Jennifer Van Noort honoured by the Women’s Business Network
Category: Creating Tomorrow
September 22, 2023, OTTAWA, ON – Jennifer Van Noort, Vice-President of Philanthropy at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation was recognized for her leadership in our community at the annual gala hosted by Women’s Business Network. Van Noort won in the Accomplished Category for Enterprise Leaders. This recognizes women who work for for-profit, not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations, social enterprises, a charity, or a foundation.
In a true testament to Van Noort’s leadership, she was deeply moved by the recognition. “Receiving this award is both an honour and a reminder — that it takes passion, purpose, and a united community to drive real change. Every day, I have the privilege to work with donors who are passionate about supporting The Ottawa Hospital’s mission to provide world-class care, and I couldn’t do what I do without the entire team at the Foundation who works tirelessly to help make that mission a reality.”
Over the last two decades, Van Noort’s leadership has been an invaluable asset to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation where she is an integral part of the $500-million Campaign to Create Tomorrow. Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, celebrated this incredible honour. “Jennifer is standing alongside an elite group of changemakers — and our team couldn’t be prouder. Her impact not only on our Foundation, but also in the community is immeasurable, and her passion and positivity continue to inspire us all.”
For Van Noort, the success she’s experienced is thanks to the generosity of donors and the relationships she’s built over her lengthy career in philanthropy. “I believe at the heart of fundraising is relationship building. Making connections, earning trust, and having the most genuine dialogue possible. It is what informs every aspect of what I do. I also believe that’s why we’ve seen the success we have to date with our historic campaign.”
Van Noort takes the recognition to heart as she and the Foundation team move forward with the campaign that currently stands at $294 million raised.
To join the Campaign to Create Tomorrow in support of The Ottawa Hospital, visit CreatingTomorrow.ca.
About The Ottawa Hospital:
The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals where we are guided by our vision to provide the world-class and compassionate care, we would all want for our loved ones. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, is home to the Regional Trauma Centre and Cancer Centre, and to discoveries that are adopted globally.
Backed by generous support from the community, we are focused on reshaping the future of healthcare to improve the health of our diverse population of patients from eastern Ontario, western Quebec, and Nunavut.
Before January 2008, Georges Gratton and Jeannine Constantin’s family hadn’t needed The Ottawa Hospital. Living in Boucherville, Quebec and then in the Outaouais region of western Quebec, they had always received care at their local hospitals and clinics. But when their grown daughter, Geneviève Gratton, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, she needed specialized care and was transferred to The Ottawa Hospital within one day of her diagnosis.
Specialized care for patients from western Quebec and beyond
This scenario is not unique to Geneviève’s case. In fact, The Ottawa Hospital regularly provides care that extends well beyond the city’s borders, and one quarter of our patients live in a rural area.
Many patients from the Outaouais region choose to or need tocome to The Ottawa Hospital, particularly the Emergency Department for care, or like in Geneviève’s case, for specialized cancer care that they are unable to access closer to home. In addition to those who travel from western Quebec, patients also come from across eastern Ontario and as far away as Nunavut. At times, people from coast to coast come to our hospital for care they can’t get anywhere else.
“Our hospital is uniquely positioned to provide care for patients coming to us from far and wide and with a wide range of needs.”
— Suzanne Madore
According to Suzanne Madore, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Executive, The Ottawa Hospital plays an important role in healthcare delivery in Ottawa and beyond. “Our hospital is uniquely positioned to provide care for patients coming to us from far and wide and with a wide range of needs,” she says. “We have also worked hard to develop multiple collaborative partnerships within the region that provide our patients with access to specialized services.”
Diagnosis leads to stem cell transplant
While this was the first time Geneviève needed our hospital, she was grateful to be receiving the specialized cancer care she needed. At the time, she was working as a notary in Quebec and was a busy mom of three young children — aged 9, 6, and 1 — when her spleen suddenly ruptured.
A month later, she and her husband, Jean-François, noticed she wasn’t healing properly from the surgery to her spleen. She was incredibly weak and pale and was also experiencing a host of other symptoms including red spots all over her body (petechiae), constant nightmares, and fevers.
“My husband brought me to the Hull hospital on two occasions, and when they were taking my blood during one of those visits, my blood started gushing out like a fountain,” recalls Geneviève. “A hematologist took a biopsy and found out it was leukemia.”
Within 24 hours, Geneviève was transferred to The Ottawa Hospital where her specialized care began right away.
Family rallies following leukemia diagnosis
Geneviève’s entire network of family and friends immediately came together to support not only her, but also her husband and her children throughout this ordeal.
“It was like a net unfolding to protect and support me.”
— Geneviève Gratton
After her initial treatment, her medical team said that she needed an allogeneic stem cell transplant, meaning the stem cells needed to come from a donor, rather using Geneviève’s own stem cells. Fortunately, one of Geneviève’s two siblings, her sister Julie Gratton, was a perfect match, and she didn’t hesitate to donate her own stem cells to help save her little sister.
“Although I feared the whole thing, I would do the same if Geneviève would need it again. I was reassured by The Ottawa Hospital on the process of what I would have to do to give my stem cells. It wasn’t painful, and I was well treated” says Julie.
“I would do the same if Geneviève would need it again.”
— Julie Gratton
For Geneviève’s parents, it was a frightening time with a rollercoaster of emotions. They were worried for her and the seriousness of her diagnosis and also deeply grateful that Julie was a match and willing to donate her stem cells. As the transplant date approached, the entire family anxiously waited and hoped for the best.
