Buying time: 7 hrs, 52 stitches

Leata Qaunaq knew something was wrong when her husband Joellie arrived to meet her and their daughter at the airport near Arctic Bay, Nunavut. He was talking, but not making sense.

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joellie Qaunaq has 52 stitches on the left side of his head from the seven-hour surgery to remove a brain tumour. He had to leave his family, friends, and community of Arctic Bay on northern Baffin Island to come to The Ottawa Hospital for treatment because it is the only centre that treats patients from Nunavut. Joellie was guided through his cancer treatment and care by a First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nurse Navigator in the hospital’s Indigenous Cancer Program, which aims to improve access to cancer care services in a respectful, culturally appropriate way. After surgery and radiation, Joellie returned to Nunavut with chemotherapy pills, which allowed him to continue treatment at home.

Just before this report went to print, we were saddened to learn that Joellie passed away in early May 2019. Your support of cancer research is helping us find better treatments, so that one day patients like Joellie will live longer, fuller lives.

Click here to read more about Joellie.

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
Joellie Qaunaq after a 7hr surgery and 52 stitches to close the incision surgeons made in his head to remove a brain tumour.

 

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

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More Great Stories

My why is you
Robert Noseworthy was diagnosed with a childhood leukemia at the age of 30. This was rare for someone his age and his prognosis was grim. 30 years later, he gives back to cancer research through THE RIDE with his grown children by his side.
Buying time: 7hrs, 52 stitches
Leata Qaunaq knew something was wrong when her husband Joellie arrived to meet her and their daughter at the airport near Arctic Bay, Nunavut. He was talking, but not making sense.
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.
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Ottawa Champions Baseball Club BBQ

Summer is finally here and what’s a better pair than baseball and barbecues? Join us on Tuesday, July 16 for some great food and an exciting game!

Event Date: July 16, 2019
Event Time: 5:30PM
Location: Ottawa Champions Baseball Club, 300 Coventry Road, Ottawa
Contact: [email protected]

Come enjoy a night out in support of the Ottawa Hospital Foundation! $5.00 from each ticket purchased will be donated to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. Entry for adults is $35.00, whereas youth get in for $20.00.

For more information, click here.

The Ottawa-Gatineau Walk for Myeloma

The Ottawa-Gatineau Myeloma Walk and takes a step towards a cure for multiple myeloma!

Event Date: Sunday, September 22, 2019
Event Time: 12:30PM
Location: Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre 102 Greenview Ave, Ottawa, ON
Website: http://www.stepstoacure.ca/
Contact: Frank Shepherd, [email protected], Glenn Hussey, [email protected]

The Ottawa-Gatineau Myeloma Walk and takes a step towards a cure for multiple myeloma! The Walk not only increases awareness of the disease but importantly helps fund clinical research and supports advocacy for accelerated access to game-changing therapies for Canadian patients living with myeloma. Multiple Myeloma remains a relatively unknown and rare form of blood cancer. Supporting research and raising awareness of the disease is critical.

The funds raised will support the work of Myeloma Canada and The Ottawa Hospital.

Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Goals! Invest in a healthy & wealthy retirement

68 and feeling great! Join motivational speaker Bob Hardy as he shares his story, from Leukemia to a Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, writing a Symphonic Music Work, and beyond!

Event Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Event Time: 7:00PM

Location: Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd, Orléans

Website: https://www.bobhardythewalkerrunner.com/

Contact: 613-361-0504

Join motivational speaker Bob Hardy on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 at the Shenkman Arts Centre for a night full of inspirational stories from a man who refused to quit. Following a Leukemia and several surgeries, Bob Hardy has gone on to earn a Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu and complete in several international marathons. Next up for Bob – qualifying for the Boston Marathon and a performance the award-winning symphony he wrote himself, Fifth day Suite: Son et Lumière. The cost of admission is $25.00 per ticket, with proceeds being donated to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation in support of the Ottawa Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the Ottawa Hospital.

Click here to register or learn more about the event.

 

Hundreds support The Ottawa Hospital and Run for a Reason

Close to 600 runners laced up their running shoes to support The Ottawa Hospital at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Together, they raised $296,060.

