Growing up in a military family, Janet McKeage was always on the move. While the cities changed, her family’s open-door policy remained the same. Her parents were always ready to help others and give back, and to this day, she credits them for instilling that core value she and her husband now share with their four children. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but they taught me the importance of helping the people around you in any way that you can. Often, there were young military members who didn’t have family nearby, and they were always welcome at our dinner table — we’d often have many people joining us for a meal,” recalls Janet. 

When she was in her early 20s, Janet lost her father to pancreatic cancer. He died several months after his diagnosis, but Janet vividly recalls the care and compassion he received from his team of specialists here at The Ottawa Hospital. Then, almost ten years ago, another devastating blow — Janet’s dear friend, Sindy, was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “So that’s what brought me to support the hospital. I knew my dad had had great care. And I had a very dear friend that needed the same great care my dad received. Then, when I grew to learn more about the research side of the hospital, I was really blown away.” 

“When I think about success for anyone in life, the most important thing is health — having a hospital in our city that is full of leading research, new discoveries, new treatments and having the best care that we can possibly have — it’s critical.”

– Janet McKeage

Today, as Senior Investment Counsellor, RBC PH&N Investment Counsel, Janet feels very fortunate to have a career that has spanned 30 years with RBC. It aligns closely to her own philanthropic values by helping families with their own health and wealth investments. Janet is quick to point out how closely the two are intertwined and that’s what influences her own philanthropic leadership for The Ottawa Hospital. “When I think about success for anyone in life, the most important thing is health — having a hospital in our city that is full of leading research, new discoveries, new treatments, and having the best care that we can possibly have — it’s critical.” 

“It’s not about being involved with an organization because it looks good on your resume. It’s about really caring and doing things that are meaningful.”

– Janet McKeage

While supporting the hospital is one thing, Janet also took action. It started by running with Sindy’s #MEMC (Make Every Moment Count) Crew as a part of Run for a Reason. Next, she became a volunteer and then co-chair of our President’s Breakfast, then joined our Foundation’s board of directors, and in June 2022, became chair. “It’s not about being involved with an organization because it looks good on your resume. It’s about really caring and doing things that are meaningful. This role as chair of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is a bit of a culmination of all the things that matter and allows me to bring some of my business background, my volunteering and dedication to something that I’m passionate about. I believe the hospital is critical and core to any successful community, to any family. Let’s face it, if people haven’t experienced the hospital to this point in their life, they certainly will one day, and I want to make sure that it’s the best for everyone.” 

That’s why Janet is stepping forward for our GivingTuesday campaign on November 29, 2022, with a commitment to match each gift 3X up to $100,000.

Janet is more motivated than ever after recently learning Sindy’s cancer has returned. “It’s philanthropy that’s helped with the incredible care Sindy has received. It’s been almost 10 years since her initial diagnosis, and I’m grateful for every day. More research is needed to give people, like Sindy, hope for a better outcome,” explains Janet. 

While Janet pushes forward to help build support for our hospital. She also keeps the powerful message of her dear friend close to heart — make every moment count.   

Cyril Leeder and Janet McKeage, co-chairs of the President’s Breakfast for The Ottawa Hospital from 2018-2020.
2022 President’s Breakfast Co-Chair Sarah Grand with Janet McKeage, Chair of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s Board of Directors. Photo by Ashley Fraser

As part of the Creative Wellbeing program

Join us as we celebrate the winners of the 2022 TRIAS Art Prize. The artwork will appear in public spaces at The Ottawa Hospital with the aim of enhancing care through powerfully restorative art, engaging the community, and supporting artists from Ottawa, Eastern Ontario, Western Quebec, and Nunavut.

For more information, please contact:

Emma Campbell: ecampbell@oaggao.ca or
Jodi Parker: jodparker@toh.ca

Published: November 2022

When caring for patients who suffer from a stroke — time is of the essence. In Canada, stroke is the third leading cause of death and disability in adults, but an innovative and ever-evolving stroke treatment, called thrombectomy, used at The Ottawa Hospital, is a game changer. The Ottawa Hospital is recognized worldwide for expertise in neuroscience, and we’ve made significant strides in addressing today’s most pressing challenges in neuroscience — including our international, groundbreaking work in stroke. In fact, we are leading the way in how stroke care is delivered in Canada, including the use of thrombectomy.

Ten years ago, a thrombectomy was an experimental stroke treatment — with life-altering potential. Dr. Robert Fahed was a medical student doing his residency program in neurology at a prestigious hospital in Paris, France, when he was first introduced to this novel procedure. In fact, he vividly recalls the results from the first thrombectomy he witnessed. “A woman in her 50s suffered a massive stroke. Her right side was paralyzed, and she was unable to speak because of the stroke. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a candidate for a drug used to dissolve the clot in the brain,” explains Dr. Fahed. “I thought to myself, this poor woman will be paralyzed for the rest of her life, if she survives.”

That’s when a member of the care team explained they were going to try an experimental treatment called thrombectomy. Dr. Fahed continued with his rounds and 30 minutes later, he received a shocking call. “The patient was moving her right arm. She wasn’t paralyzed anymore. I immediately thought, ‘I don’t know what happened in that room, but I want to be the one doing these interventions. I want to be the one bringing those people back to life. That’s what I want to do.’”

