Fierce determination pushes patient to walk again after Guillain Barré Syndrome diagnosis

Avid cyclist Fran Cosper had his life change when he woke one night and couldn’t feel his legs. Doctors at The Ottawa Hospital diagnosed him with Guillain Barré Syndrome. Although he was paralyzed, Fran was determined to walk again.

Long-distance cyclist Fran Cosper described himself as being in the best shape of his life as he headed into the winter of 2017. However, in mid-February he woke up in the middle of the night unable to feel his legs. The next morning, when Fran tried getting out of bed, he slammed onto the floor – his strong legs suddenly useless. Soon after, he was diagnosed with Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS) – facing the possibility of permanent paralysis. Little did he know the road ahead would involve a team of experts, the help of 3D virtual reality at The Ottawa Hospital, and a determination not only to walk again, but also to help other patients.

When Fran first experienced those sudden symptoms, he initially thought it couldn’t be anything serious as he was very health conscious. He attempted to make his way to the basement that morning to work out. “I went to get on my hands and knees, and fell face-first on the carpet. I thought, ‘Well, I can’t move. This is much more serious.’ My wife, Elise, came down and saw that I had facial paralysis, and thought I’d had a stroke.”

But Fran knew that strokes typically affect only one side of the body and that something else — something serious — was happening.

What is Guillain Barré Syndrome?

Fran is secured to an adjustable bed prior to using the CAREN machine at the Ottawa Hospital Rehab Centre.
Fran in hospital.

After a thorough assessment, Fran was diagnosed with GBS. This rare autoimmune disorder causes the immune system to attack the nerves, damaging the myelin sheath, which is the nerves’ protective covering. As a result, the brain can’t transmit signals to the nerves in the muscles, causing weakness, numbness or, as in Fran’s case, paralysis.

An infection or virus can bring on GBS. The 56-year-old had had two colds back-to-back, which may have thrown his immune system into overdrive. Within days, his balance was off, and he had difficulty lifting pots to cook dinner. Hours later, the disease was full blown, attacking his nervous system and Fran couldn’t move.

“It was like having an out-of-body experience. I mean my brain was working fine but my body wasn’t doing what I asked it to do.”
– Fran Cosper

“We see patients with Guillain Barré Syndrome at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre probably five or six times a year,” says Dr. Vidya Sreenivasan, a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Some have mild cases, but others, like Fran’s, are more serious.

A more challenging road to recovery

About one in 100,000 Canadians contracts GBS every year. Recovery can take more than a year because the nerves re-grow slowly, one millimetre per month. For Fran, the journey would be much longer.

The disease continued its nerve damage following his admission to the hospital. After two weeks, he transferred to the Rehab Centre, where his care team included doctors, psychologists, social workers, recreation therapists, physiotherapists, respirologists, occupational therapists, and nurses.

“I decided at that point, I was going to fight it. I was going to fight back and do the best I could to get better even though I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.”
– Fran Cosper

Fran was completely dependent on this team for all of his care. He needed to be washed, dressed, and turned in bed. He couldn’t even close his eyes. The nurses had to tape his eyelids shut so he could sleep.

“It was like having an out-of-body experience. I mean my brain was working fine but my body wasn’t doing what I asked it to do,” says Fran. He also faced excruciating pain because of the damage done to his nerves. As Fran lay there unable to move in his hospital bed, he made a decision.

“Oddly, I wasn’t afraid. I decided at that point, I was going to fight it. I was going to fight back and do the best I could to get better even though I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.”

Rehab team ready with state-of-the art technology

Fran’s excellent fitness level, as well as his determination and positive attitude, helped him through when it came to the rigorous therapy plan. He had physiotherapy five hours a day, including three times a week in the Rehab Centre pool. Within two months, he could stand and take steps with help. He learned to walk again thanks in part to our Virtual Reality lab – one of only two in Canada.

Fran in pool.
Fran would visit the Rehab Centre pool three times a week.

“The pool and this 3D room were invaluable. It would have taken me a lot longer to get my legs back if I didn’t have access to those tools.” – Fran Cosper

The CAREN (Computer-Assisted Rehabilitation Environment) system combines room-sized 3D graphics, a platform that moves with the patient in a harness, as they explore the 3D world, a dual-tread remote-controlled treadmill, and world-class motion analysis technology. Preprogrammed visual presentations allow the patient to respond to an environmental stimulus by shifting weight, increasing or decreasing speed and even making specific motions. Difficulty levels can be increased gradually as the patient progresses further in their rehabilitation treatment plans.

Fran in VR lab.
Fran learning to walk again thanks in part to our Virtual Reality lab – one of only two in Canada.

“This room is right out of sci-fi. It really challenges your body. After an hour of doing exercises, I was just sweating. The pool and this 3D room were invaluable. It would have taken me a lot longer to get my legs back if I didn’t have access to those tools.”

“I’d basically been swiped off the planet for a year. But the only negative thing about being in the hospital was the disease itself.” – Fran Cosper

For Dr. Nancy Dudek, Medical Director, Amputee Program at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, this unique system offers many benefits to patients. “There’s no end to things you can do with that sort of creativity. To be able to be hooked up to a harness without the support of the parallel bars still gives you the safety aspect. It’s a very innovative and beneficial system.”

Installed in 2010 in partnership with the Canadian Forces and with support from the community, the CAREN system was initially used in part to help injured soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Since then, many patients have benefitted, including those who have had a traumatic brain injury, stroke, neuromuscular disease, amputation, or chronic pain.

Continuing the road to recovery

Released from the Rehab Centre in October 2017, tears were shed by Fran and nurses who cared for him. It was those nurses who helped Fran with day-to-day care, teaching him how to wash and dress himself and be independent again.

Fran on exercise ball
Fran receiving care from the rehab team.

“I can honestly say that the kindness and level of care I got really humbled me. The nurses and staff have just been marvellous,” says Fran. “I’d basically been swiped off the planet for a year. But the only negative thing about being in the hospital was the disease itself.”

He walked out of the Rehab Centre using a walker. When he returned a month later for a follow-up appointment, he walked in on his own.

