True love will continue through legacy gifts

When Jim Whitehead’s wife, Pat, passed away, he consolidated the causes he wanted to support down to ten including The Ottawa Hospital. Through this future gift to The Ottawa Hospital, Jim and Pat’s love will continue by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.

True love will continue through legacy gifts

“When I search for you, I never look too far. In every room, in every corner – there you are.”

Jim Whitehead wrote that poem to his late wife, Pat, after she passed away. The two had a magical connection that spanned almost their entire lives, including over 35 years of marriage.

Pat and Jim first met as young children in an Orangeville neighbourhood where Jim lived, and where Pat would visit relatives. Eventually, the pair went their separate ways, and over the course of about 20 years, they each married and had two children, all boys.

It wasn’t until they were in their mid-forties and both living in Ottawa, that their paths would cross again. “We became ‘simultaneously singlelized’ and reunited,” Jim remembers, as a smile stretches across his face.

Love reconnected

Their reconnection was instant. “We both were at a party in Barrhaven, hosted by a mutual friend. When I saw her, I knew that this moment was it.”

The rest, shall we say, is history. The couple married and built their life together in their cozy home near the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital. They shared a love of music, art and travel, all of which is obvious when you look around their home. They also had a deep connection to their community – in fact, Pat generously supported 40 local charities.

After Pat passed away in January 2018, following a seven-year struggle with the effects of Alzheimer dementia, Jim decided to revisit the charities he and his late wife had supported.

 

Patricia Whitehead in sitting on a couch in her home.
Jim’s late wife, Patricia, pictured at their cozy home.

Legacy of their love

Ultimately, he decided to leave a gift in his will to 11 organizations, including The Ottawa Hospital. During his work years, Jim some spent time as an employee of the geriatric unit of the Civic Hospital, now the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital. With the hospital being just a stone’s throw from his front steps, this gift was important to him. “My sons were born there and my two stepsons as well. I worked there, Pat and I were both cared for at the hospital, and I realized that I wanted to do more.”

As Jim sits in his living room, he still grieves for the loss of his beloved wife. However, Pat’s presence fills their home, with the special touches, from the addition she designed to the pictures that hang on the wall to the marionettes that she made herself. Jim reflects on their special bond, which was so strong that it brought the two back together. “We were well matched,” smiles Jim. He continues, “I had never loved or been loved as much, or as well, as with my Patricia.”

Jim’s gift will be a lasting legacy for not only him but also of Pat, and it will honour their deep love of their community and each other. Their love story will continue for generations by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.

Leave a legacy, like Jim, to ensure the best in patient care for generations to come by making a donation to The Ottawa Hospital in your will.

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Mid-surgery decision to leave abdomen open for two days saves woman’s life

Excruciating chest pains led Phyllis Holmes to the emergency room where tests revealed a life-threatening twist in her small intestine. Surgeons left her abdomen open for two days after surgery – it’s the reason Phyllis is alive today.

An unconventional surgery technique saves life

Excruciating chest pains woke Phyllis Holmes from a deep sleep. A trip to the emergency room revealed a twist in her small intestine. Doctors used an uncommon technique that involved leaving her abdomen clamped open for two days after surgery – it’s the reason Phyllis is alive today.

The first of many miracles

For 18 months Phyllis experienced on-and-off pain in her chest. Some episodes lasted for only a few minutes, while others lasted for several hours. Unable to pinpoint the cause of her pain, Phyllis’ doctor started an elimination process; sending her for various tests, including a visit to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. When results revealed it wasn’t her heart that was causing such discomfort, doctors ordered a CT scan hoping it would provide some answers.

However, only a few days prior to her scheduled appointment, Phyllis jolted awake in excruciating pain. Lying next to her, concerned, was her husband, Brian Jackson, who insisted they pay a visit to the emergency room. Her pain persisted as they checked in at The Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus. Recognizing the severity of her pain, the admitting staff immediately put her in an examination room.

A life-threatening diagnosis

Dr. Guillaume Martel and Phyllis Holmes embrace at The Ottawa Hospital.
Dr. Guillaume Martel and Phyllis Holmes

After several tests, Phyllis underwent a CT scan. The results showed her life was on the line.

As Phyllis recalls her experience, she describes hearing only one thing – they would need to perform emergency surgery immediately. “That was all I heard,” said Phyllis. “We have to do emergency surgery or you may be faced with a life threatening circumstance.”

What the CT scan revealed was a small twist in her intestine, causing her entire bowl to turn purple, almost black. “Her whole small intestine was dying,” said Phyllis’ surgeon, Dr. Guillaume Martel, “which is not survivable. But we got to her quickly, and that day, things lined up perfectly.”

Traditionally, with a bowel in such a condition, surgeons would have removed the section of the bowel that was compromised. However, in Phyllis’ case, almost her entire bowel was jeopardized. Removing such a large portion of her bowel would have reduced her to being fed through IV nutrition for the rest of her life.

An unconventional surgery technique

Once Phyllis was in the operating room, doctors were able to more accurately assess the severity of the damage caused to her intestine. Some vitality in her bowel remained— an encouraging sign that there was a chance it could be saved. Rather than remove the intestine, they decided to leave her abdomen clamped open and wait.