Attracting the best and brightest from around the world

Today, Dr. Fahed is one of only four interventional neuroradiologists and stroke neurologists in Canada. He was recruited to The Ottawa Hospital in 2019 — fulfilling his childhood dream of coming to live in Canada.

His parents immigrated to France from Syria before he and his sister were born, hoping for a better life for their children. Growing up in the suburbs of Paris, Dr. Fahed watched his father, a neurologist, care for patients day in and day out. And so, the field of neurology was a natural path for him to follow. “I’ve always liked neurology. It was pretty clear to me that I wanted to become a doctor. I was seeing my father as my hero. One of my very first electives was in stroke neurology.”

“The Ottawa Hospital is famous for its expertise in stroke. We have a very strong stroke program, and are a high-volume centre where we perform these treatments 150 to 200 times a year.”

— Dr. Robert Fahed
“The Ottawa Hospital is famous for its expertise in stroke. We have a very strong stroke program, and are a high-volume centre where we perform these treatments 150 to 200 times a year.”

— Dr. Robert Fahed
Meet Dr. Fahed

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

Dr. Fahed did most of his training at the Rothschild Hospital in France, which he describes as one of the centres where interventional neurology was pioneered. But this young physician also had a deep desire to do research, so he completed a master’s degree in Montreal before returning to Paris — but always longed to come back to Canada. “The Ottawa Hospital is known for its great research infrastructure and how much it supports researchers.” 

New technology changes the outcome for stroke patients

One-quarter of Canadians living with stroke are under age 65, and the risk of stroke rises rapidly after age 55. Eighty-seven percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes — when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked by a clot.

The late Dr. Cheeman Lum and Dr. Dowlatshahi helped pioneer a technique called endovascular thrombectomy (ET) that saved the lives of numerous stroke patients. The findings from the trial known as ESCAPE were released in 2015. This unique procedure is performed by inserting a thin tube in the groin, where it travels through an artery until it reaches the clot in the brain. With the help of X-ray technology, the clot is then sucked out with the help of a pump, restoring blood flow to the brain.

“We're aiming to remove the clot completely, on the first try. We call it a home run.”

– Dr. Robert Fahed

While this was a groundbreaking procedure, more work was needed to better perfect it as they could only re-open the blocked artery 50 to 60% of the time. “That clot is not always easy to remove. Sometimes you need to try multiple times. Sometimes you can only remove part of it. If you can only partially reopen the vessel, you only partially restore blood flow, which means that some regions of the brain will be damaged. So, we’re aiming to remove the clot completely, on the first try. We call it a home run,” says Dr. Fahed.

These home runs are becoming increasingly common thanks to new technology — and the results can be lifechanging. A patient can go from being paralyzed and unable to speak to talking and walking within 20 minutes of the procedure.

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.

How we helped refine the technology to provide better outcomes

Recently, a new catheter device developed by a start-up in Kitchener-Waterloo showed promise at removing the clot on the first try. The company reached out to our stroke team for help in testing the effectiveness of the Health Canada approved equipment. “The Ottawa Hospital is famous for its expertise in stroke. We have a very strong stroke program and are a high-volume centre where we perform these treatments 150 to 200 times a year,” says Dr. Fahed.  

He adds, “We also have unparalleled scientific expertise in the design of studies to evaluate these tools. Because when you create a tool, you can’t just use it. You need to try it, evaluate it, and see if it’s safe and efficient. So, the company approached me and Dr. Brian Drake to investigate.” 

They used 3D-printed silicone models to test this new stroke treatment option using fake clots in 3D-printed blood vessels that mimic a brain. They spent many hours trying different ways to use this catheter. “We wanted to determine the best and most effective way to use it in patients, and we found an approach that was very promising and extremely efficient in the silicone model. Then we designed a study that uses the catheter in stroke patients, and we will compare the results of this trial with trials using different tools and devices,” says Dr. Fahed.  

"If the results continue this way, it's a major game changer. It's going to be a huge revolution in this field.”

– Dr. Robert Fahed

So far, the results are extremely promising. The success rate of pulling the clot out on the first try — the ‘home run’ — has increased significantly since using this newly devised catheter. “We are now able to pull the clot out completely on the first try in the vast majority of patients. If the results continue this way, it’s a major game changer. It’s going to be a huge revolution in this field.” 

What’s the connection between COVID-19 and strokes?

COVID-19 has been found to cause neurological complications, not just respiratory issues. Early studies show that COVID-19 could more than double the risk of a stroke, especially in people with other risk factors. Multiple studies have shown even young people are at a higher risk of stroke because of COVID-19. People who experience a stroke with COVID-19 are also at a higher risk for death or disability.

Disruptive innovations and treatments thanks to research

Dr. Robert Fahed_neuroradiology_The Ottawa Hospital_profile

“I'm proud to be part of such disruptive innovations and treatments — there is a lot of excitement in our field because the future is even brighter.”

– Dr. Robert Fahed

This treatment could be transformative for stroke patients and their families, and it if it continues to be successful, the benefits will be felt across the country impacting thousands — saving the lives of more people and saving them from disability. “I’m proud to be part of such disruptive innovations and treatments — there is a lot of excitement in our field,” smiles Dr. Fahed. 