Today, Fran is back riding his bike – not quite to the 100-kilometer distances, yet, but his therapy continues. He still deals with pain, and his arms were slower to recover. His fine motor skills in his fingers are taking longer to get back to normal. As a saxophone player, he’s motivated to get his fingers working again.

“I’m kind of at the point now where I’m thinking I may be able to play again someday. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to play my sax because my fine dexterity is improving – it’s a work in progress.”

Giving back as a volunteer

Fran will never forget two volunteers in particular who were there for him when he was being cared for at the Rehab Centre. Chris and Claude would come and take Fran for coffee and to talk. Initially, he had no idea who these blue-vested people were, but Fran quickly learned the important role they play at the hospital.

“I remember asking Chris why he was a volunteer. Chris explained to me that he had an inoperable brain tumour, and he was going to die. He told me, ‘I figured the hospital took such good care of me that I would spend the rest of my time volunteering.’ I broke into tears and decided right there I had to become a volunteer,” says Fran.

Fran in blue vest.
Today, Fran gives back as a volunteer at our hospital.

Pre-COVID, Fran would spend two days a week meeting patients, sometimes visiting his old room at the Rehab Centre, inspiring them about what is possible. “I remember seeing a woman in a hallway; she was on a gurney and going in for surgery – she was by herself. I stopped, leaned over, and told her it was going to be ok. Afterwards, I saw her again and she said, ‘Thank you.’

That’s why Fran proudly wears the blue vest. He’s experienced the dark days and today, he’s happy to be able to help others when they need a reassuring voice to help them through – just like Chris and Claude helped him. He’s also grateful to be able to volunteer his time at the hospital that cared for him during his long journey to recovery.

Listen to Fran Cosper in his own words during a guest appearance on Pulse: The Ottawa Hospital Foundation Podcast.

Your donation will help make sure patients like Fran have access to state-of-the-art equipment necessary to help them recover.

More Inspiring Stories

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The Virtual Run for a Reason raises $130,000

SEPTEMBER 9, 2020 OTTAWA, ON – It was a year of overcoming adversity in light of COVID-19 and supporters of The Ottawa Hospital did just that. The annual Run for a Reason fundraising initiative through Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend went virtual and raised $130,000.

Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, acknowledged while fundraising was down for the event, the dedication has never been more apparent. “It’s at times like these that I’m reminded how dedicated our community is to ensuring we provide the best caliber of care when our loved ones need it most and that our researchers have the funds needed to advance their research into new discoveries. I’m truly grateful for this support during a challenging time.”

This year, the virtual Run for a Reason attracted 129 participants supporting key areas of The Ottawa Hospital including, cancer research, priority needs, the neonatal intensive care unit to name a few.

Since 1998, Run for a Reason has raised $11.4 million supporting the world-class care and leading-edge research at The Ottawa Hospital. Thanks to its long-standing relationship with Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, the Foundation looks forward to announcing a new collaboration to build on that partnership for 2021.

About The Ottawa Hospital: 

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex healthcare challenges.

Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Our focus on learning and research leads to new techniques and discoveries that are adopted globally to improve patient care.

We are the Regional Trauma Centre for eastern Ontario and have been accredited with Exemplary Standing for healthcare delivery — the highest rating from Accreditation Canada. We are also home to world-leading research programs focused on cancer therapeutics, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, chronic disease, and practice-changing research.

Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones.

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

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For the First Time in 19 Years, The Ottawa Hospital’s President’s Breakfast Goes Virtual

SEPTEMBER 1, 2020 OTTAWA, ON – If you thought The Ottawa Hospital might postpone its annual President’s Breakfast in light of COVID-19, you’re in for a wake-up call. That’s because today, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation announced its influential fundraiser is once again blazing a new trail. For the first time since its inception in 2001, the annual one-hour event will be held virtually on Tuesday, September 29, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. in a groundbreaking online adaptation of the traditional in-person gathering.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • This year’s event will be held virtually on Tuesday, September 29, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Since 2001, The Ottawa Hospital’s annual President’s Breakfast has raised nearly $12 million toward leading-edge research, facilities, equipment, and tools to improve patient care.
  • The President’s Breakfast is a one-hour coming-together of guest speakers, front-line healthcare researchers, patients whose lives have been saved, and more than 500 dedicated supporters to raise critical funds for The Ottawa Hospital.

While COVID-19 has put events of this nature on hold, the need to raise crucial funds for research and patient care not only continues, it is amplified by the pandemic.

As has become tradition, the President’s Breakfast will spotlight some of the year’s most incredible, inspiring stories of hope and compassion to an audience of more than 500 dedicated supporters – including lead sponsor Doherty and Associates.

“We may not be able to physically be together in the same room, but we can still gather as a community and connect via live streaming video for this great cause,” said Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. “Make no mistake, this will not look or sound anything like your run-of-the-mill video conference call. We’re employing state-of-the-art technology to make it the next best thing to an in-person event. It is an extremely important component of our yearly fundraising calendar, and so we have worked hard to create a dynamic program of guest speakers, special announcements, and a few surprises to make sure we stay true to the innovative spirit for which the President’s Breakfast is well known.”

The President’s Breakfast will also mark the first official address from Cameron Love, the new President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, as part of its itinerary of guest speakers and former patients including Stuntman Stu, who recently underwent his second bone marrow transplant at The Ottawa Hospital in his battle with leukemia.

With a rich history, this event has raised close to $12 million over the past 18 years in support of healthcare in Ottawa. In 2018 alone, more than $800,000 was donated in just one inspiring morning. Viewers can donate online in a variety of ways: with a monthly gift, a multi-year commitment, or a one-time tribute donation in support of The Ottawa Hospital.

The President’s Breakfast in support of The Ottawa Hospital will happen Tuesday, September 29, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. To RSVP or become an Ambassador, please visit ohfoundation.ca/presidents-breakfast-2020.

About The Ottawa Hospital:

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex healthcare challenges.

Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Our focus on learning and research leads to new techniques and discoveries that are adopted globally to improve patient care.