For two days Phyllis lay sedated in the intensive care unit, her abdomen left open. Throughout that time, Brian recalls the nurses and doctors were attentive and compassionate, letting him know what was going on every step of the way. “I was always in the loop about what was going on,” said Brian, something that he was grateful for during a particularly emotional and stressful time.

“Leaving a patient open can be a form of damage control,” explained Dr. Martel. This technique relieved a lot of pressure in Phyllis’ abdomen, allowing time to see whether her bowel would survive. However, it can be difficult for a doctor to know if this technique will work for one patient over another. Luckily, in Phyllis’ case, it did.”

The wait was over

When Phyllis was brought back to the operating room for her second surgery, Dr. Balaa, the surgeon, told Brian what to expect. It could be a long procedure, where they would remove part of her intestine, and in its place attach a colostomy bag. Brian settled in for a long and stressful wait, unsure of what life might be like once Phyllis’ surgery was complete. But less than an hour later, Dr. Balaa appeared with incredible news.

When they took off the covering, a sheet that protected her abdomen while she lay clamped open, her intestine was healthy and back to normal again. To their amazement, her intestine remained viable and all they needed to do was stitch her back up.

Recovery period

The next morning Phyllis woke to Brian’s warm smile at her bedside. While she was unaware of the incredible turn of events, she was grateful to be alive.

She remained at the hospital for a week after the first surgery. While she recovered, Phyllis recalls receiving exceptional care. “The doctors always had so much time for me when they did their rounds,” said Phyllis. “They were very patient and engaged in my situation, it was heartwarming and wonderful.” Phyllis was so grateful, she wanted to show her appreciation.

A guardian angel

Dr. Guillaume at The Ottawa Hospital
Dr. Guillaume Martel was part of a team that saved Phyllis’ life.

That’s when Phyllis heard of the Guardian Angel Program. This program was developed as a thoughtful way for patients to say thank you to the caregivers who go above and beyond to provide extraordinary care, every day. It’s a way for patients, like Phyllis, to recognize caregivers by giving a gift in their honour to The Ottawa Hospital. The caregivers are presented with a Guardian Angel pin and a special message from the patient letting them know the special care given did not go unnoticed.

Honouring Dr. Martel and several others through the Guardian Angel Program was a meaningful way for Phyllis to say thank you. “I wanted to be able to give something in return,” said Phyllis.

Dr. Martel was touched by the gesture. “When you receive a pin from a patient like Phyllis, it’s very gratifying,” explained Dr. Martel. “It’s something you can feel good about receiving.”

A healing experience

Phyllis’ journey at The Ottawa Hospital was far more than an emergency room visit and two surgeries. When asked to reflect on her experience, she tells a story of compassionate care and healing, both physically and mentally. “I felt that even though I was there to heal physically, I was getting psychological support as well,” Phyllis explained. “Everyone would use eye contact, or they’d touch my hand with compassion. It was very personal. I saw the divinity in those people,” explained Phyllis. “I saw it. I experienced it first-hand. And it is healing. That is the healing that takes place when you have those very special encounters. It heals you.”

Today, Phyllis feels incredibly grateful for the care she received at The Ottawa Hospital. “It was second to none,” she said.

Dr. Guillaume Martel

The Vered family joined together for a photo.In August 2019, Dr. Guillaume Martel was announced as the first Arnie Vered Family Chair in Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Research. Dr. Martel is a gifted surgeon at The  Ottawa Hospital who has saved and prolonged the lives of countless patients, particularly those with cancer. An international search conducted for this Research Chair found the best candidate right here in Ottawa. This Research Chair provides the opportunity for innovative clinical trials and cutting-edge surgical techniques that will benefit our patients for years to come. This was made possible through the generous support of the Vered Family, alongside other donors.

“When Arnie got sick, he needed to travel to Montreal for treatment. It was so hard for him to be away from home and our six children. We wanted to help make it possible for people to receive treatment right here in Ottawa. This Chair is an important part of his legacy.” – Liz Vered, donor

Honour a physician, nurse, health care team member, or volunteer for exceptional care you or a loved one has received at our hospital.

More Great Stories

True love will continue through legacy gifts
Through their gift in a will to The Ottawa Hospital, Jim and Pat’s love will continue by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.
Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis
Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope.
Minimally invasive surgery ‘perfectly’ restores hearing
New brain surgery technique ‘perfectly’ restores patient Denis Paquette’s quality of life after a rare benign tumour threatens hearing.

Calendars of Hope

Purchase a 2020 calendar featuring the incredible work of Ottawa local artist Katerina Mertikas, a renowned UNICEF artist since 1993 and support The Ottawa Hospital.

Calendars of Hope by Katerina Mertikas

Purchase a 2020 calendar featuring the artwork of Ottawa local Katerina Mertikas, a renowned UNICEF artist since 1993. Her daughter Gina Mertikas, a cancer survivor, launched this initiative to raise funds in support of The Ottawa Hospital. The calendars will be available for purchase throughout the holidays.

