care projects. Below are four of the latest research projects made possible thanks to the generosity of donors — keep checking back as new projects receive funding.

As our researchers move new research projects forward faster than ever in an effort to address COVID-19, donations to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund continue to provide seed funding to get these vital projects off the ground. Below are some of the new and promising projects approved for support through the second round of funding. Kick-starting these projects would not have been possible without the support of our generous donors — thank you!

Dr. John Bell
Dr. Carolina Ilkow

 

Harnessing cancer-fighting viruses to develop a COVID-19 vaccine

Drs. Carolina Ilkow, John Bell and colleagues are harnessing their expertise in making oncolytic (cancer-fighting) viruses to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, in partnership with scientists and clinicians in Canada and around the world. One of the key things they’ve learned is that the best cancer-killing viruses also stimulate the body’s own immune system – in effect, training the immune cells to recognize and help attack the cancer cells.

They have developed a number of viruses that are very good at boosting the immune system and have already been tested safely in people. These viruses will be reengineered by splicing in key genes from the COVID-19 virus to create several candidate vaccines, which would train the body to mount an immune response against COVID-19. They expect this live vaccine will be particularly important for healthcare workers and vulnerable populations, including people with cancer. Once the vaccine is created, large quantities can be made in The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre.

“We know that people with cancer who get COVID-19 are much more likely to get severely ill, so we think that working on a vaccine is the best thing we can do right now to help cancer patients.”
– Dr. John Bell

UPDATE:
The research team has developed candidate vaccines and laboratory testing is going well. With funding, the team will be ready to do human clinical trials in the new year.

Creating a new mouse model to study COVID-19 lung disease

Drs. Manoj Lalu, Duncan Stewart and colleagues are working to develop a mouse model of COVID-19 that mimics the severe lung disease seen in humans.

The lack of good, accessible animal models of this disease is severely limiting research around the world. The COVID-19 virus doesn’t infect regular lab mice very well, and the virus is dangerous to work with because it is so contagious for humans.

Drs. Lalu are Stewart are working with Drs. Carolina Ilkow and John Bell, who are creating a novel hybrid virus that features a key protein from the COVID-19 virus (the spike protein) embedded into a well-studied and safe virus called vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV).

The team will test this hybrid virus in mice that have been genetically engineered to be more susceptible to COVID-19, to mimic the severe lung disease seen in humans.

To make sure the model is accurate, they will use sophisticated techniques to compare their findings in mice with findings from patients, focusing on effects on the lungs, blood and blood vessels. They will then use this model to test new therapies, including mesenchymal stromal cells.

Dr. Manoj Lalu

 

Dr. Duncan Stewart

 

UPDATE:
A novel hybrid virus (VSV-Cov2-S) has been manufactured by Dr. Ilkow’s lab with high quality and concentration to proceed with testing in our mouse model. Our experts have worked with the uOttawa Animal Care Committee and have successfully obtained ethics approval. Researchers began challenging ACE2 transgenic mice with the virus in December, controlling for time and dose, and assessing lung injury outcomes.

Dr. Shirley Mei

Studying the immune response of COVID-19 patients in the ICU

Why do some people get severely ill and die of COVID-19, while others experience only mild symptoms? Part of the answer may lie in how an individual’s immune system reacts (and sometimes over-reacts) to the COVID-19 virus. Dr. Shirley Mei and her intensive care research colleagues will study this in critically ill COVID-19 patients using the world’s most advanced “single-cell proteomics” technology.

This technology, called CyTOF, will allow the researchers to study up to 60 different biological factors all at the same time from one single cell. The researchers will create a multi-dimensional map of the immune response to COVID-19, showing how it changes over time and how it sometimes goes out of control.

The data will be shared with clinicians and researchers around the world, in order to improve treatment of COVID-19 and save lives.

UPDATE:
Patients participating in this research study will have blood samples taken for a period of 15 days after their enrollment and consent to participate. With approval from the research ethical board, researchers are in the process of recruiting patients into four arms of our study: septic patients in ICU (control cohort), COVID-19 patients in ward (mild disease cohort), ICU patients with severe COVID-19 (severe disease cohort), as well as healthy volunteer (healthy cohort). To date, 34 patients have been recruited with a total of 147 blood samples collected. Pilot experiments to validate the customized immune profiling panel for the mass cytometry (CyTOF) experiment have been completed. This approach will allow researchers to assess the disease progression by using the world’s most advance single-cell proteomics technology.