We are the Regional Trauma Centre for eastern Ontario and have been accredited with Exemplary Standing for healthcare delivery — the highest rating from Accreditation Canada. We are also home to world-leading research programs focused on cancer therapeutics, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, chronic disease, and practice-changing research.

Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones.

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

-30-


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High-risk twin pregnancy during COVID-19 pandemic

An ultrasound revealing twins was the first of many surprises experienced by Meagan and her family throughout her pregnancy — including prolonged hospitalization during the worst public-health crisis the world has seen in 100 years.

For an update on Meagan’s story, click here, to see how the family is doing.

At just 28-weeks pregnant and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Meagan Ann Gordon was admitted to the hospital with placenta previa. Alone and unable to see her husband and young daughter, she began an unexpected journey of resilience, optimism, and compassionate care in the midst of an uncertain time.

Meagan's UltrasoundThe beginning of a special journey

Just a few weeks into her pregnancy, Meagan Ann Gordon went for her first ultrasound appointment. Her husband, Kyle Gordon, was out of town and unable to join her. Having already gone through a full-term and healthy pregnancy together with their first child, Maeve, Meagan felt confident going to this appointment on her own. After all, what could be so different this time around?

What her appointment revealed was an unexpected and happy surprise — twin boys! This was the beginning of many unanticipated turns Meagan would experience throughout the duration of her pregnancy — including the emergence of a novel coronavirus that would alter life in previously unimaginable ways.

Pregnant with twins

Pregnancy comes with so much anticipation and excitement. When Meagan discovered she was having twins, she was elated. Aside from standard nausea and mild discomfort, her pregnancy was going smoothly — up until midway through her second trimester. Her doctor observed that her placenta, shared by both babies, was covering her cervix — Meagan had placenta previa. This can cause significant bleeding throughout pregnancy — a reality that Meagan was all too familiar with. She experienced several bleeds that required her to stay at the hospital overnight so that her doctors could monitor her health and that of her babies. But at just 28 weeks pregnant on April 22, 2020, she experienced a bleed so large they called an ambulance. She was once again admitted to the hospital, where her care team felt she needed to stay until delivery.

Megan Gordon's sidewalk message
On Mother’s Day, Kyle and daughter Maeve, visited Meagan outside of her hospital window, leaving her a sweet message to remind her how much they love her.

For five long weeks Meagan remained at the hospital, confined to her room, away from her husband and her three-year-old daughter, Maeve. Due to the emergence of COVID-19, like many hospitals across the globe, The Ottawa Hospital has been under visitor restrictions, preventing Meagan from receiving any visitors or being able to leave the unit to visit loved ones. Pleasures that she might normally experience had she been at home, like having a baby shower with her family and friends or decorating the nursery, she missed out on.

“Being away from my husband and my daughter was really hard,” said Meagan. “But I wasn’t alone. I was with my boys and I was doing what was best for them and their health. I was also being so well taken care of by the nursing staff. They knew how hard it was to be away from my family, especially on Mother’s Day and they went above and beyond to be kind and supportive.”

Throughout the duration of her stay, nurses treated Meagan more like a friend than just a patient, helping to bring a level of comfort in a time when she was so isolated from her own friends and family. “They stopped by my room even if they weren’t assigned to me on their shift just to say hello and to chat. They shared stories of their life outside of the hospital walls and met my family over FaceTime. They even treated us to donuts and coffees. But it’s less about what the nurses “did” and more about how they made me feel,” Meagan explained.

Emergence of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how patients are cared for across the country and the world. More than 1,700 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa, many of whom have received treatment at The Ottawa Hospital. As a result, even the most well-thought-out birthing plans are being adjusted.

Given Meagan’s unresolved placenta previa, she required a scheduled cesarean delivery at 34 weeks pregnant which would prevent her from going into labour naturally. Her boys were to arrive on June 3, 2020, but they had other plans. At 2 a.m. on May 25, 2020 Meagan’s water broke. Her husband rushed to the hospital just in time to see Meagan for a few moments before Teddy and Rowan were delivered by emergency cesarean. “It was a huge relief to see him before I went into surgery,” said Meagan.

Up until that moment, Kyle had only seen Meagan’s growing belly over FaceTime. When he walked in the room, and saw Meagan for the first time, he gave her a big hug before putting his hands on her belly. Feelings of pride and excitement washed over him. Kyle was in awe at how much her belly had grown since he last saw her in April. Meagan remembers their last hug before she went into the operating room. One of the twins kicked him in the chest. “It was a big moment for us because we often talked about how he might not get to feel the twins moving again, knowing I was there in the hospital until I delivered,” explained Meagan.

Meagan with Teddy and Rowan
Meagan Gordon with Teddy and Rowan.

Due to COVID-19 protocols set in place to protect patients and hospital staff, Kyle wasn’t allowed in the operation room throughout her delivery. But he was by her side over FaceTime, supporting her every step of the way. “It was definitely a very unique experience. I was happy to be able to see Meagan and talk with her and experience the births from her perspective while it was actually going on. I just kept telling her how strong she was… And being able to hear the boys cry for the first time over FaceTime,” said Kyle, “it was as good as we could possibly hope for given the current circumstances.”

Meagan’s team of nurses and doctors even went so far as to take photos and video footage of Teddy and Rowan’s first breath. The boys were then admitted to the NICU. While Meagan recovered, Kyle was able to meet the boys and get a report on their health. Shortly after, he was back by Meagan’s side where they reminisced about the delivery and marvelled in the fact that life had changed so quickly. A few hours later, Meagan was out of the recovery room and well enough to visit her boys in the NICU for the very first time. “It was the beginning of the next stage of our adventure – the NICU journey!” exclaimed Meagan.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

For the first three days, Teddy and Rowan remained in the NICU at the General Campus. While recovering from the cesarean in hospital, Meagan was finally able to have Kyle stay with her. This allowed both of them to visit their sons in the NICU frequently. With each visit they learned how to care for their premature babies, who were born at just 5lbs 2oz, including learning how to bathe them and change their diapers. “The staff was great about welcoming us into the NICU, giving us full updates and really involving us as part of the care team for the boys, which was different than caring for our full-term daughter,” says Meagan. “I found it was a very supportive environment.”