This expertise paid off. Geneviève’s initial care team included Dr. Mitchell Sabloff, Director of the Ottawa Hospital Leukemia Program, and Hematologist Dr. Jill Fulcher. Following her stem cell transplant on March 29th, 2018, she was cared for by Dr. Natasha Kekre, who was recently named the Research Chair in Advanced Stem Cell Therapy. Dr. Kekre and extended care teams at the General Campus supported Geneviève each step of the way.
The stem cell transplant was a success, and Geneviève has been in remission ever since.
In the weeks following the transplant, Geneviève was weak and fragile, so she stayed in with her parents, who had moved into an apartment in the Ottawa area to care for her. Being at home with her husband and children would have been dangerous for Geneviève, since her immune system was still recovering after the stem cell transplant.
Being apart was difficult, but she was fortunate to be in loving care of parents. With their help, she regained the strength she needed for this next step to healing.
“We wanted to show how thankful we were for what they had done, their kindness and sensitivity in all the care they provided me … My heart was filled with gratitude.”
— Geneviève Gratton
“On the 100th day after my stem cell transplant, since I had passed the darkest period of my life, my mother and I brought two huge cakes to The Ottawa Hospital — one for the team on Module L and one for the fifth-floor team,” says Geneviève. “We wanted to show how thankful we were for what they had done, their kindness and sensitivity in all the care they provided me since January 2018. My heart was filled with gratitude.”
“We are infinitely grateful”
“We want to support the research and care efforts of the hospital and believe that even a small regular donation expresses our support of the hospital.”
— Georges Gratton
It was the lifesaving care Geneviève received at The Ottawa Hospital that inspired Georges and Jeannine to donate, and they’ve been giving ever since – each month. They want to ensure the hospital has the funds they need to continue providing expert care to patients like their daughter.
“We want to support the research and care efforts of the hospital and believe that even a small regular donation expresses our support of the hospital,” says Georges.
Their monthly donations are also a meaningful way to express their deep gratitude for seeing Geneviève beat her cancer and get back to watching her three children grow up.
“We give to say thank you for the wonderful care Geneviève received,” says Jeannine. “The Ottawa Hospital saved her life, and we are infinitely grateful.”
Geneviève is now back to work and spending time with her kids, doing the things she loves most, like reading, boating, and walks in Gatineau Park. She’s not only grateful for her health, but also making the best of each day she’s been given.
Published: September 2023
Alison Hughes was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37. At the time, she was operating her own business and the mother of two young children. The diagnosis was the shock of her life. This is Alison’s story told in her own words.
I haven’t told my story in a while because I had been so much better lately, especially compared to when my world was turned upside down by breast cancer — times three. In fact, I’m lucky to be here. But I wanted to share my story now, because I want more young women to have a story they can relate to. Sadly, breast cancer doesn’t just affect women over 50. By sharing my story, I hope I can help younger women better understand what this journey is all about, because I didn’t really have that when I was first diagnosed ten years ago.
At that time in my life, I owned a consignment store specializing in women’s fashion. I love fashion, so it was a great fit for me. I also had two young children— life was busy.
But then I got the shock of a lifetime. It started when I found a lump on my right breast, and I remember telling my husband at the time that it hurt. He told me not to freak out, but I just had this feeling something was wrong, so I called my doctor.
Little did I know, that was the beginning of my breast cancer journey. I was sent for a mammogram, just to be safe. It was a Friday, and I remember walking into the office and looking around and seeing older women — I was young and hip — no one else looked like me. It wasn’t long after the mammogram that I knew something was wrong. The busy office went quiet, it was like I’d stepped into a movie. Other experts came in and examined my results. It turned out I had stage 3 breast cancer.
My way of coping with a breast cancer diagnosis
I remember someone talking to me, but I honestly don’t remember what they said. Then a lovely nurse sat next to me, and that’s when I felt a tear drop out of my eye, and then I slowly started to cry.
“I can’t do this…I have no room in my life for this right now – this can’t be happening!’
I drove back to my store and remember thinking ‘I can’t do this. I have a two-year-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old. I have no room in my life for this right now – this can’t be happening!’
But it was happening, and within two weeks, I had a PICC line inserted,and chemotherapy soon followed. The news of my diagnosis wasparticularly difficult for my parents because my dad’s mom died from breast cancer in her mid-thirties. So, I said ‘We have one day to cry and then after that, for the outside world, there’s nothing happening.’We hid my diagnosisfromalmost everyone — that was my coping mechanism. Everyone has their own way of coping – this was mine.
Soon, I met Dr. Mark Clemons. I refer to him as my first oncologist and now my foreveroncologist. We clicked. He was well informed, supportive, and had time for all the questions we had for him. He gave me confidence to know that the choices he was making were not from just a singular perspective, he was looking at my total healthcare options.
“Alison is an amazing woman. She is young and has such enthusiasm for life – something her breast cancer is trying to rob her of. But thankfully, the treatment we have now compared to 25 years ago, is night and day. It’s far less toxic and more effective. We also have the availability of clinical trials which Alison has been involved with, including REaCT trials. The REaCT program is Canada’s largest practical trials program, that time and time again shows that we can treat patients with more effective personalized therapies with significantly less cost to the patient and the healthcare system.”