MAY 26, 2019, OTTAWA, ON – Close to 600 runners laced up their running shoes to support The Ottawa Hospital at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Together, they raised $296,060 by choosing to Run for a Reason and support an area of The Ottawa Hospital close to their hearts.

Since 1998, Run for a Reason has united individuals and teams, family, friends and employees of The Ottawa Hospital for one common cause—to support eastern Ontario’s most important health care hub. Funds raised will help transform patient care and advance research.

Nora Shipton returned as team captain of Preemies 4 Preemies this year. Her team raised funds for The Ottawa Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. She loved the experience of being part of something special that brought so many of her family and friends together. “I can’t wait to do this again next year. We had a lot of excitement on our team and it feels heartwarming to have so many people come out and support us.”

It’s this kind of community support, which makes Run for a Reason such a special fundraiser for The Ottawa Hospital. Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, said he sees it year after year. “The energy never disappoints. I know for each participant, whether they ran or walked, there is special meaning behind why they are fundraising for The Ottawa Hospital. These are our ambassadors who will leave a lasting legacy as we continue to make significant strides in research and patient care.”

“These are our ambassadors who will leave a lasting legacy as we continue to make significant strides in research and patient care.” Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, approximately 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of about approximately $1.3 billion.

Our focus on learning and research helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region and our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.


More News

Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy win The Ottawa Hospital’s Medicine Ball trophy
A sold-out crowd was brought to their feet when Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy were announced the winners of The Ottawa Hospital’s Dancing with the Docs Gala, presented by MD Financial Management, on Saturday night. This annual fundraiser raised $455,156.
Three top researchers honoured
The city’s most prestigious event of the year paid tribute to innovative research at The Ottawa Hospital in front of a sold-out crowd at the Westin Ottawa. A capacity crowd of 700 filled the elegant ballroom and enjoyed a sumptuous four-course meal.
$1.1 million raised at THE RIDE
Pedal power took over the nation’s capital on Sunday, as hundreds of cyclists came together to support leading edge research at The Ottawa Hospital.

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.

Story by Vesna Zic-Côté 

Vesna Zic Cote“In 2012, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Despite the standard treatment of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal treatment, the cancer returned four years later, having spread to my lungs, bones and lymph nodes.

I received my diagnosis of incurable stage 4 metastatic breast cancer on my son’s birthday. He was nine.

My world as I knew it ended. I was sitting upstairs on my bed. I could hear the kids playing downstairs. I called my husband at work and he came home and we cried.

It is a tradition in our home that on our kids’ birthdays, we go out to a restaurant of their choosing for dinner. So on the day my world ended, I sat in a restaurant and ordered some food and tried to eat cardboard, but couldn’t get the food to go down. I looked at the birthday boy and held the tears in, and my heart shattered in a million pieces.

Metastatic breast cancer is treatable, but not curable. When I was first diagnosed, my life expectancy was being measured in months. Now with cautious hope, it might be a few years. I go to the Hospital every 28 days to get injections. They are part of a series of targeted treatments I receive to keep the cancer cells at bay. One day, the cancer will figure out how to grow despite this treatment, and I will move onto something else. And I’ll continue this endless cycle of treatments and scans and progression and change until I am out of options. But I am a 43-year-old mother. And wife. And daughter. And sister. I need more time. Time to see my young children through elementary school. Time to watch my family grow and share in all the joys that life brings. Time to celebrate anniversaries with my husband and birthdays with my niece and nephews. Time with my beloved family and friends.

There is so much that needs to happen to make this a reality for me. I will need new treatments when my current regimen stops working – because it will stop working. I need research in cancer therapies and a health-care system that is streamlined and accessible.

Sadly, early detection does not prevent all cancers from returning and spreading. We need research to understand why, and treatment to extend our lives.

When I was first diagnosed, my focus was limited, directed inwards, focused on those dearest to me. During that time of learning about this new world, I absorbed every detail I could about metastatic breast cancer; living with metastatic breast cancer, treating metastatic breast cancer, dying metastatic breast cancer. A few names came to the forefront; those making noise, shifting opinions, moving the dial on research and progress. Months into treatment, when I could finally breathe again, I knew that I wanted to be part of this movement, part of the noise, part of the shift. I needed to validate this situation that I didn’t ask for in order to accept that it was part of my story whether I liked it or not.