Though the twins were healthy and growing, measuring the size of a head of lettuce right before her cesarean at 33 weeks, Meagan knew her mandated cesarean would take place before the twins reached full term. This meant that her boys would stay in the NICU once born until they had grown enough to safely go home.

 

Home at last

After spending just over two weeks in the NICU, Teddy and Rowan were healthy and strong enough to go home where they could finally meet their older sister for the first time. “We’re settling really well into our new norm as a family of five,” said Meagan.

“We’re just so grateful for the incredible care we received as a family. Everyone we encountered was so compassionate and kind. It made a hard situation one that I will look back on fondly.”  – Meagan Ann Gordon

Ever grateful for the care she received at The Ottawa Hospital, Meagan is quick to express how thankful she is for her doctor, Dr. Karen Fung-Kee-Fung, Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at The Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Samaan Werlang, who delivered her boys, and each nurse that took part in her care and that of her boys.

Almost one year later

Teddy and Rowan Gordon
Teddy and Rowan.

Twins Rowan and Teddy are almost 10 months old and it’s certainly not the maternity leave Meagan had expected — but neither was her pregnancy.

The days can be long and feel repetitive during the winter of a global pandemic but there’s been lots to celebrate. While the boys are identical, they have very different personalities according to their mom. “Rowan is very giggly and chatty, while Teddy is very sweet and cuddly.” Meagan adds, “Rowan’s first word was ‘dada’ so I’m working hard to make sure Teddy’s first word is ‘mama’. Big sister Maeve is incredibly loving and such a good helper.”

While Meagan was a patient in our hospital during those early days of COVID-19, she’s now helping our researchers learn more about the impact of the virus as a Patient Partner. Her perspectives on pregnancy, labour, delivery, and postpartum care during the pandemic can help researchers ensure their studies are relevant to this patient population, and more likely to improve care.

As Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of Ottawa Victim Services (OVS), Meagan, was a good fit for this research, led by the OMNI Research Group, as it explores sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on pregnant and postpartum populations. More recently, it has evolved to examine how restrictions related to COVID-19 affect how survivors access care.

Meagan says the timing was right to get involved, “Honestly, the stars just kind of aligned. They were looking for someone during my time as an inpatient. I bring the patient lens, but also have experience from my involvement with OVS. I also have a background in research so that also made me a good fit.” The Ottawa Hospital is leading the way in partnering with patients like Meagan on research projects.

While Meagan takes time to work on the research, together, the family plans to spend the final months of winter enjoying the outdoor rink built by Kyle, who is teaching Maeve to skate. They are grateful to be healthy and spending time together in the safety of home.

Listen to Pulse Podcast, where Meagan Gordon reveals what it’s like to be pregnant with twins during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donate today so that we can continue to provide patients like Meagan exceptional care during times of great need.

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Recovered COVID-19 patient will always be grateful for his extraordinary care

Diagnosed with COVID-19, Fr. Alex Michalopulos remembers the fear he felt battling the virus while in hospital. He’ll be forever grateful for the compassionate care he received at The Ottawa Hospital. 

As someone who has dedicated his life to being at the bedside of others during an illness, Fr. Alex Michalopulos now has a better understanding of that fear others faced after his recent COVID-19 diagnosis in April. Today, as a recovered patient of COVID-19, Fr. Michalopulos says the experience was a real eye-opener for him and he’s grateful for the compassionate care he received.

Condition deteriorates

The Michalopulos family
Fr. Michalopulos with his wife and three daughters.

The Greek Orthodox priest wasn’t feeling well at the end of March—a busy time for this church community. By April 5, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and he self-isolated at home. Over time, his condition worsened with extreme headaches, and a progressing cough, resulting in respiratory issues and fever. He was admitted to The Ottawa Hospital, General Campus on April 9.

The gravity of this illness and the resulting discussions became serious very quickly. “There was a discussion about the ventilator that could be needed at some point for my care. DNR consent (Do Not Resuscitate) was discussed and how I should talk with my family about it,” remembers Fr. Michalopulos.

The 61-year-old was transferred from the Emergency Department to a floor where a specialized team could care for him. “It was very scary to go through this experience. I had no idea how this was going to evolve. Doctors and nurses coming in dressed like you see in the movies with their PPE. Not being able to breathe—coughing continuously, headaches—at times I just wanted to die they were so bad.”

Dr. Samantha Halman
Dr. Samantha Halman (left) keeping patients connected to families through technology.

Extraordinary care

While Fr. Michalopulos recalls the fear he felt as he fought for his life, he’s grateful his condition never deteriorated to the point where he needed to be on a ventilator. That gratitude also extends to each person who helped care for him while he was at The Ottawa Hospital. “The doctors, nurses, and cleaning staff were amazing. I take my hat off to them.”

It wasn’t easy to be going through this illness without his wife and daughters by his side. With visitor restrictions in place to protect patients and staff, he could only connect with his family by phone. He adds his care team put him at ease during the times he was in extreme pain.

“All those medical professionals were so caring—it was reassuring that I was in good hands. They put me at ease.”
– Fr. Alex Michalopulos

Dr. Samantha Halman, General Internal Medicine Specialist, has been caring for COVID-19 patients since the arrival of the virus in March. She says for patients like Fr. Michalopulos and others, her medical team served a dual role.

“It wasn’t always about the medical care when treating our COVID patients. Sometimes it was about spending that extra five minutes with a patient. It was important for people to know we were there for them not only as patients but as people.”
– Dr. Samantha Halman

Being on the frontlines during these unprecedented times has been challenging at times. While Dr. Halman never imagined working through something like this, she’s proud of the efforts of her colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital. “This pandemic exemplifies why we went into healthcare – we want to help people.”