— Dr. Mark Clemons
The specialized team ready to handle my care
But he wasn’t alone. There was an entire team at The Ottawa Hospital ready to help me have more time to watch my children grow.
From September to December 2013, I underwent chemotherapy, but by the fifth and sixth treatment, I was hit hard. My beautiful hair fell out, my skin turned gray, and I was in bed all the time. Then in February of 2014, just as I gained back most of my strength, I had a mastectomy. During that operation, a bunch of lymph nodes from under my right arm were removed and sent for testing. We’d later learn that more than half of them were cancerous. That’s when radiation treatment started.
The care was amazing, and so were the resources made available to me afterwards, because that is a difficult operation to undergo. I had access to psychosocial oncology, as well as a dietitian.
By that summer, I started feeling better, and that’s when I started telling people what I had gone through. Sometimes they’d turn white as a sheet when they heard the news — I really believe it’s because there’s not a lot of women my age that relate to this kind of a diagnosis.
Then after five years, I was doing well and released from the cancer program. I had successfully recovered from breast cancer — or so I thought.
Devastation when cancer metastasized
In 2021, in the middle ofthe pandemic, I experienced a ton of pain in my back and my hips. I started physio and got relief for a few days but then it came back. One day at work, I tripped on a mat, fell, and couldn’t get back up at first. I kept getting this insane spasm. Later that night my parents found me on the floor,unableget up. They helped me into bed, and I stayed there for four days.
Then one day my daughter noticed my leg looked like I’d been burned by a big rod.I looked at my kids and I said, ‘I think I should go to the hospital.’Little did I know my world would be turned upside down, again.
“I went from seeing a physiotherapist because of my back pain to stage 4 cancer with possibly only months to live. It was almost too late.”
Soon, I discoveredmy breast cancer had metastasized. I had compression tumors on my spineand a lesion in my lung. I had a tumouron my liver, and there was cancer in my stomach and in my bones. I also had multiple moving blood clots, which caused that mark on my leg.It was kind of like the house was lit on fire and it was going up in flames.Suddenly, I went from seeing a physiotherapist because of my back pain to stage 4 cancer withpossiblyonlymonths to live. It wasalmost too late.
My body was riddled with cancer
The next thing I knew, I dove back into treatment. I had a radiation team, an oncology team, and a palliative team. I had a home nurse as well as psychological support. The resources are unbelievable.
I moved back in with my parents, along with my kids who were then 10 and 12, because I was at a point where I couldn’t climb a set of stairs, and I couldn’t really function on my own. In addition to the blood clots, I had multiple broken bones from the cancer and crooked shoulders from all the broken bones in back. I was either in a wheelchair or walked with a cane, and my stomach was really bloated because of the disease. There was just so much going on — my body was in emergency mode.
While my extensive team at the hospital mobilized, my parents took care of me and the kids, and our incredible network of neighbours rallied alongside us. That meant I could be in treatment, and the kids could still have some normalcy — they could go outside and play.
Finally, there was some good news
From June 2021 through until February 2022, I had radiation led by Dr. Laval Grimard to help with the cancer in my bones, followed by chemotherapy. After a clinical trial was not successful, Dr. Clemons tried me on a newchemo option that finally brought some hope. InJune 2022, I started to feel better.
By that summer, my spine started straightening, I could move better. And my health continuously improved. All my bones healed, the tumors shrunk, and I could walk unassisted most of the time. I was back working part time as a background actor in movies —maybe you’ve seen me in a Hallmark movie — I also do some modelling.
By the spring of 2023, I had a clear scan, and I went overseas to spend some time in Oxford and London — it was spectacular. But when I returned home in early June, I could feel my body grinding to a halt. I could barely walk. The next thing I knew, I was in a wheelchair — I couldn’t walk. It happened fast.
Little did we know what would come next
Once again, I was thrust into emergency mode to determine what was happening. I had x-rays and scans, and I don’t think any one of us expected to see what we saw on those scans. I was pretty sure this was it for me.
There were new lesions on my lower spin and this time they also found a tumour on my brain. Immediately, my care team acted. My new plan included five radiation treatments on my back and one on my brain. Then I started a new type of chemo treatment in August. This chemo is at the forefront of treatment options, and I can’t thank Dr. Clemons enough. I call it the Cadillac of treatment — I feel really lucky. And the way I see it is, if I can be an early user of this drug and they can learn from me, that’s a good thing.
“My philosophy is, if you can test me or use my blood or do something with me that's going to make things better for someone else, sign me up.”
In fact, when it comes to clinical trials, I’m in total favour of getting involved. I told them,‘You can poke me, learn from me, use me as a case study. Let students practice on me.’I’m already sick, so my philosophy is, if you can test me or use my blood or do something with me that’s going to make things better for someone else, sign me up.I just feel so fortunate to have this level of care and access to clinical trials — even if the one I tried didn’t work, it gave me time. And the medical team learned because of me.
Every day I’m so thankful to have this precious time. Dr. Clemons has even given me the nickname “Puss in Boots” because it’s like I have nine lives. He has such a unique and special way with patients. He asks, ‘What life are we on?’
In fact, I often find myself thinking, ‘Who gets this many chances?’ And that’s why I’m sharing my story. I’m fortunate for the care, the support, and the learning because life doesn’t always gets perfectly tied with a bow — not everyone gets a bow.
I don’t know what the future holds.