For now, I have energy to cast outward. Not every day, but some days. Writing, fundraising, speaking, meeting. And I would say that the way I live my life has influenced my children who actively participate in my fundraising efforts with enthusiasm. They don’t need to feel embarrassed that their mom has cancer. Instead, they can feel like they are doing something to help me by climbing trees and selling apples, doing presentations on their fundraising efforts, wearing pink laces, and making signs, helping the doctors and researchers to find better medicines. Regardless of where we eventually land, I want them to be able to look back on all the good things that they did, and know that their efforts warmed many, many hearts… mine most of all.

On behalf of all of us living with incurable cancer – finding joy between injections and scans and blood work and appointments, living with hope and making a difference – thank you for your support.”

– Vesna

We need your help today to give patients like Vesna more time, more memories, more hope. Support our cancer clinical trial research today and help us develop new ways to treat this devastating disease.

More Great Stories of #TOHMOMS

My why is you
Robert Noseworthy was diagnosed with a childhood leukemia at the age of 30. This was rare for someone his age and his prognosis was grim. 30 years later, he gives back to cancer research through THE RIDE with his grown children by his side.
Buying time: 7hrs, 52 stitches
Leata Qaunaq knew something was wrong when her husband Joellie arrived to meet her and their daughter at the airport near Arctic Bay, Nunavut. He was talking, but not making sense.
From tragedy to triumph
Liam and Rhys White started life in an extraordinary way.

Four years after metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, every day is a gift

Jillian O’Connor was 18 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and given less than two years to live. In February, she celebrated the fourth birthday of her healthy baby boy and continues to live life to the fullest.

Jillian O’Connor stands in her living room laughing. A small boy hugs her leg, then takes off and disappears down the stairs to play with his older brother and sister. That was Declan. He turned four on February 1, 2019. The fact that his mother saw him blow out the candles on his birthday cake is extraordinary.

When Jillian was 18 weeks pregnant with Declan, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. She wasn’t expected to celebrate his second birthday. Two and a half years later, Jillian celebrated his fourth birthday with him—and still living life to its fullest.

Jillian O’Connor

The first thing that strikes you about Jillian is her smile. Next, it’s her insatiable enthusiasm for life. Then comes her contagious positivity. Hard not to think the latter alone is why she has made it so far against daunting odds. It may be anecdotal but Jillian definitely thinks, or rather knows, it’s the key.

“I am totally full of cancer, pretty much from my head to my toes,” said Jillian. “Every day I get is a blessing, ‘Oh, I woke up. Perfect!’ You just want to go at it as hard as you can, for as long as you can. Just being optimistic, I think helps. I really believe it helps.”

Jillian’s petite frame belies her light-up-the-room personality. She is gregarious with an enthusiasm that bubbles infectiously out of her. She talks about her cancer matter-of-factly. It is part of her life, but doesn’t rule her. She has other things to focus on—her precious family. The 35-year-old laughs and chats so easily about her life and her journey with cancer that it takes a second to realize how extraordinary her journey has been.

In 2014, Jillian was still nursing Landon, her second child, when she went to see her physician about a blocked milk duct. It turned out to be breast cancer. Doctors wanted to do CT scans to determine the extent of her cancer, but Jillian couldn’t. She was 18 weeks pregnant. Without treatment, she was told she wouldn’t survive to give birth. It was unfathomable. She had a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son at home. It was a devastating diagnosis but Jillian met it head on with her own special brand of optimism and determination.

Terminating the pregnancy was not an option for Jillian and her husband David. Her oncologist, Dr. Mark Clemons, told her she didn’t have to. He could provide a chemotherapy cocktail that would keep her cancer at bay without harming her unborn child. Jillian had a mastectomy and a dozen chemo treatments tailored to her special case. On February 1, 2015, she gave birth to a healthy baby Declan.

“I received chemotherapy right up until I delivered him. He was healthy—a wonderful birth weight. He was absolutely perfect,” said Jillian.

After Declan was born, Jillian had scans to see where the cancer was. It had spread, and had metastasized to her bones, liver, and lymphatic system. That was when she was given less than two years.

“Basically, they said, ‘We can’t give you a long timeframe. It’s stage IV, so every day you wake up is going to be a gift,’” said Jillian, who stopped working as a nurse at the Queensway Carleton Hospital and became a patient there, receiving treatment at The Ottawa Hospital’s satellite cancer centre, the Irving Greenberg Family Cancer Centre. “Two years passed, then three, and then I passed four years this past summer. I’m hoping I’ll have another 40 plus years. I got a pretty doom and gloom diagnosis, but I continue to pull life off.”

Jillian has pulled life off in a big way. After all, when she brought Declan home from the hospital, she had three children under the age of three to look after. She poured herself into motherhood, enjoying every moment with them. Between weekly trips to the cancer centre for treatment, she was busy changing diapers, making meals, caring for, playing with, and loving her little ones.

Declan and Jillian O'Connor
Four-year-old Declan sits on his mom’s knee.

Declan is back and clambers onto his mother’s knee—for about 30 seconds—before scrambling off onto the couch beside her. He is a typical four-year-old. His big sister Myla, who is seven, and brother Landon, who is five, appear, and the three play on the floor near their mom. Jillian chatters happily with them.

Jillian has celebrated all her children’s early-year milestones: learning to walk, talk, run, play, read, and become independent little people. Both Myla and Landon are now in school. Declan will be joining them in September. In mid-January, Jillian and David registered him for junior kindergarten. Nowadays, while the two older ones are in school, she and Declan have fun hanging out. They fill their days with activities that include volunteering at the school, as well as the more mundane household chores.

“I got a pretty doom and gloom diagnosis, but I continue to pull life off.”

Jillian is exuberant about life. She lives each day as it comes.

“She has, with all the help that modern radiotherapy and medical oncology can offer in Ottawa, in addition to her tremendous personality and drive, done amazingly well in a tragic situation for any young mom,” said Dr. Clemons. “At the same time, she has been involved in practice-changing research that is going to improve the care of patients—she continues to give.”

Over the past four years, Jillian has participated in clinical cancer trials with new therapies that have kept her cancer in check. When it spread to her brain a couple of years ago, she had whole-brain and CyberKnife radiation. Then she was put on new medication that can cross the blood brain barrier, which her regular chemotherapy couldn’t do. The medication halted new tumour growths in her brain. Her cancer is not getting better, but it’s not getting worse, either.

“I’m happy to stay status quo, because there is nothing I want to do that I can’t do right now,” said Jillian.“Status quo—I’m good with that. I feel great. I don’t have aches or pains or anything. I don’t have time to think about how I feel.”

Jillian sits on the floor laughing and playing with her three children. She looks at the little doll her daughter Myla shows her, and hands a ball to Landon. “I really think it’s the kids. They have so much to do with it, because they are so great. They are so fun. They keep me really busy and that’s half the fun. By the time I go to bed at night, I don’t think about cancer. I don’t think about tests coming up. I don’t think about that stuff because I’m too tired. So I think that is helpful.”

Dr. Clemons agrees.

“She is a gem, and her attitude of living life with true meaning is a humbling lesson for all of us,” said Dr. Clemons. “Too many people in society spend too much time moaning about the trivial, as well as things they can’t do anything about. Life is for living, and Jillian encourages people to do that—live!”

Whether it’s thanks to the innovative new treatment she receives or her uber-positive attitude, Jillian has surpassed the original two-year diagnosis by two-and-a-half years.

Dr. Clemons told her, “Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it—obviously it’s working for you.”

And it is.


We need your help today to give patients like Jillian more time, more memories, more hope. Support our cancer clinical trial research today and help us develop new ways to treat this devastating disease.

More Great Stories of #TOHMOMS

My why is you
Robert Noseworthy was diagnosed with a childhood leukemia at the age of 30. This was rare for someone his age and his prognosis was grim. 30 years later, he gives back to cancer research through THE RIDE with his grown children by his side.
Buying time: 7hrs, 52 stitches
Leata Qaunaq knew something was wrong when her husband Joellie arrived to meet her and their daughter at the airport near Arctic Bay, Nunavut. He was talking, but not making sense.
From tragedy to triumph
Liam and Rhys White started life in an extraordinary way.

Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy win The Ottawa Hospital’s Medicine Ball trophy

A sold-out crowd was brought to their feet when Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy were announced the winners of The Ottawa Hospital’s Dancing with the Docs Gala, presented by MD Financial Management, on Saturday night. This annual fundraiser raised $455,156. 

April 6, 2019, OTTAWA, ON – A sold-out crowd was brought to their feet when Dr. Natasha Kekre and Dr. Arleigh McCurdy were announced the winners of The Ottawa Hospital’s Dancing with the Docs Gala, presented by MD Financial Management, on Saturday night. Nine physicians and researchers partnered with a dance professional from Arthur Murray Dance Studio to compete for the Medicine Ball trophy. Scores from a panel of four judges were combined with the votes given for each contestant’s fundraising efforts.

This annual fundraiser raised $455,156 supporting innovative patient care and world-class research at The Ottawa Hospital. Tim Kluke, president of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, said it was a thrilling night. “This truly is the most entertaining fundraiser I’ve seen in our city. Where else could you have nine, active, working doctors take to the stage and put on a show? It’s a big party and the whole room gets involved. It’s really a night like no other in our region. Thanks to the incredible success of Dancing with the Docs, funds will be supporting ground-breaking cancer research, our orthopaedic department, the SIM Centre, women’s health initiatives and so much more.”

“Thanks to the incredible success of Dancing with the Docs, funds will be supporting ground-breaking cancer research, our orthopaedic department, the SIM Centre, women’s health initiatives and so much more.”

Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

The fancy footwork of the nine competitors from The Ottawa Hospital was contagious. After the official ceremony was over, guests hit the dance floor at the Hilton Lac-Leamy to show off their own dance moves, potentially vying for a spot to compete next year.

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, over 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of approximately $1.2 billion.

Our focus on learning and research helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people, to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex health care challenges.

For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.


More News

Hundreds support The Ottawa Hospital and Run for a Reason
Close to 600 runners laced up their running shoes to support The Ottawa Hospital at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Together, they raised $296,060.
Three top researchers honoured
The city’s most prestigious event of the year paid tribute to innovative research at The Ottawa Hospital in front of a sold-out crowd at the Westin Ottawa. A capacity crowd of 700 filled the elegant ballroom and enjoyed a sumptuous four-course meal.
$1.1 million raised at THE RIDE
Pedal power took over the nation’s capital on Sunday, as hundreds of cyclists came together to support leading edge research at The Ottawa Hospital.

President's Dinner

Be informed and inspired by our guest speakers and network with Ottawa’s health care leaders as we discuss the latest technology and innovation in health care.

Speakers

Cameron Love - Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Office

Cameron Love – Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, The Ottawa Hospital

Cameron Love will share ideas about how technology and innovation can improve the lives of patients and how these ideas tie-in to the planning and building of the new campus of The Ottawa Hospital. 

Alan Forster - Vice President, Quality Performance and Population Health at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Alan Forster – Vice President, Innovation and Quality at The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Forster will explore how data driven health care at The Ottawa Hospital continuously drives improvements in quality and some of the innovative approaches the hospital takes to deliver world-class care. 

Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi - Stroke Neurologist at the Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi – Stroke Neurologist at the Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Dar Dowlatshahi will discuss the role that innovation and technology play in the advancement of patient care through the use of applications like the RecoverNow app for stroke patients. 

Dr. Sylvain Boet – Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology Program, The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Sylvain Boet – Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology Program, The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Sylvain Boet will go behind the operating room doors to show how the OR Black Box is providing data to create better patient outcomes. 

Event Date:

May 28, 2019

Time:

6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Location:

Ottawa Conference and Event Centre, 200 Coventry Road, Ottawa, ON

Contact:

Donor Relations
613-737-8899, ext. 19796
[email protected]

Stem cells may heal lungs of premature babies

Premature babies need extra oxygen and mechanical intervention to breathe but this can damage their lungs, causing a chronic lung disease. A stem cell treatment soon to be tested in clinical trials at The Ottawa Hospital may help heal the lungs of premature babies.

Little Olivia Eberts had oxygen tubes in her nose until after her first birthday. Because she was born prematurely her tiny lungs were underdeveloped and she couldn’t breathe without oxygen. Ironically for Olivia, and many premature babies like her, the oxygen that saved her life also damaged her lungs, causing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), which is like starting out life with emphysema. This meant she needed to stay on oxygen even longer to help her breathe.