It was compassionate care coupled with his faith, that carried him through. He admits it was an eye-opening experience. While Fr. Michalopulos had minor surgery in the past, it wasn’t until his COVID-19 diagnosis and extraordinary care he received at The Ottawa Hospital that he realized how fortunate he is to have this caliber of healthcare in our community. “I was so grateful to all of them for the care; I had pizza delivered to staff when I was leaving.”

Thankful to be on the mend

Fr. Michalopulos was released from hospital on April 19 — Greek Orthodox Easter. As he reflects on his time in hospital, he couldn’t be more thankful to be on the road to recovery today. “For the times when the doctors or nurses came in to see me, for the times when I was reassured—I’m thankful I was well taken care of with love and respect for human life.”

As tears well up in his eyes, and he stops briefly to regain his emotions, Fr. Michalopulos says it’s sometimes good to be on the other side, to feel what others are going through. “I have a lot more respect for the medical professionals. I always had, but this time it was at a different level. They were there for me.

Fr. Michalopulos in Church
Fr. Michalopulos at the Greek Orthodox Church.

“They held my hand. They showed compassion. They showed a lot of respect and love. I will be forever grateful for them.” – Fr. Alex Michalopulos

It was that special touch, and care from complete strangers that helped give Fr. Michalopulos the strength to get back home to the family he loves and eventually to his parish family.

“I will always remember how I was treated by strangers. I admire them and will always pray for them.”

Research update

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are exploring more than 60 research projects to support the world-wide effort to find better ways to treat and prevent COVID-19.  A number of those projects have been supported by the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, including a study led by Drs. Sara J. Abdallah and Juthaporn Cowan. Their research is looking into the long-term effects of the virus. They will be checking in on participating patients at three, six, and 12 months after they were initially infected. Survivors of mild, moderate, and severe infections will be included in the study and researchers will assess the healthcare resources, such as visits to the Emergency Department, hospitalizations, and medications that were used by survivors. Results will help improve care for COVID-19 survivors and optimize how healthcare resources are used.

Fr. Michalopulos agreed to take part in this study. “I thought it would be useful to help researchers understand the effects and lingering effects of the virus in gathering information to help create a vaccine and or a cure.”

He’s grateful to have survived the virus, and this is another way to show his appreciation for the care he received while also helping others. “I also feel it is important to participate as my results will add to the information used to make gains in fighting this contagious and aggressive virus that has changed the society all over the world as we know it.”

Listen to the latest episode of Pulse Podcast, where we go behind the scenes with Dr. Halman and hear what it’s like on one of the units at the Ottawa Hospital caring for COVID-19 patients.

Your donation today will help create better healthcare tomorrow for patients, like Fr. Michalopulos, when they need The Ottawa Hospital.

More Inspiring Stories

A meningioma tumour leaves mother facing blindness
In the fall of 2020, Michele Juma noticed the vision in her left eye was becoming cloudy. Fearing blindness, she travelled to The Ottawa Hospital where she received specialized care after learning she had a meningioma tumour – and time was not on her side to save her vision.
Staying on tempo: Cutting-edge surgery technique helps musician get back on her feet
When painful leg ulcers threatened Mina King’s mobility and ability to play the piano with ease, experts at The Ottawa Hospital came together in perfect unison with cutting-edge surgery techniques and compassionate care.
COVID-19 at The Ottawa Hospital: a year of relentless care and research
A community that rallied to support our hospital, the race to find answers to a relentless virus, and the story of three nurses caring for COVID-19 patients during unprecedented times.

Tapping into the good feeling of giving back

COVID-19 is inspiring individuals, groups, and businesses to support The Ottawa Hospital and share their message of giving.

At a time when people are staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19, they are looking for ways to do some good in the midst of a global pandemic—to feel like they are lending a helping hand. For some, philanthropy makes them feel like they are being proactive, when almost everything else seems uncertain or out of their control.

Individuals, groups, and businesses are all stepping forward to help our front-line heroes. They are donating money, equipment, time, and food—after all, we’re in this together. Not only are they generously supporting The Ottawa Hospital, but they also hope to inspire others to experience that same good feeling of giving.

“Anything we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.” George Hanna, Gabriel Pizza

Gavin Murphy
Activist donor sends a message to the community
Phil Downey
Deep roots and always ready to give
Michelle Gleeson
Compassionate care for her father inspires her to give
Jason Zhang
Big impact from the Ottawa Chinese Community

“In times of emergency and stress, the number one priority is to help with those people who are on the frontlines in the midst of this crisis, and The Ottawa Hospital is number one.” – Phil Downey

George Hanna
Gabriel Pizza wants to be a part of giving back
Hélène Chevalier
My role and my responsibility to give
Ryan Carey
Tunes for TOH
Jason Cameron
Rallies his team at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in a unique way

“For whoever put a blanket on him when he was cold, for whoever gave him a sip of water, to whoever wheeled him to testing, that’s why I wanted to make a donation.” – Michelle Gleeson

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened community awareness of the vital role played by front-line healthcare workers. For local donor Gavin Murphy, it’s never been more apparent. “I shudder to think where we would be without them today. The healthcare system has gone into uncharted territory as a result of COVID-19 and the need for support has never been greater.”

Gavin is a self-described activist donor. He led by example last year and donated $500,000 to The Ottawa Hospital. He will not waver from his commitment to maintain a publicly funded world-class healthcare system in our city. Gavin will not settle for anything less and he doesn’t think anyone else in our community should either. But that goal comes at a cost that cannot be borne entirely by government. His message is emphatic: Every little bit counts. “Even if you can only donate a few dollars and there’s a million people in Ottawa—that will make a tremendous difference. That’s the reality and that’s what we have to address. We cannot rely solely on the government, which has other validly competing interests to consider, in order to sustain our hospital.”

If he needs to be the messenger to encourage citizens to support The Ottawa Hospital then Gavin will gladly take on this role. “Continuing The Ottawa Hospital’s leadership role in publicly-funded healthcare and research is only possible when those who are in the position to donate actually make those donations be they small or great.”

Jason Zhang remembers watching the COVID-19 story unfold in China, the country where he was born. He and his friends acted to show their support immediately. When COVID-19 made its way to Ottawa, where he now calls home, he knew he had to act. “This is our hospital. This is our home,” says Jason.