I just want the chance to be here for my kids and my family. I do my best to make every day a good day with them and hope that science continues to improve. Today, Rosie is 13 and Raffi is 11. I’m learning to become a mom of teens. I like to think about their high school graduation and university life. I just hope I’ll be able to keep watching them grow, even when they don’t need me as much.
Categories: Clinical Trials, Patient Care
Published: July 2023
Next year, Jean Teron will proudly wear the 100-year-old nursing pin given to her mother in 1924 when she graduated — the same year the Civic Hospital opened its doors on Carling Avenue. “The Ottawa Hospital has been a lifelong part of my family,” says Jean. “My mother and sister were nurses trained there. My siblings and I and my children were born there.”
“The Ottawa Hospital has been a lifelong part of my family.”
— Jean Teron
But this is not the first time the Teron family has made an indelible mark on our city. Jean’s late husband, Bill Teron, was known as the “father of Kanata” for creating a small town amidst farmer’s fields and rock outcroppings west of Ottawa. What started as a dream in the 1960s became a vibrant, thriving place to call home. The Terons know better than most the importance of community.
Jean, Bill, and their family have long been supporters of The Ottawa Hospital — changing lives for decades. In 1977, Bill and Jean donated a kidney preserving machine that allowed surgeons to store and preserve kidneys for up to 40 hours while they matched kidneys with patients on a waitlist. In the years since, they helped build the Dr. Chris Carruthers Operating Room with Jean leading the way as Chair of the $1-million campaign. She was also part of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s Gala committee for years, helping raise funds for research. Together, the Terons contributed to the Legacy Campaign, the Centre for Stem Cell and Gene Therapy, and to fundraising efforts for the hospital through Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.
Jean’s daughter, Kim Teron, has also been actively involved with Partners Investing in Parkinson’s Research (PIPR) since 2011, when Kim’s husband Ross was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Jean and other family members have rallied behind Kim who has worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for this cause.
It’s clear the Teron family is determined to make a difference.
Now, Jean’s generous gift will play a vital role in propelling The Campaign to Create Tomorrow forward, helping forge a brighter future for the community she loves by advancing medical research, expanding state-of-the-art facilities, and transforming patient care.
“As one citizen, it’s important to me that individuals and businesses in Ottawa give to this campaign to show how much the community supports the building of a great new hospital.”
— Jean Teron
Jean hopes her gift will help ignite a spark, inspiring others to follow her lead. “As one citizen, it’s important to me that individuals and businesses in Ottawa give to this campaign to show how much the community supports the building of a great new hospital,” she says. “I do hope that when people see lists of those who have donated, they too will be encouraged to participate.”
Like any bride-to-be, MechelleKulker is dealing with the stress that comes with planning a wedding. But she is also facing a lot more than booking a venue, hiring a photographer, and finding “The Dress.” Mechelle has an aggressive form of breast cancer.
“I kind of had an idea in my head that it was probably cancer.”
In February of 2020, Mechelle discovered a lump in her breast. She was 29 years old at the time, teaching Grades 3 and 4, and busy with work and with life. But, at the urging of her boyfriend, Kent Lampkie, she made an appointment to see her doctor. That quickly led to an ultrasound, a mammogram, and then a biopsy — all this as COVID-19 was unfolding with fury.
“I kind of had an idea in my head that it was probably cancer,” says Mechelle, “and when my doctor called me and confirmed it, I kind of went a little bit blank. And I remember just crying.”
The news was about to get worse. Mechelle was diagnosed with Stage 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), a rare and aggressive form of cancer that disproportionally affects young women in the prime of their lives, like Mechelle.
“TNBC is the least common subtype of breast cancer with the worst prognosis,” explains Dr. Moira Rushton, Mechelle’s oncologist. “It is negative for the estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2 amplification, hence the description ‘triple negative breast cancer’, meaning there are no specific drug targets we can take advantage of.”
The treatment for TNBC is also aggressive. Mechelle had preoperative chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy, then went on a chemotherapy pill after surgery for residual disease — but the side effects were very challenging.
“I felt like it was everywhere.”
A few months later, a CT scan picked up spots on her lungs and the lymph nodes around her heart. An MRI showed spots on her brain, and the cancer was also in her bones — including a 7cm metastasis on her femur.This required surgery to place a metal rod in her leg to prevent it from breaking. Mechelle’s cancer was now Stage 4.
“I was counting down the days, waiting for it to end, and then it never ends.”
“I was counting down the days, waiting for it to end,” she says, breaking down in tears, “and then it never ends. I felt like it was everywhere.”
Having responded poorly to most standard treatments, Mechelle says she was one of the first patients at The Ottawa Hospital to be put on a drug called sacituzumab govitecan (aka Trodelvy). Dr. Rushton explains that this drug was the first approved antibody drug conjugate for triple negative breast cancer — and it’s been improving survival for these patients.
“In Mechelle’s case, it’s been an absolute game changer,” says Dr. Rushton. “Had she not started Trodelvy last February, I do not think she would be alive today.”
“Her disease has almost completely disappeared on imaging, which is nothing short of a miracle.”
“It started shrinking the tumours in my lungs and bones immediately,” adds Mechelle. “It took a while, but there’s actually no active disease in my bones as of right now. So Trodelvy is keeping everything stable, except my brain.”
Mechelle has developed a number of small brain metastases requiring repeat treatments with the CyberKnife. This radiosurgery robot is one of only a handful in Canada and was funded entirely by donor support. It provides patients like Mechelle with radiation therapy that is more powerful and accurate than regular radiation.