Please note:

    • If you select shipping, your calendar will be mailed to the address you provide at checkout within 2-3 business days. Please allow an additional 2-3 business days for delivery.
    • If you select pickup, your calendar will be available for pickup within 2 business days Monday-Friday between the hours of 9:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation offices at the General Campus – 501 Smyth Rd.
    • If you have any questions regarding the 2020 Calendars of Hope, please e-mail [email protected]
Calendars of Hope
2020 Calendars of Hope by renowned artist Katerina Mertikas

Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like Dan Collins.

Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope. Dan had hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like him. Hope that a cure is coming.

Discovery of a mass

Four years ago, Dan had been travelling for work, when he started noticing some pain when he’d lean his head back to rest on the plane. He recalls turning to his family doctor to get answers. An ultrasound revealed there was something inside the back of his head that looked like a cyst.

After an initial biopsy, Dan was referred to a surgeon at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre. Another biopsy revealed the cyst was actually a mass. It was melanoma. “I was scared. Cancer had stripped my family of so much. I lost both of my two older brothers and my father to cancer. I feared for my life,” recalls Dan.

Unfortunately, the mass starting growing – and it was growing fast. By the end of July, just two months later, the mass went from being not visible on the back of his head, to the size of a golf ball.

His surgical oncologist, Dr. Stephanie Obaseki-Johnson, initially wanted to shrink the tumour before surgery to remove it. However, the mass was growing too quickly.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital in a patient room.
Dan Collins with Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong.

Time to act

On August 11, 2015, Dan had surgery that lasted most of the day. When it was over, he had 25 staples and 38 stitches in the back of his head. As he recovered, Dan was reminded of a saying that helped him through recovery, “Never be ashamed of your scars. It just means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.”

He would need that strength with the news that awaited him. Only two weeks later, the mass was back. His doctors also discovered a mass in his right lung and shadows in the lining of his belly. He had stage 4 cancer – it had metastasized. This was an aggressive cancer that left Dan thinking about the family he had already lost and what would happen to him.

The next generation of treatment

Soon, he was introduced to The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Michael Ong and was told about immunotherapy – the next generation of treatment, with the hope of one day eliminating traditional and sometimes harsh treatment like chemotherapy. Dr. Ong prescribed four high doses of immunotherapy. At the same time, radiation treatment began for Dan – 22 in all. His immunotherapy treatments were three weeks apart at the Cancer Centre and between each, he would have an x-ray to monitor the tumours.

“Each x-ray showed the tumours were getting smaller. That’s when the fear started shifting to hope.” – Dan Collins, patient

By December 2015, Dan finished immunotherapy treatment and the next step was to wait. “This transformational treatment was designed to train my own immune system to attack the cancer. We would have to be patient to see if my system would do just that,” says Dan.

While the shadows in Dan’s stomach lining had shrunk, the mass in his lung had not. That’s when Dr. Ong prescribed another immunotherapy drug that would require 24 treatments.

Dan learned from his oncologist that melanoma has gone from being an extremely lethal cancer, with few treatment options, to having many different effective therapies available.

“When I started as an oncologist a decade ago, melanoma was essentially untreatable. Only 25 percent would survive a year. Yet now, we can expect over three quarters of patients to be alive at one year. Many patients are cured of their metastatic cancer and come off treatment. We are now able to prevent 50 percent of high-risk melanoma from returning because of advances in immunotherapy,” says Dr. Ong.

Dan completed his last immunotherapy treatments in September 2017.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong posing with armed crossed at The Ottawa Hospital.
Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital.

Today, there is no sign of cancer

When Dan thinks back to the day of his diagnosis, he remembers wondering if he was going to die. “I believe I’m here today because of research and because of those who have donated to research before me.”

He thinks back to when his older brother Rick died of cancer in 2007. “At the time he was treated, his doctor asked if he would participate in a research study. The doctor told him directly, this would not help him, but it would help somebody in the future.” Dan pauses to reflect and then continues, “I like to think, that maybe, he had a hand in helping me out today. Maybe he helped me survive. One thing I do know is that research was a game changer for me.”

The Ottawa Hospital has been a leader in bringing immunotherapy to patients. Research and life-changing treatments available at The Ottawa Hospital altered Dan’s outcome and he hopes that advancements will continue to have an impact on many more patients, not only here at home but right around the world.

To support life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital that helps patients like Dan, please donate today.

More Great Stories

True love will continue through legacy gifts
Through their gift in a will to The Ottawa Hospital, Jim and Pat’s love will continue by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.
Mid-surgery decision to leave abdomen open for two days saves woman’s life
Phyllis’ life was on the line. A twist in her small intestine was causing it to die. But a surgical technique to leave her abdomen open saved her life.
Minimally invasive surgery ‘perfectly’ restores hearing
New brain surgery technique ‘perfectly’ restores patient Denis Paquette’s quality of life after a rare benign tumour threatens hearing.

Minimally invasive surgery ‘perfectly’ restores hearing

After a brain tumour threatened to make Denis Paquette deaf in both ears, and traditional brain surgery deamed too risky, The Ottawa Hospital doctors were challenged to work collaboratively to find a solution.