Research plays a vital role in where we are today and the innovative advancements we’ve seen to date. “Today’s research is tomorrow’s care. What we are studying today will be the cutting-edge, groundbreaking, disruptive treatment that we can offer to our patients tomorrow,” explains Dr. Fahed.

His constant search for new stroke treatment options continues in the research he does today. Dr. Fahed is currently assessing whether algorithms used to determine which people are eligible for thrombectomy may be missing some patients. He’s testing these algorithms to make sure they give the same answers when assessed by different physicians or machines. There’s also research into the type of drugs to give stroke patients when they’re with paramedics, prior to the arrival at the hospital.  

Patient Testimonial
Mary Vanstone arrived at the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital on September 27, 2022, after suffering a stroke at her home in Perth, Ontario.
Patient Testimonial
The ischemic stroke had completely paralyzed her left side. Dr. Robert Fahed was in the Interventional Neuroradiology Angio suite that afternoon and performed a thrombectomy on Mary shortly after her arrival.
Patient Testimonial
“They initially didn’t know what the long-term effects would be for me physically and even my brain when I first arrived. But I’m even better than I was before. They said I would likely be in for a week, but the next day, after the procedure, they said I could go home — everything was good! The hospital was fantastic. It was amazing.”

– Mary Vanstone
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According to Dr. Fahed, the future is bright, rapidly changing, and improving the lives of more patients. “The pace of evolution and improvement is exponentially higher and better every year. My job is already so different than what it was 10 years ago when I started. And 10 years from now, it will be a completely different field. We will be doing so many more things and doing them so much better.”

It’s a world that continues to fascinate this physician, much like that first thrombectomy he witnessed years ago.

“Today's research is tomorrow's care. What we are studying today will be the cutting-edge, groundbreaking, disruptive treatment that we can offer to our patients tomorrow.”

– Dr. Robert Fahed

Key stroke stats and facts

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

The true leaders in a community are those who step forward when they hear the call for help, use their position to lift up those around them, and inspire others to do the same.

It is that kind of leadership that drives the Mierins family to give back in significant ways.

Lisa Mierins says her family has personally experienced exceptional care at The Ottawa Hospital over the years, especially when both her parents required hospitalization. In fact, her father, Arnis, was on life support twice in the years before he passed away in 2020. “Both the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit teams were unbelievable. They took good care of all of us and took us by the hand at a very difficult time.”

“The Ottawa Hospital is leading the way in the future in healthcare, and we all need to do our part.”

— Lisa Mierins

That compassionate care is what inspires their family to support The Ottawa Hospital — and now, they are using their leadership to motivate others in the community to join them.

From November 1st until December 31st, 2022, the Mierins Family Foundation will match all one-time donations up to a total of $1 million. They hope the opportunity to have a gift doubled will inspire others who recognize the importance of The Ottawa Hospital in our community and the connection we all have to the high-quality care it provides.

“The Ottawa Hospital is leading the way in the future in healthcare, and we all need to do our part,” says Lisa. “Right now, we have an opportunity to move our hospital — and our community — forward.”

The Mierins Family Foundation was created in 2018 with Lisa and her brother, Arnie Mierins, at the helm as co-presidents. The team also includes her sister-in-law, Victoria Mierins, and one of Lisa’s sons, Patrick Bourque. Philanthropy has long been a core value of the family with their strong desire to support their community. And with this most recent gift, they hope to see their family’s $1 million transformed into $2 million for the hospital.

Arnie and Victoria Mierins
Arnie and Victoria Mierins
Lisa Mierins and her son, Patrick Bourque
Lisa Mierins and her son, Patrick Bourque

“The Ottawa Hospital has treated us like family. They’ve been amazing to us, so we wanted to do something in return for them. We’ve been very blessed in our lives, and this is our way to give back to the community,” says Lisa.

“It is our obligation to do something, and big or small, every donation counts. The Ottawa Hospital was there for my family, and we know how comforting it is to be in a great facility that cares and goes beyond expectations.”

— Lisa Mierins

She adds it’s an opportunity for community members to double their donation and have a bigger impact—no matter what the size of gift. “It can be a $10 donation, which then becomes a $20 donation.”

“Every great city needs a state-of-the-art hospital,” says Lisa. “It is not an option to do nothing. It is our obligation to do something, and big or small, every donation counts. The Ottawa Hospital was there for my family, and we know how comforting it is to be in a great facility that cares and goes beyond expectations.”

Missed the livestream? Here’s a recording of the full broadcast.

Join us virtually on November 24 at 12:00 p.m. for A Conversation About Creating Tomorrow. You’ll hear from our leaders about the Campaign to Create Tomorrow and our plans to transform the future of healthcare in Ottawa.

From the New Campus Development to patient care and research — it’s time to create a better tomorrow together.