Jason, a Founder and Editor-in-Chief of a Chinese community newspaper -Health Times -published in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, decided to bring together his network to raise $60,000 for the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which is used in part to purchase necessary equipment like ventilators and PPE. Never did Jason expect the outpouring of support he’s seen. “We’re already over $100,000!”

In fact, Jason and the Chinese community in Ottawa, including 43 associations, were astounded when they reached their initial goal after only four days of fundraising. They’re just thrilled to be able to give back and make sure The Ottawa Hospital has the right equipment required to care for patients during the pandemic.

When the final number was tallied, Jason and his friends doubled their initial goal, raising over $123,000.

These are difficult times for families, especially those who can’t connect with their elderly parents. That’s exactly what Michelle Gleeson faced. Her father lives in a nearby retirement home but she’s unable to visit because of COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, they talk by phone every day.

On April 2, Michelle received a call that her father, who is 91 years old and lives with Parkinson’s disease, had fallen ill and needed to go to the Emergency Department at the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital. The news rocked her because she knew she couldn’t be by her father’s side. She soon learned he was in good hands.

“I spoke with the nurse, who put me right through to his doctor, Alena Spacek. The integration of everything at the hospital was phenomenal because they could see all of his previous medical visits. I couldn’t be there to explain everything but all his medical information was at the doctors fingertips,” explains Michelle.

Beyond that, while Michelle couldn’t see the compassionate care he was receiving, she could hear the level of care through the reassuring voice of Dr. Spacek. She called twice to speak with Michelle about her father, letting her know he would be okay, and when he could be released to go home.

She was so grateful and relieved, she needed to say thank you—and that’s when she decided to make a donation to The Ottawa Hospital. “For whoever put a blanket on him when he was cold, for whoever gave him a sip of water, to whoever wheeled him to testing, that’s why I wanted to make a donation,” says Michelle.

While Michelle couldn’t be at the hospital during this challenging time because of visitor restrictions, the care team left her knowing her father was in good hands. “When it all happened, I said a prayer that my dad would be in the hands of kind and caring staff. I cried waiting to hear news. Then, when I spoke to the nurse, I could hear the kindness through the phone. He was in the right spot and he was getting the right care. These are caring, loving people.”

Phil Downey’s family has deep ties to The Ottawa Hospital dating back to his mother, a registered nurse who trained at the Civic Hospital in the early ‘40s. A longtime, generous supporter of The Ottawa Hospital, Phil is always proud to give back—and especially now. “If you have a giving heart, it’s always there. In times of emergency and stress, the number one priority is to help with those people who are on the frontlines in the midst of this crisis, and The Ottawa Hospital is number one,” says Phil

Phil has made a generous commitment to raise $250,000 to The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. He acknowledges these are difficult times for many families, but he believes there is a way for everyone to help our front-line workers.

“If you take a few minutes to think about a little thing you can do to help other people, it makes you feel so good inside. At the end of the day, a donation to The Ottawa Hospital not only helps the front-line workers and the team at the hospital, it really helps yourself because it gives you a little relief of the stress you’re under,” acknowledges Phil.

George Hanna’s wife, Malake Hanna, had three high-risk pregnancies dating back to 2004, and she received her care at The Ottawa Hospital. After that experience, George remembers going back to the office and telling his staff: “whatever we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.” That’s how Gabriel Pizza began giving back and saying thank you.

That generous support continues to this day, supporting the front-line workers during COVID-19. “It’s an honour and a pleasure to give back. No matter how many pizzas we send, no matter what we do—it’s not enough to thank them for what they’re enduring right now and what they’re dealing with,” says George.

The President and COO of Gabriel Pizza and his team have delivered pizzas to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre; they’ve made donations to the Emergency Departments at both the Civic and General campuses. It’s the Gabriel Pizza way of saying thank you. “The whole purpose is to send some pizzas to thank them and put some smiles on their faces. We’re all in this together and whatever we can do to help—sending pizza is just a small way of saying thanks,” says George.
After a brief pause, George reiterates, “Anything we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.”

Like many confined to their homes these days, there’s a feeling of frustration. That’s exactly what has gone through the mind of Hélène Chevalier, even though she realizes staying home is for the best.

However, Hélène concluded that she had her own role to play beyond just staying home. “I feel that it is my role and my responsibility to contribute to The Ottawa Hospital COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, and in so doing, to be part of the solution,” says Hélène.

Hélène truly admires the work she sees and hears about from our hospital. “The employees of The Ottawa Hospital show care, dedication, and professionalism to save other people’s lives, and to find a long-term solution to this pandemic” says Hélène.

She goes on to say, “While doing so, they risk their own lives, they worry about their loved ones, and yet, they keep going. It is for them that I contribute to the Emergency Fund.”

Music has always been a part of Ryan Carey’s life—he loves strumming on his guitar. He’s been doing more of that these days, as he’s staying home like so many others.
Ryan works at The Ottawa Hospital in I.T. as a part of the Mobile Depot. Recently, he started posting videos on social media of some of the songs he’s been playing at home. The next thing he knew, he was planning a Facebook Live event. “It all came together quickly. I started getting requests for songs on social media. I would record and then post them. Then someone suggested a live show and that’s how this fundraiser took off.”

It was when he and his wife, Teri Wellon, a front-line healthcare worker in our community, were planning it out, that they realized there was an opportunity to raise money at the same time. “The Ottawa Hospital was of course the first place that popped into my head,” says Ryan.

On Saturday, April 25, Ryan went live with people tuning in from B.C. to Newfoundland and Labrador. With a large contingent of family and friends from his home province of Newfoundland tuning in, you could say it was a COVID-19 style kitchen party.

At the peak of the show, 140 people were watching Ryan play and he was watching the donations come in. “It just blew me away. I expected to raise a few dollars, but I never expected it to get as high as it did. I raised $1,105 and I donated $95 separately to make it an even $1,200,” says Ryan.

When he thinks about the amount he raised and supporting his fellow colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital, Ryan says it left him with a good feeling. “It feels very rewarding. It feels great to help the place where I work and where I see all the good happening.”

Working from home and being away from colleagues can be challenging for some, especially in light of a pandemic.

Jason Cameron, Vice President & Chief Communications Officer at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, wanted to do something positive to rally and encourage his staff of 85 while also giving back to the community. In particular, he wanted to support The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

On May 8, he brought his team together via Zoom. It was no ordinary meeting. The majority of his colleagues, including Jason, decided to dress up as a favourite character. The screen was filled with costumes from Captain Hook to Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter and everything in between. While the costumes were meant to add some levity, the team listened intently to Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, ICU and palliative care doctor at The Ottawa Hospital share his stories from the frontlines.

“Amidst the anxieties and dangers of the pandemic, my team appreciated a virtual visit from The Ottawa Hospital. Their medical staff were motivated to be at work, innovating new COVID-19 therapies funded by the hospital and local community, and were so thankful for our commitment to stay home,” says Jason.

It was Dr. Kyeremanteng’s compelling story of care during COVID-19 that inspired them to give. “As public servants, we were honoured to raise some funds, and had some fun dressing in costume doing so, to help in the fight against COVID-19,” adds Jason.

The team raised over $1,735 — more than double their initial goal. Thanks to a match donation, their total turned into almost $3,500! It’s gifts like this which helped fund innovation care and research projects at The Ottawa Hospital.

Feel the good of giving by making a donation today to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

More Inspiring Stories

A meningioma tumour leaves mother facing blindness
In the fall of 2020, Michele Juma noticed the vision in her left eye was becoming cloudy. Fearing blindness, she travelled to The Ottawa Hospital where she received specialized care after learning she had a meningioma tumour – and time was not on her side to save her vision.
Staying on tempo: Cutting-edge surgery technique helps musician get back on her feet
When painful leg ulcers threatened Mina King’s mobility and ability to play the piano with ease, experts at The Ottawa Hospital came together in perfect unison with cutting-edge surgery techniques and compassionate care.
COVID-19 at The Ottawa Hospital: a year of relentless care and research
A community that rallied to support our hospital, the race to find answers to a relentless virus, and the story of three nurses caring for COVID-19 patients during unprecedented times.

Nanji Family Foundation steps forward with a match gift of $100,000 for COVID-19 fund

APRIL 29, 2020 OTTAWA, ON – The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund received a significant boost thanks to the generosity of a $100,000 match gift from the Nanji Family Foundation.

“The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is incredibly grateful to have the support of the Nanji Family Foundation and we look forward to seeing how their gift will inspire others to give,” said Tim Kluke, President and CEO, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund will help patients and staff directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations made will be matched by the Nanji Family Foundation and will:

  • support our frontline medical teams
  • purchase specialized protective equipment
  • develop innovative treatments through highly specialized technology
  • contribute to the care and comfort of patients
  • support our scientists and our researchers in their efforts to combat COVID-19

As the pandemic continues to evolve, incredible stories of generosity continue to emerge. Our front-line healthcare team has to adapt quickly and this match gift of up to $100,000 will help to keep them safe, along with our patients. It will also help support the work of our researchers who have joined the global fight against COVID-19. The Nanji Family Foundation has donated a total of $1.6 million to 16 hospitals across Canada in this collaborative effort.

We’re grateful to have the support from our community and thank the Nanji family for their leadership and for inspiring others to give and double their impact.

About The Ottawa Hospital:

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex healthcare challenges.

Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Our focus on learning and research leads to new techniques and discoveries that are adopted globally to improve patient care.

We are the Regional Trauma Centre for eastern Ontario and have been accredited with Exemplary Standing for healthcare delivery — the highest rating from Accreditation Canada. We are also home to world-leading research programs focused on cancer therapeutics, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, chronic disease, and practice-changing research.

Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones.

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

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Three innovative researchers honoured at The Ottawa Hospital Gala
It was a sold-out night at The Ottawa Hospital Gala, presented by First Avenue Investment Counsel, which recognized three innovative researchers.

The inspiring women of The Ottawa Hospital

From physicians and researchers to clinicians and nurses, The Ottawa Hospital celebrates the inspiring women who are changing health care. Women at The Ottawa Hospital are trailblazers leading the way to better the lives of each patient and family that walks through our hospital hallways every day.

The Ottawa Hospital is home to some of Canada’s most innovative women leaders in health care. Our female physicians, researchers, and clinicians are blazing the trail, conducting groundbreaking research and providing world-class care.

Dr.Roth Care Environment
Dr. Virginia Roth

While already recognized as a leader in health care and research, The Ottawa Hospital is constantly looking for ways to improve patient care, outcomes, and its performance as an institution. One key element to this success is encouraging women to take on more leadership positions.

Dr. Virginia Roth, The Ottawa Hospital’s first female chief of staff, has dedicated much of her career to not only working on some of the most feared infectious diseases over the last two decades, but also to empowering women in the workplace.

Women empowering women

What started as a dream of becoming a neurosurgeon has grown into a career that has helped shape the lives of many women in our community. Dr. Roth co-founded the Female Physician Leadership Committee to recognize, encourage, and support potential female leaders at The Ottawa Hospital. “Recognizing, supporting, and encouraging these women are the steps we need to really make sure we have the best leaders at the table,” said Dr. Roth.

Since the committee’s inception more than six years ago there has been substantial progress. More female physicians are being recruited, and a higher proportion of physicians and division heads are now women.

“We’re seeing a culture change because the number of women physicians here has been going up,” exclaimed Dr. Roth. “Especially in areas like surgery and emergency medicine where, in the past, we hadn’t seen so many women in those roles.”

Shaping female leaders, now and in the future

Dr. Roth credits Dr. Jack Kitts, former President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital for his leadership in this regard. With support, mentorship, and training, women in medicine have more opportunities than ever before.

“The tone is set at the top, and if the leaders don’t see this as essential it’s not going to happen,” said Dr. Roth.

Dr. Roth hopes to inspire more women and guide them toward the pursuit of leadership roles at The Ottawa Hospital.

Meet just a few of the women revolutionizing health care right here in Ottawa – and around the world.

Dr. Kari Sampsel

Medical Director for The Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program

Dr. Kari Sampsel
Dr. Kari Sampsel

As a medical student, Dr. Kari Sampsel wondered if oncology was the right career choice for her. In her first year, however, she was invited to spend time in the Emergency Department for a shift – and she never looked back.

Throughout her training, Dr. Sampsel had the opportunity to work alongside a forensic expert who solidified her interest in clinical forensic medicine, particularly in the care of survivors of sexual assault or intimate partner violence. Today, as the Medical Director for The Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program, Dr. Sampsel has cared for thousands of survivors with compassion and expertise, on what is likely one of the worst days of their lives. “To be the champion for those who have been victimized or have no voice, to get them back on their feet, is extremely fulfilling,” expressed Dr. Sampsel.

Being a female physician in this line of work is incredibly unique. “Despite greater than 50 percent of medical school classes being female, the default assumption in medicine is that men are the doctors,” said Dr. Sampsel. “The assumption when I walk in the room is not that I am the senior physician on the team.”

Navigating her place within this structure has been challenging at times, particularly in the areas of research, leadership, and clinical care. But it’s a challenge she has been willing to face head-on. After all, she was raised by strong-minded women. “My grandmother was a staunch feminist before it was fashionable to do so,” said Dr. Sampsel. “My mother forged her own path – staying home to raise her kids during the peak of early feminism, going back to university and completing her degree at age 40, and having a successful career while being an involved, superwoman mother!”

Dr. Sampsel has been fearless in the pursuit of her dreams. She credits several female mentors and friends for inspiring her to have an impact on the lives of patients and hopes that she will do the same for other women.

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

Scientist and Scientific Lead of the Health Economics Unit at the Ottawa Methods Centre at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn
Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

As a health economist in the Methods Centre at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Dr. Thavorn has one goal: to improve health-care policies, and ultimately, the quality of patient care. She is a well-published researcher and has always found meaning and motivation when her findings have directly impacted and improved decision making for a heightened level of patient care and hospital administration.

Dr. Thavorn believes that as one of only a few women in her position as a health economist at our hospital, she can share and contribute different views and perspectives that might not otherwise be thought of in meetings and committees that often lack diversity.

“I believe that a diverse workforce can help foster creativity and innovation. Different backgrounds, experiences, and ideas can promote healthy discussions that move our hospital forward.” – Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

When asked what her advice is to young female researchers, she expressed the importance of being confident in one’s abilities. “Find good mentors who are willing to share skills and knowledge and provide ongoing support. Building a professional network can offer endless opportunities. Your network can provide additional knowledge and skills that you need to get your job done, do your job better, or get the job that you want.”

Dr. Jessica Dy

Division Head of General Obstetrics and Gynecology

Dr. Jessica Dy
Dr. Jessica Dy

Dr. Jessica Dy has a passion for practicing both medicine and surgery. It’s one of the reasons she loves her role as Division Head of General Obstetrics and Gynecology. As an Obstetrician, Dr. Dy takes pride in being part of a healthy pregnancy and having the opportunity to support expectant mothers and their families. “It gives me great joy to bring new life to the world,” said Dr. Dy, “but also take comfort in the fact that we are saving mothers’ lives every day.”

As a female physician in this field, Dr. Dy can truly empathize with what each woman, and mother, that walks through her door is going through. “I believe my patients appreciate that I can relate to their period pains. Also, being a mother of three myself has certainly given me more confidence when I talk about pregnancy pains, labour, and all the fun things that come with a newborn,” explained Dr. Dy.

Dr. Dy doesn’t shy away from expressing the challenges women face in being physician leaders.

“Women at work are where they are because they worked extra hard to get there. We need to acknowledge and recognize this more.” – Dr. Dy

What advice does Dr. Dy have for young women considering a career in medicine? “It is a very fulfilling career, but you have to be ready to work hard and fight for your spot.”

Dr. Angela Crawley

Scientist, The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Chronic Disease Program

Dr. Angela Crawley
Dr. Angela Crawley

Have you ever considered how the medicine and care so many rely on today is developed? It’s through leaders in research such as Dr. Angela Crawley, who dedicates much of her life researching chronic infections and liver disease. More specifically, she participates in clinically-relevant studies in diseases that affect some of our most vulnerable people.

From a young age, Dr. Crawley’s grandfather, Dr. John Crawley, DVM, PhD, inspired her to take this path. Then, throughout the duration of her career, she was inspired by many other men and women in science, taking lessons and advice whenever possible. As such, Dr. Crawley has marvelled at the collective experience of seeing so many amazing women adding to the diversity of our research institutions. “While there are a smaller number of women leaders, resulting in fewer role models to other women to enter and stay in biomedical research,” said Dr. Crawley, “I personally have met many amazing women in my training and career, too many to even list.”

Dr. Crawley feels strongly that all of these women, including herself, have earned their positions in science through hard work and dedication – each making great contributions to their respective disciplines. “Behind that woman is often a whole slew of life’s complexities (e.g. relationships, health issues, children) that are juggled while she achieves and struggles to maintain that level of greatness, to prepare to overcome future obstacles, and achieve more,” expressed Dr. Crawley.

Dr. Crawley is an avid supporter of diversity and gender equality in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, regularly assisting in workshops on harassment and intimidation for medical students and residents. She has provided recommendations in the recruitment, retention, and recognition of female scientists.

Research careers can be an arduous pursuit, particularly for women. Dr. Crawley is an active role model for many young female research trainees in the University of Ottawa’s graduate studies programs, whom she strongly encourages to pursue their passion and strengths in science, despite its inherent challenges and uncertainties. She is confident that with the appropriate encouragement from effective mentors, you can stand firm and strong in navigating the path to success and that the rest of life’s complexities such as love, and possibly family life, will all fall into place.

Dr. Debra Bournes

Chief Nursing Executive and Vice-President, