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

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.”

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.”

TOH Auxiliary's "on‑the‑ground" impact

Celebrating a $2.5-million gift and a long history of meeting patients' needs

TOH Auxiliary’s “on-the-ground” impact

Celebrating a $2.5-million gift and a long history of meeting patients' needs

Published: August 2022

In 1898, almost 125 years ago, a dedicated group called The Friends of TOH established themselves at the General Hospital, which was located at the corner of Water and Sussex at the time. By 1951, The Civic Auxiliary was formed, followed by the Riverside Auxiliary in 1967. These three groups, though separate entities, shared a common purpose: to generate funds within the hospital to meet practical needs. For more than 50 years, this is how things remained. Then in 2021, the three amalgamated into a single voice — a boots-on-the-ground group that is stronger and more efficient than ever. The merger has reinvigorated their desire to react and respond, providing for both the hospital and the patient — and the impact of their generosity is tangible.  

Their most recent gift — an incredible $2.5 million — is part of more than $13 million they’ve donated to the hospital in just over a decade. This has allowed the hospital to purchase critical equipment, from cardiac monitors to a new MRI machine.

 

“We are passionate about being an on-the-ground organization — to be able to react to the needs of the hospital and the patients. That’s what drives us.”   

— Catherine Higgens, TOH Auxiliary Board of Directors President

In addition to lifesaving equipment, the Auxiliary works closely with various clinical services, including Psychosocial Services, to ensure patients have essential items. From breast pumps for new parents to an emergency clothing cupboard for patients who are ready for discharge but don’t have proper access to clothing, the Auxiliary’s generosity allows the hospital to provide necessities in real time. 

“These actions or items might seem small to some, but they are powerful,” says Catherine Higgens, TOH Auxiliary Board of Directors President. “We are passionate about being an on-the-ground organization — to be able to react to the needs of the hospital and the patients. That’s what drives us.”   

There is certainly no shortage of passion among the Auxiliary Board of Directors, their small but mighty staff, and their dedicated volunteers. Collectively, they ensure the smooth operation of several revenue-generating shops, including the gift shops at the Civic and General Campuses and the Auxiliary Shop at the Civic. They also generate funds through strategic community partnerships, including more than 60 Ottawa vendors and members of the arts community. Vendors are given space on campus to sell their products, which not only gives these small local businesses their own important revenue and exposure, but also generates critical proceeds to allow the Auxiliary to continue their important work.  

Staying true to their focus on in-hospital fundraising for in-hospital needs, staff have not been forgotten in the mix. For the past 10 years, a portion of funds generated by the Auxiliary has supported a nursing bursary that is awarded to help further develop the skills of our incredible nursing staff. Throughout the pandemic, the Auxiliary has also shown appreciation to healthcare workers by delivering food and treats to staff working long hours. 

While their impact may look different from one project to the next, their vision has not wavered for more than a century: to make a positive difference for patients at The Ottawa Hospital and the broader hospital community.

Thank you, TOH Auxiliary, for your long-standing commitment to our hospital and for generously meeting the needs of our patients.

To learn more about TOH Auxiliary’s important work at our hospital or to receive a copy of their annual general report, please email tohauxiliary@gmail.com.

Transformative gift is deeply personal for the Jones family

The Jones Family Foundation donates $10 million to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow and continues to shine a light on the need for kidney research and organ donations.

In the business world, just as in the world of healthcare, numbers matter. Customers served and problems resolved. Patients seen and lives saved. But numbers only tell part of the story.

That’s certainly been the experience for the Jones family. Their journey with The Ottawa Hospital has involved some critical numbers: 33 — the years June Jones has lived with IgA nephropathy, a form of kidney disease; 10 — the years she’s depended on lifesaving dialysis; 8 — the hours per day she’s frequently connected to a dialysis machine.

But the number that matters most is 1. June needs one new kidney, and the Jones family has one fervent hope for a cure.

Like us, the Jones family knows that hope can often be found in the numbers, and they believe their transformative gift will help find a cure for kidney disease, once and for all.

That’s why June and her husband Russ (Shopify’s first CFO before his retirement), with their two grown children and their families, have made a $10-million donation to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow through their family foundation.

The Jones family
The Jones family at Russ and June’s downtown home. Photo by Ashley Fraser.

 

“We want to help researchers at The Ottawa Hospital have the support they need to find cures right here in our hometown.”

— The Jones family

The $500-million 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.