Minimally invasive surgery ‘perfectly’ restores hearing

After a brain tumour began growing in to his ear, Denis Paquette was at risk of losing his hearing in both ears – a circumstance that would strip him of his ability to hear his wife’s voice forever. With traditional brain surgery deemed too risky, Dr. Fahad AlKherayf and Dr. Shaun Kilty were challenged to find a safer solution – removing the tumour through his nose.

A life unlike most

Since birth, Denis Paquette, now 66, has been deaf in one ear. It’s clear he has a deep-rooted understanding of the nuances of having such an impairment. After all, it’s all he’s ever known. Holding the phone to his good ear and turning his head while in conversation to better hear someone are habits he was quick to establish.

But in 2016, these little tricks, which he has cultivated throughout his life, started to fail him. Conversations were getting harder to hear and Denis’ wife, Nicole,

Hospital around the world are looking to The Ottawa Hospital tDr. Fahad AlKherayf and Dr. Shaun Kilty standing in an operating room at The Ottawa Hospital.
Hospitals around the world are looking to The Ottawa Hospital to learn about the type of minimally invasive brain surgery performed by Dr. Fahad AlKherayf (right) and Dr. Shaun Kilty.

noticed that Denis was progressively increasing the volume on the television.

“I was beginning to be frustrated because people were talking to me, but I was just getting parts of the conversation,” said Denis.

Journey to diagnosis

Concerned about his hearing, Denis visited his family doctor. He was sent for various hearing tests, each showing that something was wrong. It was then that Denis was referred to Dr. David Schramm, a hearing specialist at The Ottawa Hospital. Dr. Schramm ordered an MRI that revealed Denis had a rare tumour growing in his skull and in to his inner ear. These weren’t the results Denis and Nicole were expecting.

“I didn’t know what to expect, so it was really shocking news,” said Denis.

Denis needed specialized surgery to remove the tumour and required the expertise of neurosurgeon Dr. Fahad AlKherayf and ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist Dr. Shaun Kilty.

Due to the complexity of Denis’ diagnosis, Dr. AlKherayf and his team were challenged to remove the tumour without jeopardizing his hearing completely.

“The tumour was growing in his skull and in to his inner ear, putting pressure on his hearing nerve on the good ear. There was a risk he would lose the rest of his hearing,” said Dr. AlKherayf.

“Despite it being a benign lesion, the impact of it was huge.” – Dr. Fahad AlKherayf

Dr. AlKherayf knew that removing the tumour through Denis’ ear could risk permanently damaging what little hearing he had left. With this in mind, Dr. AlKherayf recommended that Denis undergo the newly-available minimally invasive brain surgery. With this technique, his tumour would be removed through his nostrils instead of through his ear.

The risk was high

Traditionally, brain surgery for a case such as Denis’ would take place through the ear and require a large incision through the skull. But with only one good ear to start with, performing brain surgery in this way could permanently and completely impair his hearing.

Not only could Denis lose his hearing, the traditional method of removing such a tumour has a greater risk of complication, a higher chance of infection, and demands a longer recovery period – up to six months. It would also leave a large scar, beginning in front of his ear and extending all the way up and behind it. The thought of undergoing such a procedure alone was nerve-racking.

A new surgery technique

Over the last several years, Dr. AlKherayf has advanced new techniques for removing various types of brain tumours, known as minimally invasive surgery.

Minimally invasive surgery has transformed the way operations are performed by allowing surgeries to be carried out as keyhole procedures, a surgical procedure that provides access to parts of the body without having to make large incisions. This operation is much safer, with risk of infection and recovery time greatly reduced. In many cases, patients are discharged within just a few days of surgery.

“It’s quicker to recover for patients,” said Dr. Kilty. “Because they don’t have to recover from the extensive dissection that traditional approaches [surgeries] require.”

Performing these types of surgeries requires two physicians – a neurosurgeon to remove the tumour and an ENT to provide access to the tumour through the nose and to control the endoscope. Due to the complex nature of these surgeries, Dr. AlKherayf is among a small group willing to perform them. Many are looking to The Ottawa Hospital to learn about this innovative surgery. “We have become one of the top places in Canada for this technique,” said Dr. AlKherayf.

Denis Paquette sitting outside at a table at The Ottawa Hospital.
Denis Paquette’s hearing was restored after receiving minimally invasive brain surgery at The Ottawa Hospital.

“They did a miracle on me”

On July 20, 2016, Denis underwent a five-hour operation during which Dr. AlKherayf and Dr. Kilty were able to successfully access and remove the tumour through his nose. The insertion of a microscopic tube that would travel from the cavity of where the tumour once was to his sinuses which would prevent future buildup of fluid and prevent the chance of reoccurrence.

When he woke up, Denis was astounded that he could hear his wife’s voice. “I woke up and wow,” said Denis, “I could hear!”

Just two days after his surgery, he was discharged.

“They did a miracle on me. They did something fantastic,” said Denis, whose hearing tests have been perfect ever since.

“They did a miracle on me. They did something fantastic.” – Denis Paquette

Thanks to the care Denis received at The Ottawa Hospital and the benefits of minimally invasive surgery, he can now enjoy watching his television shows and conversing with his wife without issue. He no longer fears a life without sound.

Your support today will allow us to continue to provide the latest treatments for patients like Denis.

More Great Stories

True love will continue through legacy gifts
Through their gift in a will to The Ottawa Hospital, Jim and Pat’s love will continue by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.
Mid-surgery decision to leave abdomen open for two days saves woman’s life
Phyllis’ life was on the line. A twist in her small intestine was causing it to die. But a surgical technique to leave her abdomen open saved her life.
Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis
Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope.

The Future of Health Care Starts Here

This is a significant moment for The Ottawa Hospital and for the surrounding region as we embark on our most ambitious project to-date: the creation of a new, state-of-the-art health and research centre to replace the aging Civic Campus.

A 21st-century health and research centre

The Ottawa Hospital is Canada’s largest academic health and research centre and when it opens, the Carling Site will be home to the most advanced trauma centre, most progressive digital technology, and one of the largest neuroscience research programs in the country.

 

Traditional operating rooms will now be hybrid procedural suites that will allow for a collaboration of health-care providers to innovate and provide state-of-the art treatments for our patients.

“The transformation of The Ottawa Hospital will not be like anything we’ve done before. We are creating a facility – right here in our community – that will be the envy of the world for its ability to foster innovation in every aspect of health care.” – Cameron Love, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, The Ottawa Hospital

This project is far more than simply bricks and mortar – this is your hospital.

It is within these walls that you and your loved ones will experience compassionate care when it is most needed and where new discoveries will take place every day.

Together, we will build a healthier future. Join us by donating today.

Be Inspired

True love will continue through legacy gifts
Through their gift in a will to The Ottawa Hospital, Jim and Pat’s love will continue by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.
Mid-surgery decision to leave abdomen open for two days saves woman’s life
Phyllis’ life was on the line. A twist in her small intestine was causing it to die. But a surgical technique to leave her abdomen open saved her life.
Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis
Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope.

From recovery room to the workshop: Carving inspires emotional healing

A small workspace, some stone and a few tools helped Saila Kipanek, a traditional Inuit carver, recover and heal after rectal cancer surgery and treatment.

Inuit carves way to mental well-being after cancer

After cancer diagnosis, Saila Kipanek, a traditional Inuit carver, couldn’t have imagined how important his life’s work would be for his recovery.

When Saila was diagnosed with rectal cancer, he knew his best chance for survival was treatment at The Ottawa Hospital. But uprooting his life in Nunavut, to be treated in Ottawa, away from his family, friends, and community would prove to be a challenge. It took a toll on his mental health.

But staff at The Ottawa Hospital would go the extra mile to make him feel at home.

A wholistic approach to healing

It was a cold February day, when Saila woke up in a post-op recovery room. He was feeling like a shell of his former self. Having spent months away from his home and his loved ones while undergoing cancer treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, he was suffering from extreme depression.

Not long after Saila’s surgery, Carolyn Roberts, a Registered Nurse and First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Nurse Navigator for the Indigenous Cancer Program, took Saila to Gatineau Park. As they sat by the river, Saila shared that his mental health was “in his boots” – but, he knew exactly what he needed to heal. “What I really need is to carve,” he explained to Carolyn. “Carving would help me feel like myself.”

Treating patients from Nunavut in Ottawa

The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, through an agreement with the Government of Nunavut, is the provider of cancer services to residents of Baffin Islands and eastern Nunavut. For this reason, patients like Saila travel thousands of kilometres to receive the very best treatment and care in Ottawa. However, coming to such a large city away from familiar culture, language, and food can make them feel isolated, and take a toll on their mental health.

Saila Kapinek carving his way to mental well-being at The Ottawa Hospital.
Saila Kapinek carving his way to mental well-being at The Ottawa Hospital.
The dancing bear that Saila began carving as he was receiving treatment at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre.
The dancing bear that Saila began carving as he was receiving treatment at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre.

Patient-centered health care

The role of the Nurse Navigator within the Indigenous Cancer Program is diverse and patient-centered. An important part of Carolyn’s role is to listen to the needs of each patient and work to the best of her ability to accommodate those needs. “If you just listen,” said Carolyn, “patients tell you what they need to heal.”

Carolyn did just that. After listening to Saila’s struggles, she was determined to help him. It was at that moment that Carolyn took it upon herself to find a space within the hospital for Saila to carve.

She approached Kevin Godsman, then one of the Managers of Facilities, to see if there was a room that Saila could use to carve in. With help from his colleagues, he found a room and fitted it out with furniture, tools and a vacuum.

 

Carolyn Roberts chats with Saila Kapinek at The Ottawa Hospital cancer centre.
Carolyn Roberts chats with Saila Kapinek at The Ottawa Hospital cancer centre.

A grand opening

A party was organized for the grand opening of Saila’s carving room. It was an emotional moment for him, realizing he would be able to carve again.

For the next six weeks, while he underwent his chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Saila carved.

His depression lifted, and his cancer was halted.

“Glad I got back to carving,” said Saila. “Grateful I’m doing it again. It helped in the long run.”

When he returned home to Iqaluit, he took his pieces with him and finished them. At a follow up appointment in September 2018, he brought his finished carvings back to show the team what they helped him create.

“They turned out even better than I imagined,” said Kevin. “It’s nice to know that The Ottawa Hospital has a little part in the making of them too.”

Today, Saila is feeling strong and well, and grateful for the compassionate care he received at The Ottawa Hospital.

Your support allows us to provide outstanding treatment and care to patients like Saila.

More Great Stories

True love will continue through legacy gifts
Through their gift in a will to The Ottawa Hospital, Jim and Pat’s love will continue by providing care and attention to patients in years to come.
Mid-surgery decision to leave abdomen open for two days saves woman’s life
Phyllis’ life was on the line. A twist in her small intestine was causing it to die. But a surgical technique to leave her abdomen open saved her life.
Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis
Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope.

A new era in breast health at The Ottawa Hospital

The Breast Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital is committed to providing an exceptional level of care for our patients, approaching each case with medical excellence, practice, and compassion. Our reputation for world-leading research and patient care attracts to Ottawa some of the brightest and most capable health-care professionals in the world who help us deliver extraordinary care to patients in our community.

Making world-first discoveries and pushing the boundaries of breast cancer care and research right here at The Ottawa Hospital

In front of a buzzing crowd of more than 200 generous contributors and tireless allies, the new Rose Ages Breast Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital officially opened its doors on September 20, 2018. The event marked a thrilling close to an ambitious $14 million fundraising campaign.

Built and equipped through the unfailing generosity of our community, the Centre now houses an impressive suite of technologies that are among the latest and most comprehensive in Canada. Many of them enable more accurate and much less invasive diagnoses and treatments.

But more than just technology, the new Centre was designed as an inviting space to enhance wellness and connection to friends and family. It also allows patients to be closer to the specialists involved in their care, from before diagnosis to after treatment, and beyond. This means, thanks to donor support, more patients can be treated with therapies that are tailored to their unique circumstance.

A comprehensive breast health program to address growing need

The Ottawa Hospital offers a comprehensive breast centre, providing expertise in breast imaging, diagnosis, risk assessment, surgical planning, and psychosocial support.

The consolidation of four breast health centres spread out across the city down to two (the Rose Ages Breast Health Centre and Hampton Park), allow for more centralized services, less travel time, improved patient care and operational efficiencies.

This year alone, another 1,000 women in our region will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to the generous donor community in the Ottawa region, The Ottawa Hospital is already tackling this growing challenge and working hard to improve every aspect of breast cancer care with innovative research and the very best treatments and techniques.

“Your generosity has improved the largest breast centre in Canada,” said Dr. Seely. “We are now poised to lead the way for excellence in breast health care.”

The creation of REaCT

The Ottawa Hospital’s commitment to innovation and research is revolutionizing clinical trials, improving patient outcomes every day. Though clinical trials offer improved treatment options, less than three percent of cancer patients in Canada are enrolled in clinical trials. Part of the reason for low enrollment is the daunting prospect of lengthy paperwork each patient must fill out before becoming involved in a trial. As well, regulatory hurdles often make opening a new trial too expensive and time consuming. In response to these challenges, in 2014, Dr. Marc Clemons, medical oncologist and scientist, in collaboration with Dr. Dean Fergusson, Director of the Clinical Epidemiology Program, and their colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital, developed the Rethinking Clinical Trials or REaCT program as a way to make the process of enrollment in clinical trials easier and more efficient for cancer patients.

This ground-breaking program conducts practical patient-focused research to ensure patients receive optimal, safe and cost-effective treatments. Since REaCT isn’t investigating a new drug or a new therapy, but rather looks at the effectiveness of an existing therapy, regulatory hurdles are not an issue and patients can consent verbally to begin treatment immediately. By the end of 2017, this program enrolled more breast cancer patients in clinical trials than all other trials in Canada combined. Currently, there are more than 2,300 participants involved in various REaCT trials.

Drs Mark Clemons and Dean Fergusson developed the Rethinking Clinical Trials or REaCT program
Drs Mark Clemons and Dean Fergusson developed the Rethinking Clinical Trials or REaCT program

The Rose Ages Breast Health Centre 2018-2019 stats and facts

  • 49,288 diagnostic breast examinations and procedures
  • 2,397 breast biopsies
  • 5,129 breast clinic patient visits
  • 1,929 referrals to the Breast Clinic
  • 889 diagnosed breast cancer patients

Specialized patient care

Tanya O’Brien

Tanya O'Brien, cancer free for more than five years.

 

Five years ago, Tanya O’Brien received the news she had been afraid of all her life. Like her six family members before her, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today, Tanya is cancer-free. When she thinks back to the 16 months of treatment she received at the Rose Ages Breast Health Center at The Ottawa Hospital, Tanya credits her dedicated and skilled care team for guiding her through and out of the darkest time in her life.

“We have come so far as a community in changing the narrative of breast cancer. We have given women like me, like us, so much hope,” said Tanya.

Rita Nattkemper

When a routine mammogram identified a small tumour, Rita Nattkemper was given an innovative option to mark its location for the surgery.

 

When a routine mammogram identified a small tumour, Rita Nattkemper was given an innovative option to mark its location for the surgery. A radioactive seed, the size of a pinhead, was injected directly into the tumour in her breast.

For years, an uncomfortable wire was inserted into a woman’s breast before surgery to pinpoint the cancer tumour. Today, a tiny radioactive seed is implanted instead, making it easier for surgeons to find and fully remove the cancer, and more comfortable for patients like Rita.

“It’s a painless procedure to get this radioactive seed in, and it helps the doctor with accuracy,” said Rita.

Marilyn Erdely

At the age of 29, Marilyn had a lumpectomy after receiving a stage zero breast cancer diagnosis.

 

At the age of 29, Marilyn had a lumpectomy after receiving a stage zero breast cancer diagnosis. She was confident she would be fine. But five years later, her cancer metastasized.

“Scans would reveal the cancer was throughout my body. I had significant cancer in the bones, in my femur, in my back, in my ovaries, and in my liver. I was head-to-toe cancer,” said Marilyn.

Oncologist Dr. Stan Gertler gave her hope for recovery. Within six months of her stage four diagnosis, Marilyn required several surgeries. But then things changed. She started feeling better, stronger.

Today, she is down to just a couple of one-centimeter tumours on her liver. Everything else is resolved. The cancer is dormant.

Breast Health Centre Update 2018-2019

More inspiring stories

Annette Gibbons

Annette Gibbons after speaking at The President's Breakfast.

 

‘I walked through my darkest fears and came out the other side.’

It would be a routine mammogram, which would turn Annette Gibbons’ world upside down. The public servant would soon begin her breast cancer journey, but she put her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

Vesna Zic-Côté

Vesna Coté imaged at her home.

 

The gift of time with family

Mom of three, Vesna, is living with terminal metastatic breast cancer. She is hoping clinical trials will continue to extend her life so she has more time with those she loves.

International research to find breast cancer sooner

The Ottawa Hospital is one of six sites in Canada participating in the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST), a randomized breast cancer screening trial that will help researchers determine the best ways to find breast cancer in women who have no symptoms, and whether a newer 3D imaging technique decreases the rate of advanced breast cancers.

The trial compares standard digital mammography (2D) with a newer technology called tomosynthesis mammography (3D). Conventional 2D mammography creates a flat image from pictures taken from two sides of the breast. With 3D mammography a 3D image is created from images taken at different angles around the breast.

Worldwide the study is expected to enroll around 165,000 patients over five years. With the new, increased mammography capacity at the Rose Ages Breast Health Centre we expect to enroll at least 1500 patients from our region.

Your impact

The Rose Ages Breast Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital is committed to providing an exceptional level of care for patients, approaching each case with medical excellence, practice, and compassion. The Centre’s reputation for world-leading research and patient care attracts to Ottawa some of the brightest and most capable health-care professionals in the world who help deliver extraordinary care to patients in our community.

You continue to be a critical part of our success as we strive to redraw the boundaries of breast health care. On behalf of the thousands of patients and families who need The Ottawa Hospital, we thank you for your tremendous support and for your continued involvement.

Support from donors like you will ensure that our community has access to the medical advancements that are defining patient care today.

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Unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

“I walked through my darkest fears and came out the other side.”

It was a routine mammogram that turned Annette Gibbons’ world upside down. An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis sent her on a journey of treatment and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

In July 2016, Annette Gibbons had a routine mammogram. She didn’t expect that day would become a pivotal moment in her life and lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. This unexpected news sent her on a journey of treatment, surgery, and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital for both her physical and emotional well-being.

Following the mammogram, Annette was told that she had dense tissue, which made it difficult to read the results. She wasn’t worried at all when she received a call to schedule another mammogram and ultrasound. But that all changed when her radiologist, Dr. Susan Peddle, gently told her that she thought it was cancer.

Annette, visibly emotional, recalls that fateful day. “Just like that, my life changed and I began my journey.”

The challenges of chemotherapy set in

Annette began chemotherapy treatment under the watchful eye of medical oncologist and scientist Dr. Mark Clemons. “He specializes in the type of cancer I had and is very active in clinical trials and research on leading-edge treatments and practices,” said Annette.

During these early days, she focussed solely on getting through the wear and tear of chemotherapy. She recalls that “it’s not anything you can truly prepare for, or understand, until you’re the patient…There was the depressing hair loss, the constant nausea, the searing bone pain and the mind-numbing fatigue. Despite all that, I still tried to keep my spirits up with exercise, a support group, and lots of old movies.”

 

 

 

Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.
Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.

Trusting her medical team

She also put her complete trust in her medical team and was determined to stay positive. “I knew the stats for survivability were fairly good and I looked forward to resuming my ‘normal life’.”

Little did she know that the next steps – mastectomy and radiation – would be tougher than chemotherapy. The surgery itself and healing had gone well. She credits her amazing surgeon, Dr. Erin Cordeiro, for her compassion and skill.

“She held my hand as I lay in the operating room preparing for the operation to begin.” – Annette Gibbons

“In the end,” Annette says with a little smile on her face, “she gave me, dare I say, the nicest, straightest surgery scar I have ever seen on anyone.”