“She was on supplemental oxygen for so long, it was almost part of her identity,” said Jamie Eberts, Olivia’s mother.

Jamie Eberts holding baby Olivia
Jamie Eberts holding baby Olivia

Olivia was born on January 29, 2017, at 23 and a half weeks gestation―or 17 weeks too early. She weighed one pound, two ounces. Her twin brother Liam weighed only a few ounces more than her. Both babies required oxygen and mechanical ventilation to keep them alive and as a result both developed BPD—the most common cause of death in premature babies. Sadly, baby Liam passed away a few weeks after he was born while Olivia remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Ottawa Hospital for seven months.

In Canada, 1,000 babies suffer from BPD every year. Often babies with BPD, develop other chronic lung diseases, such as asthma, and many require prolonged oxygen and ventilation. They also have a high incidence of hospital readmissions in the first two years of life. Babies with BPD often have problems in other organs as well, such as the brain or the eyes.

When Olivia was finally discharged, she went home with an oxygen tank. During the first year of her life, Olivia spent more time in hospital than out.

“Even now, a simple flu that put me in bed for a couple of days, put her in hospital and turned into pneumonia. It’s scary,” said Jamie. The doctor told her that with Olivia’s respiratory issues, there would be no guarantee she will ever leave the hospital entirely.’”

“Currently there is no treatment for this disease,” said Dr. Bernard Thébaud, a neonatologist and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital.

He hopes to change the outcome for babies, like Olivia, who have BPD.

“In the laboratory, we discovered that a particular type of stem cell can prevent BPD or regenerate newborn lungs,” said Dr. Thébaud, who is also appointed at CHEO and the University of Ottawa. “Our research uses stem cells, isolated from the umbilical cords of healthy newborns, to prevent the lung injury or even to some degree regenerate a damaged lung in the laboratory. We foresee that these stem cells, given during a certain time during the hospital stay of these babies, could prevent the progression of the lung disease.”

Dr. Bernard Thébaud looks at a premature baby in an isolette.
Dr. Bernard Thébaud looks at a premature baby in an isolette.

Dr. Thébaud and his research team are preparing for an early phase clinical trial to test the feasibility and safety of the stem cell treatment on premature babies.

“Stem cell research is incredibly innovative. Here, we have a very promising, emerging therapy that could prevent lung injury but also improve brain development and eye sight,” said Janet Brintnell, Clinical Manager of the NICU who has seen dozens of premature babies suffer from BPD. “It’s amazing when you think of what it may be able to do for the quality of life for the child, for their family, and for our health-care system. It could reduce length of stay, hospital admissions, and reduce long-term outcomes. It could help these little ones lead healthier lives.”

“We are the only ones doing this kind of stem cell research in Canada, and there are only a few other teams in the world that are doing this,” said Dr. Thébaud.

Two years ago, when Olivia was in the NICU, Jamie and her husband Tim met Dr. Thébaud and wished his stem cell treatment could have been available to help heal their babies.

“What’s hard is we think, ‘But if we could’ve signed up for the trial? Would Liam be alive? Would Olivia be suffering?” said Jamie. “Even to this day, if we are asked to put Olivia in the trial as an older candidate, we will.”

Olivia is now a happy, active toddler who loves copying what her older brother Jacob does. Although, she still has BPD, it is increasingly manageable, and she no longer requires supplemental oxygen. Olivia may suffer respiratory illness her entire life but one day, a stem cell treatment developed here in Ottawa could mean that the next generation of babies with BPD won’t.

“Donors are extremely important to allow us to perform this research, especially when it comes to the stage where it matters most: to translate this research into treatment and have clinical trials.” — Dr. Bernard Thébaud, neonatologist

More Stories

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.
Four years after metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, every day is a gift
Jillian O’Connor was 18 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and given less than two years to live. In February, she celebrated the fourth birthday of her healthy baby boy and continues to live life to the fullest.
Clinical trial means new options for colorectal cancer patients
Sandy Patenaude participated in a clinical trial of a cancer stem cell inhibitor drug, which successfully prevented her cancer from growing. As a result, doctors are able to determine which patients might benefit from the drug.