Despite the ongoing treatment, Dr. Rushton agrees that overall, Mechelle’s progress has been incredible. “The disease in her lungs is no longer visible on CT scans when previously it could only be described as “cannonball lesions.” In fact, the cancer has almost completely disappeared on imaging, which is nothing short of a miracle.”
During all this, Mechelle started thinking of ways to raise awareness of Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
“It is very aggressive and requires more treatment options. This can only be made possible through research at leading Canadian hospitals like The Ottawa Hospital.”
“I wanted to give back to The Ottawa Hospital because they've been so wonderful to me.”
She also wanted to focus on the exceptional care she’s been receiving so she started her own fundraiser in support of cancer research, successfully raising thousands of dollars so far.
“I wanted to give back to the Ottawa Hospital because they’ve been so wonderful to me. The nurses are just incredible people. They ask me about my wedding plans.”
It’s been a stressful three years for Mechelle and Kent, who is now her fiancé, but they remain positive and have been travelling as much as they can: swimming in Costa Rica and hiking in Maine.
“For the most part, we kind of pretend like it’s not happening and live our lives the way we want,” says Mechelle. “When I was first diagnosed, I was told my prognosis was a year, and at this point, I’ve gone two years. I’m hoping these new drugs will help extend my life.”
Also, she’s hoping research will change the trajectory for anyone else diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, and through her fundraising efforts she’s doing her part to make that a reality.
Despite all she’s been through, Mechelle did find “The Dress.” She and Kent will get married this August at her childhood home in Prince Edward County.
Congratulations to Mechelle and Kent, and thank you Mechelle, for your fundraising efforts for cancer research.
We’re thrilled to announce that The Ottawa Hospital Auxiliary has once again made a significant contribution to patient care at our hospital with a recent $1-million donation. This gift will be used to purchase 14 Philips MX750 cardiac monitors for our hospital’s Emergency Department observation units at the Civic and General Campuses.
These monitors, which include portable capabilities, are used to track heart function and record the patient’s heart rate and rhythm. According to Dr. Guy Hébert, Head of the Department of Emergency Medicine, these devices will significantly improve the department’s ability to perform cardiac monitoring.
“Gifts like this allow us to provide the very best care to patients.”
— Dr. Guy Hébert
“The Ottawa Hospital Auxiliary fills an essential role at our hospital, and we are grateful for their support. This new equipment will allow us to properly monitor and track patients’ cardiac activity during our time observing them and caring for them in the Emergency department,” says Dr. Hébert. “Gifts like this allow us to provide the very best care to patients.”
This donation comes less than a year after their $2.5-million donation in 2022. In total, they’ve donated more than $14 million in a little over a decade, which has supported a wide range of patient needs, from emergency clothing and necessities to lifesaving equipment — even an MRI machine.
“We know the funds we provide are making a tangible difference to our hospital community.”
— Catherine Higgens
The Auxiliary has been meeting patients’ needs in one way or another for almost 125 years. Each of the hospital’s three campuses used to have their own separate auxiliary, but in 2021 they amalgamated into one unified and efficient operation and emerged from the change more determined than ever. They generate income through a variety of initiatives, including on-campus vendors and retail spaces like the Civic’s gift shop and auxiliary shop as well as the General’s Boutique.
The Auxiliary is passionate about being an “on-the-ground organization,” according to the President of their Board of Directors, Catherine Higgens and is proud to make a difference. “When we see critical equipment being purchased, patients’ immediate needs being met, or see our volunteers making a difference in someone’s day, it motivates us,” she says. “We know the funds we provide are making a tangible difference to our hospital community.”
When Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma returned shortly after completing six rounds of chemotherapy, 73-year-old Patrick Morris was shocked to his core.
“No one plans to get cancer. No one prepares for cancer. Receiving this diagnosis was profoundly shocking. It jolted me. It was a life-changing event,” remembers Patrick. “You realize very suddenly that the life you had before will never be the same. A cancer diagnosis humbles you.”
Patrick’s hematologist, Dr. Andrew Aw, called it “refractory cancer”, because while it had responded to chemotherapy, it started to grow again — quickly. So, Dr. Aw scheduled a new round of chemotherapy to begin immediately.
This was a challenging time for Patrick, who, up until this point in his life, was fortunate to be in good health and never one to sit idly. In fact, he enjoyed significant success as an elite ski jumper in the late 60s and early 70s, and that same drive propelled him to the top of his industry as an award-winning, Ottawa-area real estate agent with a successful brokerage, the Morris Home Team at Royal LePage Performance Realty.
Caring for his ‘soulmate’
An important part of Patrick’s success story was his wife, Susan. Vibrant, caring, and fun-loving, Susan was his business partner for years and his soulmate. She was also an outstanding mom to their three daughters and a doting “nana”. But in 2017, Susan developed Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body Dementia. Patrick cared for her 24/7, but she continued to decline and eventually required long-term care in 2021.
“The memories we shared are now my treasured souvenirs.”
– Patrick Morris
“I was lucky to have Susan as my wife, my business partner for many years, and my soulmate,” says Patrick. “Our marriage worked because it was a never-ending love story.”
While she no longer recognizes Patrick or their daughters, he remains deeply grateful for more than four decades together. “The memories we shared are now my treasured souvenirs.”