Panelists:

Cameron Love
President & CEO, The Ottawa Hospital

Janet McKeage
Chair, Board of Directors
The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Tim Kluke
President & CEO
The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Moderator:

Catherine Clark – President, Catherine Clark Communications Inc. and member of The Ottawa Hospital Board of Governors

Published: October 2022

As a young athlete playing semi-pro soccer overseas and going to school, Haydn Bechthold admits he felt invincible. But a diagnosis of colorectal cancer at age 22 quickly changed that perspective. The news was a shock, not only to Haydn but also to his family and friends. He was young, active, and otherwise healthy, so a diagnosis of stage 3C rectal cancer was hard news to digest. “I remember thinking ‘Don’t Google survival rates,’” recalls Haydn.

When Haydn was referred to The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, there was a full team assembled. He met with medical oncologist Dr. Joanna Gotfrit, followed by radiation oncologist Dr. Jenny Jin, and surgical oncologist and Director of Cancer Research, Dr. Rebecca Auer. He learned there was some good news — the cancer hadn’t spread.

Dr. Joanna Gotfrit is a medical oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Jenny Jin is a radiation oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Rebecca Auer is the Director of Cancer Research at The Ottawa Hospital.

A most unusual case of colorectal cancer

For Dr. Gotfrit, the first thing she remembers after learning about Haydn’s case was how unusual it was to have a patient his age with this kind of a diagnosis — typically, patients are decades older. “No matter the age, whether it’s a very young patient or someone who’s elderly, it’s never easy to deliver bad news. But there is an extra layer and challenge when patients are that young. It’s life-altering, no matter how the trajectory goes,” explains Dr. Gotfrit.

Haydn Bechthold was treated for rectal cancer at The Ottawa Hospital.
Haydn Bechthold was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 22.

When Dr. Auer left the exam room after meeting Haydn for the first time, she remembers feeling heartbroken, thinking about this young man’s life, his future, and the diagnosis he faced. The standard form of treatment for Haydn was radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery — each one would impact his life. He faced infertility, life with an ostomy bag, and the likelihood of recurrence. “That was hard, but having access to cutting-edge care, we quickly started to think outside the box. I called Drs. Gotfrit and Jin, and we decided to get molecular testing on his tumour,” explains Dr. Auer.

“We knew there was a strong chance we were going to find some rare molecular alterations in his tumour that may drastically change how we would want to approach this case.”

– Dr. Joanna Gotfrit

Those molecular markers from testing would be key to determining the path forward for Haydn’s treatment. Dr. Gotfrit explains while they had the diagnosis and knew the stage of his cancer, there were still underlying questions. “We knew there was a strong chance we were going to find some rare molecular alterations in his tumour that may drastically change how we would want to approach this case. And when I say that, I mean, it may open other avenues of treatment for him.”

Those molecular markers from testing would be key to determining the path forward for Haydn’s treatment. Dr. Gotfrit explains while they had the diagnosis and knew the stage of his cancer, there were still underlying questions. “We knew there was a strong chance we were going to find some rare molecular alterations in his tumor that may drastically change how we would want to approach this case. And when I say that, I mean, it may open other avenues of treatment for him.”

Navigating through the cancer journey

As Haydn and his family came to terms with the diagnosis and attended a multitude of tests and appointments, there was one constant: Mary Farnand — his nurse navigator.

A nurse navigator is a specialized oncology position. Mary works in the Cancer Assessment Clinic (CAC), and along with other nurse navigators at our hospital, is the first point of contact for patients who are being diagnosed. “We review the patient’s history, and initiate some of the work-up, such as bloodwork and scans, to make sure it goes as fast as possible and is personalized,” explains Mary.

“It’s a very difficult time in their life. Our role is to try and provide clarity as well as emotional support.”

– Mary Farnand

The CAC provides a central source of information, support, and advocacy for patients. “We receive referrals, review them, and try to understand what the patients need. We help patients manage symptoms, and if they live farther away, can we direct their scans to another hospital closer to home. We are that source of consistency for each patient,” explains Mary.

This role quite literally helps the patient and their family move through the cancer program and better understand what lies ahead. “We navigate with the patient, giving them as much information as possible to help inform their treatment decisions. It’s a very difficult time in their life. Our role is to try and provide clarity as well as emotional support,” says Mary.

Haydn and Mary Farnand at The Ottawa Hospital’s President’s Breakfast.

Photo by Ashley Fraser.

The CAC provides a central source of information, support, and advocates for patients. “We receive referrals, review them, and try to understand what the patients need. We help patients manage symptoms, and if they live farther away, can we direct their scans to another hospital closer to home. We are that source of consistency for each patient,” explains Mary.

This role quite literally helps the patient and their family move through the cancer program and better understand what lies ahead. “We navigate with the patient, giving them as much information as possible to help inform their treatment decisions. It’s a very difficult time in their life. Our role is to try and provide clarity as well as emotional support,” says Mary.

Haydn is adamant he couldn’t have done any of this without her. “She was such a huge help and so kind to me through this whole process. I remember having so many people contacting me early on and it was quite overwhelming, but Mary was always there. She was always willing to help me figure out what my next move was going to be. She was my constant source of support.”

That support would continue as Haydn’s team got a clearer picture of what kind of tumour they were dealing with.

When should I be tested for colorectal cancer?

People who have an average risk of colon cancer should start getting screened regularly at 50. For those with a higher risk — due to family history, a personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, or other risk factors — it might be recommended to get screened earlier or more often.