Sobering news

Annette wouldn’t have the full picture of her cancer prognosis until pathology results came back on her tumour. Several weeks later she received alarming results from Dr. Cordeiro. It was devastating news. “She told me that my tumour was much bigger than first thought. They had found cancer in many of the lymph nodes they removed. I was not expecting that, it was a huge blow.”

As she tried to absorb this news, she sat down with Dr. Clemons a few days later and was dealt another blow. “He gave it to me straight: because of the tumour size and number of lymph nodes affected, my risk of recurrence was high.”

Compassionate care during a dark time

That’s when Annette’s world came crumbling down. She recalls spiralling down into a dark place. “It was very hard to crawl out of this place. But my medical team saw the signs and knew how to help me. My dedicated radiation oncologist, Dr. Jean-Michel Caudrelier, spotted my despair and referred me to the psychosocial oncology program. With the amazing help of Dr. Mamta Gautam, I walked through my deepest fears and came out the other side.”

Annette completed her radiation treatment and then slowly reclaimed her life. But as all cancer patients know, the fear of recurrence can be a constant companion. “I don’t know if that will ever change. But I decided to make it my friend who reminds me to think, not about dying, but about the importance of living while I am alive,” said Annette.

She’s grateful to know the best medical professionals were right here in her hometown when she was diagnosed. As a self-proclaimed “frequent flyer at the hospital”, Annette is proud to say she’s reclaimed her life — including her return to work. “I am myself again, and life is strangely somehow better than it was before.”

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients, like Annette during their time of need.

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Brain tumour diagnosis leads mom down unimaginable path

In 2016, Natasha Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her quality of life began to deteriorate. She was be cared for at The Ottawa Hospital – the only hospital in the region that could help her because of the complexity of her diagnosis.

One morning, in 2016, Natasha Lewis’ life took an unimaginable turn.

The mother of three remembers waking up with a strange symptom. “I looked in mirror and noticed my tongue was twisting to the left,” recalled Natasha. Her first thought was she was having a stroke, but she was confused by the fact the rest of her body seemed normal.

She went for tests at The Ottawa Hospital and three days later, her life changed.

Hospital-bound Natasha with Dr. Fahad Alkerayf
Natasha in the hospital with Dr. Fahad AlKherayf

Natasha was driving when she got the call. They had found a tumour in her brain. “I felt so sick when I heard the news that I had to pull over.”

She had a schwannoma tumour which is rarely found in the brain. Her mind was racing. “I was only 38 years old, a wife and mother of three young children.”

When she got home to St. Isidore, east of Ottawa, she sat with her youngest daughter, as she relayed the information to her husband. Natasha remembers feeling the tears falling down her face. She didn’t know what was going to happen. All this time, she thought she was healthy. “I was losing weight, running and training for marathons and triathlons.”

Her husband, Marvin, was a pillar of strength. She remembers him saying, “We’re in the right place. We’re in Canada, we’re close to Ottawa, we’ll get the best care.” She adds, “He has never been so right.”

Natasha was cared for at The Ottawa Hospital – the only hospital in the region that could help her because of the complexity of her diagnosis. Dr. Fahad Alkerayf, a world-class skull-based surgeon told her the tumour was benign and he would closely monitor her in the months ahead.

Less than a year later, while the tumour had grown only slightly, her quality of life was deteriorating.

She was scared to see the signs of what was happening with her body. Initially, there was drooling from both sides of her mouth and Natasha started slurring her words. Yes, it was a little embarrassing, but she could handle it. But then swallowing became more difficult and her shoulder felt like it was on fire. Then she lost the ability to move it and couldn’t use it to work out. Even worse, she couldn’t lift her children.

By May 2018, it was time to operate.

This would be an intricate 10-hour brain surgery. Dr. Alkherayf brought in an ear, nose and throat surgeon, Dr. David Schramm, a colleague at The Ottawa Hospital, to assist because of where the tumor was located. He wanted to have another highly skilled surgeon with him because the tumour was near the ear canal.

They accessed her brain through the base of the skull. Minimally invasive surgery wasn’t an option because there were too many nerves to navigate. This was the less risky option. They also knew they likely couldn’t remove all of the tumour because of those surrounding nerves. Damaging them meant she might lose her ability to hear and swallow.

While these risks were terrifying, Dr. Alkherayf made her feel confident and gave her hope.

“I remember Dr. Alkherayf said there would be another chapter in my life. I held on to those words.” – Natasha Lewis

During surgery, 99% of the tumour was removed. A small sliver was left so they didn’t have to cut the nerves.

Today, Natasha has her hearing, it’s a little muffled but she’s told over time it will return to normal. She’s back at work, her speech is getting back to normal, and she can swallow without problem. Natasha continues to be cared for by The Ottawa Hospital.

Natasha and her family sit in a park.
Natasha with her family

This active mom’s recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. Four months post-surgery, Natasha ran the Commander’s challenge at the Army Run. She’s now training for a marathon and hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Most importantly, she can run, play, and hug her three children. “I can hear them laugh and tell me they love me. There is no greater feeling in the world,” said Natasha.

You could say they’re writing their next chapter, and it’s because of The Ottawa Hospital.

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients like Natasha.

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