A balancing act: how to provide regular patient care amid the threat of COVID-19

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn and colleagues will use health administrative data from across Ontario, available through IC/ES, to model the risks of various scenarios for restarting routine clinical procedures in hospitals. Ontario hospitals have postponed many routine clinical procedures in order to preserve resources for COVID-19 patients, but these routine procedures can’t be postponed forever without serious health consequences.

As hospitals contemplate re-staring some routine care, a careful balance will need to be struck between the risks of COVID-19 and the risks of all other preventable diseases and conditions. The model will estimate overall deaths, healthcare costs and other factors for several scenarios, in order to help hospital administrators and policy makers make evidence-based decisions. The model could be adapted for different regions and for different COVID-19 scenarios, including a possible second wave.

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

UPDATE:
Researchers working on this project have developed a detailed protocol of the study and a model structure for a resource optimization model. They have requested the hospital data required for the model and expect to receive this information in January.

Drs. Sara J. Abdallah and Juthaporn Cowan
Drs. Sara J. Abdallah and Juthaporn Cowan

Helping COVID-19 survivors stay healthy

Drs. Sara J. Abdallah, Juthaporn Cowan and colleagues will study the long-term effects of COVID-19 in survivors, checking in on them three, six and 12 months after they were initially infected. While researchers are beginning to understand what happens in the body during a severe COVID-19 infection, much less is known about the long-term effects in survivors. But based on what is known about other viral infections, the long-term effects could be serious, affecting the lungs, heart and muscles, as well as mental health. Survivors of mild, moderate and severe infections will be included in the study. The researchers will also assess the healthcare resources used by survivors. Results will help improve care for COVID-19 survivors and optimize how healthcare resources are used.

UPDATE:
With support from The Ottawa Hospital COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, researchers set out to understand the medium and long-term impact of COVID-19 on overall health. As of October 31, 2020, 64 enrolled participants completed comprehensive cardiopulmonary testing and important progress has been made in understanding the residual effects of COVID-19 on heart and lung function. As patients continue to be monitored at six and 12-months after COVID-19 infection, our researchers hope that their findings will inform future management strategies for post-COVID breathlessness.

World-first clinical trial aims to protect cancer patients from COVID-19

Surgeon-scientist Dr. Rebecca Auer is leading a world-first clinical trial that she hopes will protect cancer patients from COVID-19 and other respiratory infections by boosting their immune systems during treatment.

In collaboration with scientists at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research, researchers will explore an immune-stimulator called IMM-101. The trial will be designed and run by the Canadian Cancer Trials Group at Queen’s University at nine cancer centres across Canada and will recruit 1,500 patients currently receiving cancer treatment.

This trial takes advantage of a lesser-known aspect of the immune system — innate immunity. This first-response arm of the immune system plays a key role in detecting viruses. The research team hopes the IMM-101 treatment will train the patient’s innate immune system to fight off the COVID-19 virus, in addition to other viruses that cause respiratory infections.

The advantage of this immune-boosting approach is that it could help cancer patients fight off all sorts of viruses while they are undergoing cancer treatments and are at their most vulnerable.

The trial has been approved by Health Canada and will run this summer and into the fall. Researchers expect to see preliminary results in about nine months.

Dr. Rebecca Auer speaks with a colleague
Dr. Rebecca Auer speaks with a colleague (Photo taken before COVID-19)

 

UPDATE:
The clinical trial was activated in September and is now open in Ottawa for recruitment. The trial will enroll 1,500 patients across Canada, with approximately 200 patients from Ottawa. These Ottawa patients will be part of the translational study funded in part by the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

“While there are many specific vaccines for COVID-19 in the works, they won’t be available for at least a year. Cancer patients need protection now.
– Dr. Rebecca Auer

Support future projects

The COVID-19 research taking place at The Ottawa Hospital has the potential to transform our understanding of this virus and lead to new ways to prevent and treat it and save lives. This vital research is possible thanks to support from the community. Please consider giving today in support of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

To find out more about our COVID-19 research and the many collaborators working to make these projects happen, please visit The Ottawa Hospital’s Research Institute.

Keep checking back for more updates on how donations are being put to work right away and are making a difference in The Ottawa Hospital’s fight against COVID-19. To get regular updates sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter, Vital Links.

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health and research centre and teaching hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

We need your support to fund COVID-19 research projects to help in the global fight against this infectious disease. Donate through The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund today.

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Tapping into the good feeling of giving back

COVID-19 is inspiring individuals, groups, and businesses to support The Ottawa Hospital and share their message of giving.

At a time when people are staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19, they are looking for ways to do some good in the midst of a global pandemic—to feel like they are lending a helping hand. For some, philanthropy makes them feel like they are being proactive, when almost everything else seems uncertain or out of their control.

Individuals, groups, and businesses are all stepping forward to help our front-line heroes. They are donating money, equipment, time, and food—after all, we’re in this together. Not only are they generously supporting The Ottawa Hospital, but they also hope to inspire others to experience that same good feeling of giving.

“Anything we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.” George Hanna, Gabriel Pizza

Gavin Murphy
Activist donor sends a message to the community
Phil Downey
Deep roots and always ready to give
Michelle Gleeson
Compassionate care for her father inspires her to give
Jason Zhang
Big impact from the Ottawa Chinese Community

“In times of emergency and stress, the number one priority is to help with those people who are on the frontlines in the midst of this crisis, and The Ottawa Hospital is number one.” – Phil Downey

George Hanna
Gabriel Pizza wants to be a part of giving back
Hélène Chevalier
My role and my responsibility to give
Ryan Carey
Tunes for TOH
Jason Cameron
Rallies his team at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in a unique way

“For whoever put a blanket on him when he was cold, for whoever gave him a sip of water, to whoever wheeled him to testing, that’s why I wanted to make a donation.” – Michelle Gleeson

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened community awareness of the vital role played by front-line healthcare workers. For local donor Gavin Murphy, it’s never been more apparent. “I shudder to think where we would be without them today. The healthcare system has gone into uncharted territory as a result of COVID-19 and the need for support has never been greater.”

Gavin is a self-described activist donor. He led by example last year and donated $500,000 to The Ottawa Hospital. He will not waver from his commitment to maintain a publicly funded world-class healthcare system in our city. Gavin will not settle for anything less and he doesn’t think anyone else in our community should either. But that goal comes at a cost that cannot be borne entirely by government. His message is emphatic: Every little bit counts. “Even if you can only donate a few dollars and there’s a million people in Ottawa—that will make a tremendous difference. That’s the reality and that’s what we have to address. We cannot rely solely on the government, which has other validly competing interests to consider, in order to sustain our hospital.”

If he needs to be the messenger to encourage citizens to support The Ottawa Hospital then Gavin will gladly take on this role. “Continuing The Ottawa Hospital’s leadership role in publicly-funded healthcare and research is only possible when those who are in the position to donate actually make those donations be they small or great.”

Jason Zhang remembers watching the COVID-19 story unfold in China, the country where he was born. He and his friends acted to show their support immediately. When COVID-19 made its way to Ottawa, where he now calls home, he knew he had to act. “This is our hospital. This is our home,” says Jason.

Jason, a Founder and Editor-in-Chief of a Chinese community newspaper -Health Times -published in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, decided to bring together his network to raise $60,000 for the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which is used in part to purchase necessary equipment like ventilators and PPE. Never did Jason expect the outpouring of support he’s seen. “We’re already over $100,000!”

In fact, Jason and the Chinese community in Ottawa, including 43 associations, were astounded when they reached their initial goal after only four days of fundraising. They’re just thrilled to be able to give back and make sure The Ottawa Hospital has the right equipment required to care for patients during the pandemic.

When the final number was tallied, Jason and his friends doubled their initial goal, raising over $123,000.

These are difficult times for families, especially those who can’t connect with their elderly parents. That’s exactly what Michelle Gleeson faced. Her father lives in a nearby retirement home but she’s unable to visit because of COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, they talk by phone every day.

On April 2, Michelle received a call that her father, who is 91 years old and lives with Parkinson’s disease, had fallen ill and needed to go to the Emergency Department at the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital. The news rocked her because she knew she couldn’t be by her father’s side. She soon learned he was in good hands.

“I spoke with the nurse, who put me right through to his doctor, Alena Spacek. The integration of everything at the hospital was phenomenal because they could see all of his previous medical visits. I couldn’t be there to explain everything but all his medical information was at the doctors fingertips,” explains Michelle.

Beyond that, while Michelle couldn’t see the compassionate care he was receiving, she could hear the level of care through the reassuring voice of Dr. Spacek. She called twice to speak with Michelle about her father, letting her know he would be okay, and when he could be released to go home.

She was so grateful and relieved, she needed to say thank you—and that’s when she decided to make a donation to The Ottawa Hospital. “For whoever put a blanket on him when he was cold, for whoever gave him a sip of water, to whoever wheeled him to testing, that’s why I wanted to make a donation,” says Michelle.

While Michelle couldn’t be at the hospital during this challenging time because of visitor restrictions, the care team left her knowing her father was in good hands. “When it all happened, I said a prayer that my dad would be in the hands of kind and caring staff. I cried waiting to hear news. Then, when I spoke to the nurse, I could hear the kindness through the phone. He was in the right spot and he was getting the right care. These are caring, loving people.”

Phil Downey’s family has deep ties to The Ottawa Hospital dating back to his mother, a registered nurse who trained at the Civic Hospital in the early ‘40s. A longtime, generous supporter of The Ottawa Hospital, Phil is always proud to give back—and especially now. “If you have a giving heart, it’s always there. In times of emergency and stress, the number one priority is to help with those people who are on the frontlines in the midst of this crisis, and The Ottawa Hospital is number one,” says Phil

Phil has made a generous commitment to raise $250,000 to The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. He acknowledges these are difficult times for many families, but he believes there is a way for everyone to help our front-line workers.

“If you take a few minutes to think about a little thing you can do to help other people, it makes you feel so good inside. At the end of the day, a donation to The Ottawa Hospital not only helps the front-line workers and the team at the hospital, it really helps yourself because it gives you a little relief of the stress you’re under,” acknowledges Phil.

George Hanna’s wife, Malake Hanna, had three high-risk pregnancies dating back to 2004, and she received her care at The Ottawa Hospital. After that experience, George remembers going back to the office and telling his staff: “whatever we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.” That’s how Gabriel Pizza began giving back and saying thank you.

That generous support continues to this day, supporting the front-line workers during COVID-19. “It’s an honour and a pleasure to give back. No matter how many pizzas we send, no matter what we do—it’s not enough to thank them for what they’re enduring right now and what they’re dealing with,” says George.

The President and COO of Gabriel Pizza and his team have delivered pizzas to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre; they’ve made donations to the Emergency Departments at both the Civic and General campuses. It’s the Gabriel Pizza way of saying thank you. “The whole purpose is to send some pizzas to thank them and put some smiles on their faces. We’re all in this together and whatever we can do to help—sending pizza is just a small way of saying thanks,” says George.
After a brief pause, George reiterates, “Anything we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.”

Like many confined to their homes these days, there’s a feeling of frustration. That’s exactly what has gone through the mind of Hélène Chevalier, even though she realizes staying home is for the best.

However, Hélène concluded that she had her own role to play beyond just staying home. “I feel that it is my role and my responsibility to contribute to The Ottawa Hospital COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, and in so doing, to be part of the solution,” says Hélène.

Hélène truly admires the work she sees and hears about from our hospital. “The employees of The Ottawa Hospital show care, dedication, and professionalism to save other people’s lives, and to find a long-term solution to this pandemic” says Hélène.

She goes on to say, “While doing so, they risk their own lives, they worry about their loved ones, and yet, they keep going. It is for them that I contribute to the Emergency Fund.”

Music has always been a part of Ryan Carey’s life—he loves strumming on his guitar. He’s been doing more of that these days, as he’s staying home like so many others.
Ryan works at The Ottawa Hospital in I.T. as a part of the Mobile Depot. Recently, he started posting videos on social media of some of the songs he’s been playing at home. The next thing he knew, he was planning a Facebook Live event. “It all came together quickly. I started getting requests for songs on social media. I would record and then post them. Then someone suggested a live show and that’s how this fundraiser took off.”

It was when he and his wife, Teri Wellon, a front-line healthcare worker in our community, were planning it out, that they realized there was an opportunity to raise money at the same time. “The Ottawa Hospital was of course the first place that popped into my head,” says Ryan.

On Saturday, April 25, Ryan went live with people tuning in from B.C. to Newfoundland and Labrador. With a large contingent of family and friends from his home province of Newfoundland tuning in, you could say it was a COVID-19 style kitchen party.

At the peak of the show, 140 people were watching Ryan play and he was watching the donations come in. “It just blew me away. I expected to raise a few dollars, but I never expected it to get as high as it did. I raised $1,105 and I donated $95 separately to make it an even $1,200,” says Ryan.

When he thinks about the amount he raised and supporting his fellow colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital, Ryan says it left him with a good feeling. “It feels very rewarding. It feels great to help the place where I work and where I see all the good happening.”

Working from home and being away from colleagues can be challenging for some, especially in light of a pandemic.

Jason Cameron, Vice President & Chief Communications Officer at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, wanted to do something positive to rally and encourage his staff of 85 while also giving back to the community. In particular, he wanted to support The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

On May 8, he brought his team together via Zoom. It was no ordinary meeting. The majority of his colleagues, including Jason, decided to dress up as a favourite character. The screen was filled with costumes from Captain Hook to Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter and everything in between. While the costumes were meant to add some levity, the team listened intently to Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, ICU and palliative care doctor at The Ottawa Hospital share his stories from the frontlines.

“Amidst the anxieties and dangers of the pandemic, my team appreciated a virtual visit from The Ottawa Hospital. Their medical staff were motivated to be at work, innovating new COVID-19 therapies funded by the hospital and local community, and were so thankful for our commitment to stay home,” says Jason.

It was Dr. Kyeremanteng’s compelling story of care during COVID-19 that inspired them to give. “As public servants, we were honoured to raise some funds, and had some fun dressing in costume doing so, to help in the fight against COVID-19,” adds Jason.

The team raised over $1,735 — more than double their initial goal. Thanks to a match donation, their total turned into almost $3,500! It’s gifts like this which helped fund innovation care and research projects at The Ottawa Hospital.

Feel the good of giving by making a donation today to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

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Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19

Their generous matching gift is directed to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and will support The Ottawa Hospital’s front-line and research efforts to fight back against the virus.

Times of crisis can bring out the best in people, motivating them to step forward and help turn things around for their community. As the COVID-19 crisis hit communities across the country, donors at all levels began to mobilize. The Nanji family decided they needed to act, donating a matching gift of $100,000 in support of the front-line efforts at The Ottawa Hospital to combat COVID-19.

Gulshan and Pyarli Nanji
Gulshan and Pyarli Nanji

The commitment of healthcare workers is what inspired them to give. “Everyone going to work in a hospital today is somebody’s loved one. There has been no other health crisis where we as Canadians have depended so much on the generosity and personal sacrifices of our healthcare workers,” says Mr. Nanji.

Their generous matching gift is directed to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and will support The Ottawa Hospital’s front-line and research efforts to fight back against the virus. By positioning the gift as a matching opportunity, they hope to inspire others to give whatever amount they can, even though these are challenging times for everyone. “No amount is too small…This crisis is teaching us how to be a community again,” says Mr. Nanji.

What’s unique about the Nanji family’s gift is that these long-time residents of Toronto made the decision early on to extend their impact beyond their immediate community. When they gave to The Ottawa Hospital they also gave to 16 other Canadian hospitals — a display of Canadian unity at its best.

 “As a family that has benefited so much from Canada over our lifetimes it was important to us to step up when Canada needed us,” says Mr. Nanji. “We have a history of giving to causes close to us, but COVID-19 affects all Canadians and as such, we wanted to do what we could to help all of Canada. My family and I are so proud to help where we can.”

For former hospital President and CEO, Dr. Jack Kitts, this gift is a reminder of the power of collective generosity. “The response from donors to the COVID-19 pandemic was immediate. We’ve heard from supporters, like the Nanjis, from across the country who want to be part of the solution and rally others to join with them. It’s been very inspiring,” says Dr. Kitts.

While The Ottawa Hospital is extremely grateful for this gift, the Nanji family expressed equal gratitude in return. “To the healthcare workers, we are indebted to you beyond words,” says Mrs. Nanji. “We are aware that you have your families to look after, yet you come and look after us and ours.”

To join the Nanji family in supporting The Ottawa Hospital’s efforts to combat COVID-19, and to take advantage of this matching opportunity, please consider a donation today.

Double your donation today, up to $250,000, and
support the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

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