Early signs of colon cancer include: persistent changes in bowel habits (unusual diarrhea or constipation), rectal bleeding or blood in stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, a feeling of incomplete bowel movements, weakness or fatigue, and/or unexplained weight loss. If any of those symptoms appear alone or together and persist, seeing a doctor is recommended.

Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Lab plays a key role

Further testing helped the care team plan the best course of treatment for this young man. Some of that testing happened at The Ottawa Hospital’s Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Lab — a first-of-its-kind in Ottawa.

The donor-funded lab is revolutionizing cancer diagnosis and treatment by allowing healthcare providers to analyze the genetic flaws inside tumour cells and tailor therapies to a patient’s individual type of cancer. This improves cancer care by giving care teams the ability to predict which drugs would work best for that particular patient’s illness and which drugs would not be beneficial.

Research conducted in the lab gives patients access to the latest experimental cancer therapies before they are available elsewhere. It’s the third lab of its kind in Canada to use the most advanced genetic analysis technology — next-generation sequencing — to analyze patterns from large groups of genes or proteins. The end goal is to improve the detection and control of cancer with more precise treatments customized for each patient.

Haydn and Dr. Auer at The Ottawa Hospital’s President’s Breakfast.

Photo by Ashley Fraser.

“Haydn got this cutting-edge treatment about one year before the world knew anything about it. This was because we have a highly knowledgeable and courageous team that decided to think outside the box for a 22-year-old with cancer.”

– Dr. Rebecca Auer

As Haydn’s team awaited the results of his testing, he was prepping for radiation which was set to begin in March 2021. But as the day approached for his first treatment, he got a call that would change everything. “It was a conference call unlike any I’ve ever experienced. All three of my doctors were on the line. They explained biomarker testing on my tumour showed I had what’s known as MSI-H cancer, which meant I was eligible for a certain type of immunotherapy treatment,” recalls Haydn.

This unique sub-type of rectal cancer has responded well in clinical trials to immunotherapy. As the team explained to Haydn and his family, they used data from the literature to come up with an individualized treatment plan — one they believed would give him the best long-term outcome. “Haydn got this cutting-edge treatment about one year before it was widely known. This was because we have a highly knowledgeable and courageous team that decided to think outside the box for a 22-year-old with cancer,” explains Dr. Auer.

Testing also revealed Haydn had Lynch syndrome — an inherited condition that increased his risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer. These test results were valuable information that allowed his care team to develop a personalized treatment for his unique case. They believed immunotherapy would give Haydn the best chance to live a long, healthy life.

The hope of immunotherapy

When Haydn was presented with this alternative to the standard of care, he was excited, but also nervous. “While I was nervous to try something new and futuristic like this, I was also excited by the hope immunotherapy offered me. My family and I had complete faith in my doctors, knowing they could access this treatment, which had been successful in very early studies,” says Haydn.

“The scan showed my tumour had shrunk by almost half. It was incredible.”

– Haydn Bechthold

For Dr. Gotfrit, being able to offer Haydn this treatment option was a gamechanger. She recalls just eight to 10 years ago, as an internal medicine resident rotating through oncology, there was very little personalized medicine. However, that is changing rapidly. “More and more data, discoveries, and developments about the molecular basis of tumours are coming to light. And, importantly, drugs that could directly target those molecular alterations are being developed. So instead of chemo that essentially ‘shoots to kill’ any rapidly dividing cells in a very nonselective way causing a multitude of side effects everywhere in the body, we’re now developing therapies that are much more selective and can directly target specific mutations in tumours. Being able to identify these molecular alterations is a huge step forward for oncology, giving us more options with a better quality of life. So, it’s a win on all accounts.”

On April 1st, 2021, Haydn started immunotherapy treatment. Within a month of treatment, all of Haydn’s symptoms were gone. No more blood in his stool, no more pain, his energy was back, and he was no longer losing weight.

What is immunotherapy?

Cancer immunotherapy, or immuno-oncology, is a treatment that harnesses a patient’s own immune system to fight their cancer. It works by “training” the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells, strengthening immune cells to fight cancer, and/or helping the body boost its immune response in other ways. There are many different forms of, and ways to deliver, cancer immunotherapy, including targeted antibodies, vaccines, cell transfers, viral therapies, and more. Cancer immunotherapy is a biotherapy, and it might be used on its own or in combination with other treatments, like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

The news got even better with his first scan two months after treatment began. It was news Haydn was thrilled to hear. “The scan showed my tumour had shrunk by almost half. It was incredible.”

Ready for J-pouch surgery

The immunotherapy treatment continued until July 2021. At that point, the tumour couldn’t be seen on the latest scans and that’s when Dr. Gotfrit called Dr. Auer to say this young man was ready for surgery.

By August, a major operation was planned to remove the remaining signs of the tumour and the surrounding lymph nodes. Haydn also underwent a procedure known as J-pouch surgery. This would remove his entire colon to help eliminate any future risk of cancer, while also allowing him to live a normal life without an ileostomy bag. It was during this surgery that Dr. Auer made a remarkable discovery — there were no signs of cancer. “This was a really wonderful moment. Thinking back to the day I met him, and I thought for sure he was going to break my heart, here we were with a really amazing outcome. This was a young man who potentially had his whole future back,” says Dr. Auer.

Once the J-pouch healed, Haydn was back in the operating room in November of 2021, this time with Dr. Shaheer Tadros and Dr. Auer to remove the temporary ileostomy and finish the J-pouch procedure. He was about to get his life back.

How J-pouch surgery works

BEFORE SURGERY

  • Colon and rectum present
  • Patient suffering from symptoms

DURING SURGERY

  • Colon and rectum removed
  • J-shaped pouch constructed from small intestine and attached to anus
  • Ileostomy bag placed during surgery to help with the healing of the pouch

SECOND-STAGE SURGERY

  • Ileostomy bag reversed
  • POST SURGERY J-pouch and anus fully functioning

The role research plays in changing the course of cancer care

When faced with a challenging cancer case, our cancer experts didn’t settle for the standard of care — knowing the long-term impact it could have on Haydn’s life. Instead, they dug deep and offered him an alternative with better long-term quality of life — immunotherapy treatment.

Since starting her own research laboratory at The Ottawa Hospital in 2007, Dr. Auer has focused on the interplay between cancer, surgery, and the immune system — making many important discoveries. “Surgery is very effective in removing solid tumours. However, we’re now realizing that, tragically, surgery can also suppress the immune system in a way that makes it easier for any remaining cancer cells to persist and spread to other organs.”

Dr. Auer’s team has discovered how this happens and they are now testing different strategies in the lab and in patients to modify the immune system and prevent cancer from coming back after surgery. These trials often include patients with colorectal cancer.

Just a few years ago, Haydn never gave much thought to research, let alone cancer research, but his views are very different today. “There are so many advances every year in this field, especially clinical trials, it’s really exciting. I think a lot of people hear the term clinical trials, myself included when I was in treatment, and are quite scared. But a lot of the time, it’s the most up-to-date or newest form of treatment and possibly the best, so the importance of research is massive.”

Setting his sights on the future

Just a few months after Haydn’s second surgery he started feeling like his old self. He began exercising again and putting on weight. Incredible progress in a very short time after his shocking diagnosis.

Today, Haydn continues to be monitored closely by Dr. Gotfrit, and will be for the next few years, but the cancer is gone and he’s getting back his life. As far as his medical oncologist is concerned, that’s the best possible outcome she could have imagined for him. “This is exactly why you go into medical oncology. It’s the absolute best feeling in the world to put in all that effort, thought, and agonize over what’s the right thing to do for this young man. And then make the best decision possible and see that it worked as well as or better than you ever could have imagined. It’s hard to describe how good that feels,” says Dr. Gotfrit.

The Ottawa Hospital’s President’s Breakfast was held Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, at the Canadian War Museum.

Mary Farnand, Dr. Auer, Haydn and his parents at The Ottawa Hospital’s President’s Breakfast.

Photo by Ashley Fraser.

“I also realize how incredibly fortunate I was to have The Ottawa Hospital and this team of doctors who wouldn’t settle for traditional treatments — who thought outside the box to give me the best life possible.”

– Haydn Bechthold

For Haydn, it’s a team effort he won’t soon forget. “I never worried about death before this, but I realized I’m not invincible. I also realize how incredibly fortunate I was to have The Ottawa Hospital and this team of doctors who wouldn’t settle for traditional treatments — who thought outside to box to give me the best life possible. I felt like they all really cared.”

Now living in Toronto and going to law school, you can still find Haydn kicking the soccer ball around for fun, and he says with a smile that he might not be done with soccer yet. Now he has time on his side to make that decision.

Listen to Haydn share his story in his own words in episode 69 of Pulse Podcast.

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An unwavering drive to help others leads to generous donation

Longtime nephrologist Dr. Shiv Jindal and wife Sarita donate $1 million to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow .

Dr. Shiv Jindal and his wife, Sarita, share a philosophical outlook when it comes to their philanthropy: If there’s something good and important happening for the benefit of the community, why not be part of it?

This straightforward perspective inspired them to support the creation of the New Campus Development on Carling Avenue through our historic Campaign to Create Tomorrow. With this project, they saw an opportunity to help their community while offering a sentimental nod to the hospital campus where Dr. Jindal spent an impressive 45-year career as a nephrologist after moving to Canada in 1967.

"If an opportunity comes your way to do something good, do it now. You may not have another chance"

Dr. Shiv and Sarita Jindal
Dr. Shiv Jindal and wife Sarita donate $1 million to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow.

Dr. Jindal helped establish the Department of Nephrology at the Civic Hospital when the field was in its infancy. Professionally, he is a passionate advocate for disease prevention, and in 2007, the Jindals donated $1 million to fund a chair at the hospital’s Kidney Research Centre for research to help prevent chronic kidney disease. Their most recent donation of $1 million underscores their profound desire to help make their city, and beyond, a healthier place. The Jindals view this gift as an investment in a campaign that has the power to improve the lives of patients and help redefine our approach to preventative healthcare, particularly at the New Campus Development.

The $500-million Campaign to Create Tomorrow ― the largest fundraising campaign in Ottawa’s history ― sets in motion a vision to transform how the world delivers healthcare by building the most technologically advanced hospital in Canada and taking groundbreaking research and innovation to unprecedented heights.

The Jindals have a long legacy of generosity and are highly respected among our local Indo-Canadian and medical communities. But their desire to improve the lives of others has never stopped at the Ottawa city limits. Most winters from 1995-2015, the Jindals would spend four to six weeks in India, working with more than 60 villages on disease prevention, education, and job creation. It would seem altruism is in their very DNA.

Thank you, Shiv and Sarita, for your inspirational generosity and steadfast commitment to making our city, and our world, a better place.

About the Campaign to Create Tomorrow

The Campaign to Create Tomorrow is the largest fundraising campaign in our region’s history. It will help fulfil the most ambitious vision ever for the future of The Ottawa Hospital, focused on four critical pillars.  

INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY

See how we’ll become the most technologically advanced hospital in the country, using the latest tools to provide the right care in the right space with the right provider.
Learn More

WORLD LEADING RESEARCH

Through our unique collaborative model of clinicians and researchers working side-by-side, we will bring groundbreaking discoveries to patients in Ottawa — and around the world.
Learn More

STRENGTHENING CRITICAL SERVICES

From trauma care to cancer advancements to neuroscience, we will strengthen our critical services for patients across the region.
Learn More

Subhas “Sam” and Uttra Bhargava have been giving back to their community since they first met 60 years ago — and that giving took on new meaning after a series of personal losses.

Together, they cared for Sam’s father and mother who suffered from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s respectively. They also saw their oldest daughter, Suruchi, left paralyzed from the neck down after she was hit by a drunk driver. Sadly, all three family members passed away from their deteriorating conditions. These tragedies ushered Sam and Uttra into the world of healthcare and research, inspiring them to step up for others facing similar challenges.

“We knew we needed to do something so nobody would suffer as we did,” says Uttra.

“We knew we needed to do something so nobody would suffer as we did.”

– Uttra Bhargava

Uttra and Sam Bhargava at the unveiling of the Bhargava Neurosciences Clinic.

Volunteers and philanthropists for decades, the Bhargavas are shining a light on the research being conducted at The Ottawa Hospital — forming a close bond with Dr. Michael Schlossmacher, Director of the Neuroscience Program and clinician scientist working to improve the lives of those with neurodegenerative diseases.

“Research is the only thing that provides hope and innovation.”

– Sam Bhargava

“Dr. Schlossmacher is a great scientist and a great man…I admire him so much,” says Uttra, as she and her husband speak about the importance of keeping some of the world’s greatest research minds in Ottawa. “There’s so much talent,” adds Sam. “They can achieve anything.”

This belief has inspired Sam and Uttra to support The Ottawa Hospital’s research and care for patients suffering from brain and spinal cord damage. They hope their support will help lead to cures for some of the most devastating conditions and injuries — but they know it won’t happen overnight. They call their support a down payment on their dream for a cure. “Research is the only thing that provides hope and innovation,” says Sam. “You just don’t give up.”

The Bhargavas give generously — and consider themselves fortunate to be able to do so. In 2012, they donated $1 million to establish The Bhargava Research Chair in Neurodegeneration at The Ottawa Hospital — Dr. Schlossmacher is the current Chair holder, and Sam is also the Founding Chair of the Parkinson’s Research Consortium. In honour of their oldest daughter, they also established the Suruchi Bhargava Chair in Spinal Cord Research, which supports neurosurgeon Dr. Eve Tsai’s research.

Uttra and Sam Bhargava with Dr. Michael Schlossmacher.

Most recently, they donated $500,000 to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow — a Campaign that will not only support the construction of the New Campus Development, which will be home to a new neuroscience institute, but will also take research to unprecedented heights.

“If you want to help the community, you have to put the money into research. Unless we try, it will not happen.”

– Uttra Bhargava

In addition to their support of The Ottawa Hospital, Sam and Uttra’s philanthropy has extended to many other community initiatives, such as early literacy programs, hearing screening programs for pre-schoolers, and they were instrumental in the Parliamentary declaration of National Child Day in Canada. Today, along with their work supporting research at The Ottawa Hospital, they are pushing to make changes in how we care for our aging population. With the help of a team of early supporters, they are mobilizing at the grassroots level to petition the House of Commons to put more focus on the health and well being of seniors and those living with disabilities. Sam and Uttra believe it is through research and innovation that we can improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

As business and community leaders, the Bhargavas are using their voices to lift up those around them — many of whom they will never even meet. They are working to shield others from the tragedies they suffered — through financial support and by giving their time and energy to the causes that personally affected them. “We want to give the money,” says Uttra, “and at the same time, we want to work with the community.”

“And if you want to help the community, you have to put the money into research. Unless we try, it will not happen.”

Uttra and Sam Bhargava with Dr. Eve Tsai.

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

Community-minded couple turn their gratitude into action

Tony Sottile and Barbara Robertson make their largest philanthropic gift by donating $2 million to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow

Some people have a knack for recognizing a big moment. An insight and a confidence to take action when such a moment arises. Tony Sottile and Barbara Robertson are two of those people — humble, hard-working, and keenly able to recognize an important project when they see it.

Tony’s family arrived in Canada in 1966 from San Martino in Pensilis, Italy, and his parents, Giuseppe and Tina, worked hard to build a new life in Ottawa. They ran Kanata Cleaners for the next three decades, instilling the value and reward of hard work in their children. With a mechanical engineering degree under his belt, Tony set off on his own path, and in 2002, he became the President of Modern Niagara, then CEO in 2004 — a position he held until his retirement in 2016.

Despite his success, or perhaps because of it, Tony has remained humble, committed to giving back to the community. He and Barbara have been long-time supporters of many charitable causes in Ottawa, rallying others to join them. Barbara, a retired teacher, volunteers weekly at the Shepherds of Good Hope and Ronald McDonald House, while Tony serves on The Ottawa Hospital’s Board of Governors. These are just a few examples of the many ways they support the health of our community.

Their recent gift of $2 million to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow demonstrates a deep gratitude to the city they feel has given them so much. They view their gift as an investment in the creation of a global healthcare hub and educational facility — a project that will have an impact on the economy that is without parallel.

The Campaign to Create Tomorrow sets in motion a vision to transform how the world delivers healthcare — by building the most technologically advanced hospital in Canada and taking groundbreaking research and innovation to unprecedented heights.  

Tony Sottile and Barbara Robertson made a major donation to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow.

Thank you, Tony and Barbara, for your inspirational generosity and your commitment to our community and our hospital.

About the Campaign to Create Tomorrow

The Campaign to Create Tomorrow is the largest fundraising campaign in our region’s history. It will help fulfil the most ambitious vision ever for the future of The Ottawa Hospital, focused on four critical pillars.  

INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY

See how we’ll become the most technologically advanced hospital in the country, using the latest tools to provide the right care in the right space with the right provider.
Learn More

WORLD LEADING RESEARCH

Through our unique collaborative model of clinicians and researchers working side-by-side, we will bring groundbreaking discoveries to patients in Ottawa — and around the world.
Learn More

STRENGTHENING CRITICAL SERVICES

From trauma care to cancer advancements to neuroscience, we will strengthen our critical services for patients across the region.
Learn More

Growing up in Mumbai, India, Dr. Pradeep Merchant dreamed of becoming a doctor. His father’s youngest brother was a physician, and Dr. Merchant saw him to be a role model — one who helped chart his path for the future.

That path saw Dr. Merchant immigrate to Canada in the mid 80s, where he enrolled at Queen’s University to study pediatrics. A super-specialty in neonatology captured his interest and took him to SickKids in Toronto, where he finished his training. But he was soon enticed to come to The Ottawa Hospital, and his interest in a research fellowship solidified that decision — that was 30 years ago.

Ottawa is where Dr. Merchant and his wife, Anita, would call home and raise their family. For the past 25 years, Dr. Merchant has been the Site Chief of the neonatology division at Civic Campus of our hospital, where he’s dedicated himself to caring for our tiniest and most vulnerable patients. He has been their voice — always championing for the latest technology and tools to care for pre-mature babies and their mothers.

Dr. Pradeep and Mrs. Anita Merchant

“We’ve done so well with an almost 100-year-old building at the Civic Campus serving the population — you can just imagine what the New Campus Development will mean.”

– Dr. Pradeep Merchant

That dedication includes making our hospital the best it can be. For Dr. Merchant, that means giving back by volunteering on the Board of Directors of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, and most recently, as a Campaign Executive for the Campaign to Create Tomorrow.

In addition to this latest role, it was important to both him and Anita to support the Campaign with a significant donation — and they hope it will inspire others to give as well. That’s why they’ve committed to matching the contributions of new monthly donors until November 15th, for up to $50,000.

They believe the Campaign, which focuses on taking research to unprecedented heights and supporting the construction of the New Campus Development on Carling Avenue, will be a game-changer for the city. “We’ve done so well with an almost 100-year-old building at the Civic Campus serving the population — you can just imagine what the New Campus Development will mean. It will be an absolute marvel of engineering. So, when you look at a building of that stature, not only are we going to provide the best possible care, but what excites me is we are going to attract the best physicians from around the world,” he says.

Dr. Merchant doesn’t shy away from sharing that message with others in our community — including the Indo-Canadian community, with whom he has worked closely over the years. “Philanthropy starts from within and at home. So, when people see I’m not just coming and talking, but I’m doing what I can do to help, I hope it inspires them to want to do what they can to help as well. Because when you have amazing, transformational, cutting-edge healthcare within our city, it benefits everybody, not just a few people.”

It’s the people of our city and their future that truly motivates Dr. Merchant to be a part of this important campaign. “While my career is in its twilight years, I’m as excited as when I started at this hospital in 1992, because this is just a phenomenal opportunity for us to contribute or be part of this entire movement, and to deliver the very best healthcare to the community for the next 100 years.”

“Philanthropy starts from within and at home. So, when people see I’m not just coming and talking, but I’m doing what I can do to help, I hope it inspires them to want to do what they can to help as well.”

– Dr. Pradeep Merchant

Dr. Merchant’s philanthropy and tireless efforts to give back over the past several decades are not lost on anyone. He received one of the highest honours when he was awarded the Order of Canada in 2021. “Canada has given me so much and to get the call from the Governor General’s office, even today, chokes me up. I’m humbled and honoured. It’s not something I ever anticipated or expected. I thank not only our country but our society for making me what I am today.”