Exploring CAR T-cell therapy
As Patrick faced his own health challenges, it would seem the cancer was not backing down. During his second series of treatments, he received yet another shock – the cancer had spread to his lower neck. Dr. Aw was concerned, but he had a plan — one that would ultimately save Patrick’s life.
“Dr. Aw told me ‘We cannot let this get to your brain.’ And that’s when we stopped the second chemo treatment, and he recommended daily radiation.” Then, Dr. Aw explored whether Patrick was eligible for CAR T-cell therapy.
This revolutionary therapy uses the patient’s own immune cells, known as T-cells, to treat their cancer. T-cells play a critical role in the immune system by killing abnormal cells, but sometimes, cancerous cells can hide from the T-cells that are meant to kill them. However, with CAR-T therapy, those T-cells are collected and reprogrammed in the lab to be able to recognize the cancerous cells. These reprogrammed cells are then infused back into the patient, where they multiply by the millions to attack and kill the cancer.
“Every doctor, nurse, physiotherapist — everyone associated with my CAR T-cell therapy — was determined to see me have a future.”
– Patrick Morris
Patrick’s T-cells were sent to the United States for reprogramming, but researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, working with colleagues in BC, have developed the first made-in-Canada CAR-T therapy. This approach is enabling more equitable access to CAR-T therapy across the country, while also fueling groundbreaking research into better CAR-T therapies that may work for more kinds of cancer. This kind of research is possible because of the hospital’s world-class research facilities and resources, including the Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre and Ottawa Methods Centre.
Cancer treatment delivers knockout punch
For Patrick, CAR T-cell therapy proved to be a knockout punch for the lymphoma. Since receiving the treatment in November 2022. Patrick’s scans show no signs of cancer.
“The CAR T-cell therapy saved my life. I am in remission and have a future.”
– Patrick Morris
“When you’re faced with your own mortality, it impacts your life forever. You want the finest medical science and practitioners on your side,” says Patrick. “As an inpatient, I witnessed firsthand the dedication, commitment, and devotion of every healthcare worker. Every doctor, nurse, physiotherapist — everyone associated with my CAR T-cell treatment — was determined to see me have a future.”
The support he received from his care team was mirrored by his family and community, who, as Patrick is quick to point out, are also affected when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. “My daughters in Ottawa were my angels on the ground. They put hundreds of kilometres on their cars, driving me back and forth to the Cancer Centre and ensuring I was cared for at home,” recalls Patrick. “My youngest daughter who lives out of town was in constant communication with me, and if she lived here, she would have shared the responsibility of support. My siblings and relatives were huge cheerleaders. My neighbours, friends, and business colleagues were rooting for me every day. There were so many helpful and supportive people. It helped me remain positive especially during the most difficult hours.”
Deep gratitude leads to first-time donation
Never far from Patrick’s mind while battling lymphoma was Susan and what she would say to him if she were able. “I know that I must look to the future. That is something my wife would say to me, and she would insist that I listen to her,” says Patrick. “It makes me smile because when I listened to Susan, she was usually correct.”
With the future in mind, and to show his gratitude, Patrick decided to make a sizable first-time donation to The Ottawa Hospital of $150,000. He hopes it will inspire others to give and will help future patients benefit from the groundbreaking treatments being developed at the hospital — like the CAR-T-cell therapy he received. He is also giving his time volunteering as a table host for the hospital’s annual President’s Breakfast and rallying others to join him for the important event.
“I will be a proud donor to The Ottawa Hospital to help support the development of more research.”
– Patrick Morris
“The Ottawa Hospital is a forerunner in immunotherapy,” he says. “I will be a proud donor to help support the development of more research — because more research produces more discoveries. CAR T-cell therapy saved my life. I am in remission and have a future.”
June 19, 2023, OTTAWA, ON – Partners with Deloitte Canada stepped forward to support the historic Campaign to Create Tomorrow in an unprecedented way. With a goal of $1 million, members of the Deloitte partner team showed their dedication and commitment to this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Through the leadership of Mark Noonan, Vice Chair, Deloitte, and member of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation Board of Directors, the partners realized their goal. “Corporate responsibility is vitally important to further enhance our city, especially when it comes to our health. Our partners at Deloitte, along with their family members and friends, understood the need for this new hospital campus and we now encourage our peers in the industry to join us to help build the most patient-centred and technologically advanced research hospital in the country. We couldn’t be prouder to lead the way.”
With 50 partners from Deloitte’s Ottawa group participating in this special effort to support the Campaign to Create Tomorrow, Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation said this is an excellent example of businesses coming together to reshape healthcare for future generations. “We’re deeply grateful to Mark, who led this fundraising initiative and engaged his partners. They put their hands up and each made a personal commitment to the campaign. They recognized the need to build the new hospital campus and take our research to the next level. It’s really inspiring, and I believe other community-minded businesses will follow suit.”
To join the Campaign to Create Tomorrow in support of The Ottawa Hospital, visit CreatingTomorrow.ca.
About The Ottawa Hospital:
The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals where we are guided by our vision to provide the world-class and compassionate care we would all want for our loved ones. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, is home to the Regional Trauma Centre and Cancer Centre, and to new discoveries that are adopted globally to save lives.
Backed by generous support from the community, we are focused on reshaping the future of healthcare to improve the lives of our diverse population of patients from eastern Ontario, western Quebec, and Nunavut.
If there’s one word that comes to mind when you first meet Major James Morrison (Ret’d), it’s “dedication.” He is deeply dedicated to his country, his wife, and our healthcare system. It’s a loyalty that spanned decades — the major will be 100 years old in 2024. He was born the same year The Ottawa Hospital Civic campus first opened in 1924.
Every year, for the last 29 years, Major Morrison has generously donated to The Ottawa Hospital.
“I owe it to the hospital for the care they gave me.”
— Major James Morrison
When asked what motivates him to give so loyally, he answers with a charming smile. “Well, mostly because I was a customer there. And I owe it to the hospital for the care they gave me.”
First, it was heart issues. Then, ten years ago, prostate cancer.
“I was treated very well there,” he says, recounting how, at the end of his cancer treatment, he got to ring the bell not once, but eight times.
“Because that’s the Navy tradition. That’s either noon or midnight,” he explains, referring to the tradition of ringing of the ship’s bell eight times to mark the “end of watch,” or in some instances, as a nautical euphemism for finished.
Despite Major Morrison’s nod to this special tradition, it was not the Navy where he spent his long career, but the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he enlisted at just 18 years old.
“I was only 118 pounds and they said, ‘We can’t take you until you’re 120. Go home and fatten up.’ So, I went home and fattened up,” he recounts.
During the Second World War, he was posted to the Southeast Asia Air Command, and following the war, he transported prisoners to the War Crimes Trials.
Major Morrison married the love of his life, Betty, in 1951, and together they started a family. His career took them to various posts across Canada, and in 1970, he was an Officer Commanding at the Canadian Armed Forces Operation Centre in Ottawa, where he delivered instructions when the War Measures Act was invoked on October 16 of that year.
Later in life, he began patrolling public areas of the airport as the Ottawa Airport Watch, and Betty accompanied him on many of those night shifts. He made his final patrol in January 2014 — on his ninetieth birthday.
These are but a few milestones on a journey that has spanned nearly 10 decades on this earth, from the highs of first enlisting as a young man to the lows of his wife’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. “She doesn’t know who I am anymore.”
The two have been married 72 years, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t visit her.
It’s clear Major Morrison is loyal to the core. And while many of his stories are about the past, it’s the future he wants people in Ottawa to focus on; and he encourages others to support The Ottawa Hospital’s Campaign to Create Tomorrow.
“You should invest in this because you may need it in the future at some point.”
— Major James Morrison
The $500-million campaign is the largest in Ottawa’s history and sets in motion a vision to completely reshape healthcare by building the most technologically advanced hospital in Canada and taking groundbreaking research and innovation to unprecedented heights. And it’s something Major Morrison believes is worth supporting.
“You should invest in this because you may need it in the future at some point,” he offers as wise advice to generations that follow. “This new campus is for them.”
The new hospital is expected to open in 2028, and we would love to see Major Morrison there on opening day. “I was sort of looking forward to seeing it,” he says.
Major James Morrison, thank you for your service to our country and our community.
Categories: Patient Care
Published: June 2023
When someone suffers a stroke, the results can be devastating, from severe debilitation to death. An intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) stroke, more commonly known as a bleeding stroke, is the most serious form of this disease. However, after decades with little in the way of treatment advancements, a global research trial being led in Canada by The Ottawa Hospital could mean an effective treatment is finally on the horizon.
The Ottawa Hospital is recognized worldwide for its expertise in neuroscience, and we’ve made significant strides in addressing today’s most pressing challenges in this area of medicine — including our international, groundbreaking work in stroke. In fact, we are leading the way in how stroke care is delivered in Canada.
“The ICH stroke makes up roughly a quarter of strokes. It’s more common as people's ages go up. In Canada, we have an aging population, so we're seeing more and more cerebral hemorrhage.”
Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi is a stroke neurologist and senior scientist in the neuroscience program at our hospital. He is leading the Canadian site of the research trial and hopes it will change the way we treat the deadliest and least treatable form of stroke. “The ICH stroke makes up roughly a quarter of strokes. It’s more common as people age. In Canada, we have an aging population, so we’re seeing more and more cerebral hemorrhage,” explains Dr. Dowlatshahi.
All about stroke
Stroke is a disease that occurs within the arteries — also called blood vessels — that are connected to and within the brain. These arteries carry vital nutrients and oxygen to the brain. A stroke occurs when one of these arteries is either blocked by a clot or bursts, preventing the oxygen and nutrients from reaching the brain and causing the artery and brain cells to die.
The first thing to happen when someone experiences a stroke is they lose an ability ─ and it happens fast. This is the case whether it’s an ischemic stroke (blood clot) or a bleeding stroke. “For example, they’ll suddenly not be able to move an arm or leg, you’ll see their face droop, or they’ll lose the ability to speak. They may lose vision, or they may also collapse to the floor,” explains Dr. Dowlatshahi.
“For any type of stroke, we use the acronym FAST. If you suddenly see a person’s face get droopy, that’s the F. Ask them to lift their arm, and if they can’t, that’s the A, if their speech changes, that’s the S, and the T in FAST is for time. If you see these symptoms, you need to call 911 immediately.”
How can you check if someone is having a stroke?
If you suspect someone is having a stroke, experts recommend using the F.A.S.T. method.
Face: Ask them to smile. Look for if one side droops.
Arms: Ask them to raise their arms. Look for if one arm doesn’t lift as high or at all.