Philanthropy is a central tenet of the Jones family philosophy. They’ve given generously to a multitude of charities and are longtime supporters of kidney research, both through the Kidney Foundation and here at our hospital. In fact, three laboratories at our Kidney Research Centre at the General Campus and the Hemodialysis unit at the Riverside Campus bear the Jones Family Foundation name.

Thank you, Jones family, for your ongoing transformative generosity and your unwavering belief in a brighter future. From your inspiring advocacy for organ donations to your dedicated support of healthcare, our hospital and our city will benefit from your kindness.

Hear June Jones in her own words explaining what it’s like waiting for a second kidney transplant and why research is so important.

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

Rare is a word used to describe Bryde Fresque on many levels. He has a zest for life that sets him apart. In fact, his physician Dr. Carolyn Nessim, a surgical oncologist and clinician investigator at The Ottawa Hospital saw this firsthand when Bryde faced a diagnosis that would have him battle for his life, with one rare condition after the other. Ultimately, it would take a skilled team to come up with a diagnosis and treatment for Bryde – a pheochromocytoma – an uncommon tumour that left Bryde’s future uncertain.

Bryde’s journey to his diagnosis of a rare cancerous tumour began on Boxing Day of 2012. He was travelling home from Napanee when he started to have pain in his left side. He stopped at a pharmacy just outside Ottawa and by the time he got to the counter he was doubled over in pain. The pharmacist told Bryde to get to the closest hospital — a community hospital was not far away.

Not long after arriving in their emergency room, Bryde was sent by ambulance to The Ottawa Hospital where he could receive care that is more specialized. He was in a tremendous amount of pain. Upon arrival, Bryde was suffering from a spontaneous hemorrhagic rupture of the left adrenal gland and he was bleeding significantly. Thankfully, he was in good hands as our interventional radiologists performed an emergency embolization procedure. This is a procedure where a guide wire was placed in a vessel in his leg and that allowed physicians to get all the way to the bleeding vessel by the adrenal gland, at which point they injected a product that plugged the vessel and stopped the bleeding. He was hospitalized for ten days before he was able to go home.

Unusual symptoms continue to develop

Bryde continued to feel off. A young, active man, Bryde recalls unusual symptoms that he couldn’t shake. “I remember feeling really sweaty, I couldn’t cool down properly. I would stand under the gym’s cold water shower for 15 minutes post bike ride and it didn’t make a difference,” recalls Bryde.

By the summer of 2013, he was going through a battery of tests and questions at our Cancer Centre to try to pinpoint the diagnosis.

“He had such rare conditions – one right after the other.”

— Dr. Carolyn Nessim

Bryde Fresque, who was treated for a rare pheochromocytoma at The Ottawa Hospital, pictured kayaking in Iceland with his wifte, Natalie.
Bryde and Natalie kayaking in Iceland.

Though, at only 32 years old, cancer was the furthest thing from Bryde’s mind. “I was young, healthy, a non-smoker, non-drug user, and active. That active part of my life was actually the only time I initially showed symptoms. That’s when I would overheat on even the coolest days and couldn’t cool down afterwards.”

The spontaneous rupture of Bryde’s adrenal gland six months earlier contributed to the challenge of pinpointing a diagnosis. It was believed he suffered from a large hematoma – a large residual clot after the bleed. “He had such rare conditions – one right after the other. A spontaneous rupture of an adrenal gland happens very rarely. I would say the challenge is that because the blood clot is so significant, it hides the underlying tumour and so it’s difficult to identify on imaging,” says Dr. Nessim.

Pinpointing the cause

Bryde Fresque was treated for a rare cancer (pheochromocytoma) at The Ottawa Hospital
Bryde Fresque was treated for a rare cancer at The Ottawa Hospital.

As time progressed, Bryde developed issues breathing, he couldn’t bend in certain directions, and then he noticed a distention on his left side. Signs that had been pointing to a hematoma didn’t add up because a hematoma should have healed within a few months, according to Dr. Nessim. That’s when she started looking at the fact this could be a tumour.

Bryde’s case ultimately landed with The Ottawa Hospital Sarcoma Tumour Board. “We meet every Friday to discuss complex cases like Bryde’s. Everyone is in the room including medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology, radiology, and surgery. We take each individual case and we discuss it as a group to determine the best course of action for a patient,” explains Dr. Nessim.

This panel of experts decided that surgery was the best course of action to not only diagnose Bryde’s condition but to treat him at the same time and remove this tumour that had significantly affected his quality of life. Given the large size of the tumour and the extent of organs it seemed to be invading on imaging, this would be a long and extensive operation with many potential risks and complications that would be best mitigated by a specialized team. The sarcoma team is well equipped and knowledgeable in how to do these complex operations. Our hospital is one of the three Cancer Care Ontario designated Sarcoma Centers in the province. Although Bryde did not have a form of sarcoma, the surgical approach for a pheochromocytoma is the same.

Most unusual pre-op visit

By the fall of 2013, the mass located on Bryde’s left side was now the size of a cinder block. Staying true to his rare and unique personality, Bryde, who loves Halloween, showed up for his pre-op appointment on October 31, 2013, wearing his homemade Iron Man costume!

On November 15, a huge team of more than 20 medical professionals assembled in the operating room. As Bryde lay on the operating table awaiting surgery, he recalls Dr. Nessim telling the team about the Halloween pre-op appointment, “Then she looked down at me and said, ‘Take a deep breath, Iron Man’ as I was intubated.”

Bryde had to put his full trust in Dr. Nessim and her team during the complex, 12-hour surgery. The procedure can carry several risks because although Bryde seemed to have a non-functional pheochromocytoma, with the stress of surgery there is always the risk of stimulating the tumour causing it to release adrenaline, which can lead to a serious increase in blood pressure during surgery. Bryde was given some special medications during the operation to help ensure that didn’t happen.

“I feel privileged every time I’ve been able to help a patient.”

— Dr. Carolyn Nessim

Dr. Carolyn Nessim, a surgical oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital
Dr. Carolyn Nessim, Bryde’s surgical oncologist

Just prior to going into the operating room for this intricate surgery, Dr. Nessim reviewed the scans one last time and then visualized each step, planning the order they would follow to remove the tumour successfully. The highly skilled group alongside Dr. Nessim included a urologist, a thoracic surgeon, and a Hepato-Biliary and pancreatic surgeon, along with two anesthesiologists. “It was a big case,” says Dr. Nessim.

Bryde had his left kidney removed, as well as his left adrenal gland, and a third of his pancreas. They performed a colon, bowel, and diaphragm resection and reconstruction for each, removed his spleen as well as an accessory spleen, which can be found in many patients, 10 lymph nodes, and the hematoma. Thankfully, Dr. Nessim was also able to remove the entire tumour. The surgery was a success.

Finding the answers

Bryde spent a total of 40 days in hospital recovering, and it was during that time that he finally received an explanation for his symptoms. He was diagnosed with pheochromocytoma, which is a rare form of tumour that can be cancerous. They usually form on one of the body’s two adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys, and approximately 10% of pheochromocytomas spread to other parts of the body. Pheochromocytomas can be dangerous because they may produce an excessive amount of the hormone adrenaline, which makes people sick, primarily by increasing their blood pressure. In Bryde’s case, what made a diagnosis challenging before surgery was that his pheochromocytoma was considered non-functional, and his urinary tests for adrenaline markers were negative. But it’s possible it was releasing low levels of adrenalin all along.

“The Ottawa Hospital is very well positioned in the study and treatment of this rare but dangerous tumour.”

— Dr. Neal Rowe

“It potentially explains all his sweating and feeling very flushed and hot as maybe he had a subclinical release of adrenaline,” confirms Dr. Nessim. Bryde also learned the tumour was cancerous.

Expertise in pheochromocytomas

Bryde with his wife and child
Bryde Fresque, his wife Natalie, and their son Edmond.

Much of the research, around the globe and here at our hospital, focuses on timely detection and treatment of pheochromocytoma. Dr. Neal Rowe is a clinical urologist at The Ottawa Hospital researching this type of tumour. “There are several known genes that increase the risk of a patient developing a pheochromocytoma. By identifying these genes in people, we can test family members, achieve early detection, and better understand the biology behind why these tumors form.” Dr. Rowe says this type of tumour affects between one to two cases per 100,000.

“Thanks to Dr. Nessim and the team at The Ottawa Hospital, I got better – I get to enjoy my life to the fullest. I got to marry the girl of my dreams and I got to become a father.”

— Bryde Fresque

“The Ottawa Hospital is very well positioned in the study and treatment of this rare but dangerous tumour. We have a collaborative group of experts in endocrinology and medical genetics in addition to a dedicated team of anesthesiologists and surgeons. With our research and development of various national initiatives, I think we’re front and centre,” says Dr. Rowe.

Moving forward, upwards, and giving back

Today, Bryde is seven years post surgery, and cancer free, with no signs of recurrence. While his recovery took time, he’s back to living his active life and truly grateful for the care he received. In fact, to raise funds and awareness for rare neuro endocrine cancers, Bryde and his wife, Natalie, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, as well as the highest pass in the world, located in Annapurna range of the Himalayas in Nepal – all while still being considered a cancer patient.

Bryde and Natalie at Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Bryde and Natalie on Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Being a cancer patient or being sick is a life-changing event. Thanks to Dr. Nessim and the team at The Ottawa Hospital, I got better – I get to enjoy my life to the fullest. I got to marry the girl of my dreams and I got to become a father.” He adds, “I honestly think if I had been anywhere else, if I had been under anyone else’s care, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I really wouldn’t.”

That’s why Bryde also holds an annual Halloween fundraising party, known as Spadinaween, to support our hospital. To date, he’s raised over $10,000 and Dr. Nessim even drops by to show her support.

The special bond between this patient and physician continues, as Bryde even enrolled to help Dr. Nessim with a global research project on sarcomas. For Bryde, it’s an honour to help other patients. “Me giving back to The Ottawa Hospital has come full circle as I was invited to partake in an international study on sarcomas with Dr. Nessim and other doctors from the UK, Italy, the States, Netherlands, and Australia – to help improve the patient experience. If I can turn a negative into a positive. I’m in!”

Seeing Bryde thrive today is what makes those long, grueling days in the operating room and the constant search for answers worthwhile. “It’s why I do my job. It’s the biggest joy and most rewarding,” says Dr. Nessim. “I feel privileged every time I’ve been able to help a patient.”


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

There’s a Hindi lullaby that Kalpana Prasad has sung for years— first to her daughters as babies, then to her grandchildren as they came along. It was the first thing she was able to sing following the stroke she suffered in 2021 that confirmed for her she was on the road to recovery. And she credits the incredible care at The Ottawa Hospital for that.

Music has played a large part in Kalpana’s life. The retired federal government economist had learned classical Indian music in her homeland, and perhaps not surprisingly, it was a musical program she and her husband Rakesh were watching on television in their Ottawa home last January when she suddenly lost control of her right hand.

“I somehow knew it was a stroke, just because of how my hand felt.”

Kalpana Prasad 

“I somehow knew it was a stroke, just because of how my hand felt,” Kalpana recalls, who urged Rakesh to call an ambulance.

“It happened so suddenly — no warning, nothing,” says Rakesh. “I’m very thankful we have her with us.”

Rakesh and Kalpana Prasad.

Paramedics rushed Kalpana to The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus Emergency Department, which specializes in stroke prevention, care, and recovery. This was during the height of the pandemic, and family visits were difficult. Kalpana says the medical staff and the patient care assistants stepped in to fill that role. Here, her voice breaks as she recalls one particular employee.

“She was like a mother to me, so gentle, so caring. I was so surprised that a stranger could be so kind. That speaks to the care at the hospital; it was every single person there.”

“She was like a mother to me, so gentle, so caring. I was so surprised that a stranger could be so kind.”

Kalpana Prasad

For two days, Kalpana couldn’t speak. She had lost her ability to talk due to the stroke. The couple’s youngest daughter, Ruchi Prasad, is an internist in Maryland and had frequent conversations with doctors about her mother’s condition. Kalpana recalls Ruchi imploring the medical staff to “get her voice back because my mother loves to sing!”

It was the Hindi lullaby Kalpana was first able to hum, then sing, that she recorded and sent to her daughters. When her older daughter Reshma Mathur heard the song, she said, between tears, “Mom, you’re going to be fine.”

Kalpana’s care at The Ottawa Hospital extended to physical therapy and speech therapy, and while she still has some slight issues with her speech, she is incredibly thankful to be alive. This gratitude inspired the Prasads to establish the Rakesh and Kalpana Prasad/Mathur Family Legacy Endowment Fund through a generous donation. The fund supports heart and stroke research at The Ottawa Hospital.

“We believe that we come from nothing and go with nothing. Our idea is that we want to inspire other community members, including other Indo-Canadian community members, because it can happen to anybody at any time.”

Rakesh Prasad
Reshma Mathur and Dr. Ruchi Prasad.

“I need to do something for this hospital that literally saved our lives,” says Kalpana. Rakesh echoes that sentiment, saying the hospital saved him as well after doctors discovered blockages in his heart 20 years ago and implanted two stents.

“We believe that we come from nothing and go with nothing,” says Rakesh, referring to a well-known Hindi phrase. “Our idea is that we want to inspire other community members, including other Indo-Canadian community members, because it can happen to anybody at any time. It’s our responsibility that we should help this community that we so enjoy.”

And there is much to enjoy, including, of course, song.


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