Speech: Ask them to speak. Look for if their words are slurred or seem unusual.
Time: If any of these signs appear, call 911 right away, and note when the first sign appeared.
In the Champlain region, which includes Renfrew County, Ottawa, North Lanark, North Grenville, Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, as well as Prescott-Russell, the rapid response stroke system is excellent, according to Dr. Dowlatshahi. “When you call 911, they can identify the correct stroke hospital to take the patient to, and they call ahead. In the Champlain region, that hospital would be the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital. Our stroke team knows they’re coming, and we’re ready to receive the individual.”
When it’s a stroke where a blood clot has formed in the vessel, there have been significant advancements in care when the patient arrives at the Emergency Department. Those treatments include new clot-busting medications or pulling the clots out with new technology.
However, when the vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain, it’s a more devastating stroke — one that occurs every five minutes in Canada. About 80% of people who have this type of stroke are permanently disabled, while about 40% don’t survive past the first month.
“And nothing’s been successful in the past 20 years as far as treatment, except for bringing down the blood pressure a little bit. That helps, but not in a major way,” explains Dr. Dowlatshahi. “So, we’ve been working very hard over the last decade here, and with our international colleagues, to come up with an approach to treat this type of stroke.
Global intracerebral hemorrhage stroke research trial may lead to better outcomes
Now, a global research trial being led in Canada by our hospital could result in the first drug treatment for ICH stroke patients.
The trial is called FASTEST, referring to the importance of treating a patient who has a bleeding stroke as fast as possible — in under two hours. “It’s a very aggressive, fast trial, and we give the patient a compound that helps stop the bleeding. This compound is called factor VII,” says Dr. Dowlatshahi.
“When a vessel bursts in the brain, it starts squishing that brain and damaging it, and you must get to it as fast as possible to stop the bleeding.”
Factor VII is one of many clotting factors naturally produced by our bodies. As Dr. Dowlatshahi explains, the drug in the trial is a synthesized version of factor VII, and time is crucial. “The reason we want to act fast is, if you can imagine you have a pipe that bursts and you’re getting water everywhere, what you’re trying to do is seal the pipe before all the water comes out and damages everything around it,” he says. “That analogy holds all too true for the brain because it’s a closed compartment. It’s got a skull around it. When a vessel bursts in the brain, it starts squishing that brain and damaging it, and you must get to it as fast as possible to stop the bleeding.”
When a patient with an ICH stroke arrives at The Ottawa Hospital, the trial protocol allows the stroke team to access this new therapy. It’s randomized testing, so neither patients nor the care team know whether the actual drug or the placebo was administered.
In 2021, the trial launched. The Ottawa Hospital was the first centre in Canada and enrolled the first two patients worldwide. “Typically, you would think the U.S. would get the first patient because they’re bigger, they have more centres, but it was actually us — it was here in Canada,” says Dr. Dowlatshahi. To date, six countries are participating in this trial including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, and Japan.
What are the early indicators?
While the testing is randomized, there are early indicators that give reason to be optimistic about what the results of this trial could mean for stroke patients in the future.
In fact, Dr. Dowlatshahi cites the first patient enrolled was an 80-year-old woman who arrived at the hospital in 2021 suffering from a life-threatening stroke. She was enrolled in the study, and less than a week later, she walked out of the hospital. That’s not something this stroke specialist typically witnesses in this type of patient. “She did amazing to the point that she returned completely back to normal,” he explains. “We also got the second patient in the world — both did spectacularly. We’re now up to six patients in Ottawa.”
“If you are in Ottawa and suffer this type of stroke, you have a 50% chance of getting something that nobody else can get — something that may very well be the future standard of care.”
Globally, 172 people have been enrolled in the trial with an eventual target of 860. While this is a randomized, blinded trial with final results still to come, Dr. Dowlatshahi believes this treatment could be a game changer for stroke patients after decades of little in the way of options. And for those living in the Ottawa region, they get access to something few Canadians have at this stage. “If you’re somewhere where this trial is not available, you would go to the emergency department, get your blood pressure lowered, and receive the best of the standard care available,” explains Dr. Dowlatshahi. “However, if you are in Ottawa and suffer this type of stroke, you have a 50% chance of getting something nobody else can get — something that may very well be the future standard of care.”
“This research means a type of stroke that affects one out of four, that is currently the most lethal and the most disabling type of stroke, could become completely treatable.”
And while the research teams continue to recruit more patients into the trial, not only here at The Ottawa Hospital, but also at all the other sites around the world, there is optimism that this could be the long-awaited breakthrough for patients who suffer from ICH stroke. “This research means a type of stroke that affects one out of four, that is currently the most lethal and the most disabling type of stroke, could become completely treatable.”
Categories: Clinical Trials, Neuro, World-Leading Research, World-Leading Research
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Before January 2008, Georges Gratton and Jeannine Constantin's family never needed care outside their local hospital in Quebec. That was until their 37-year-old daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and the specialized care she needed was at The Ottawa Hospital. Now, they are giving back to show their gratitude.
Alison Hughes was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37. At the time, she was running her own business and the mother of two young children. The diagnosis was the shock of her life. Alison shares her story, in her own words, about how The Ottawa Hospital helped give her more time with her children.
For decades, the Teron family has been reshaping our city through their philanthropy, community building, and vision for a better Ottawa. Now, with a significant gift to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow, Jean Teron is hoping to ignite a spark of giving.
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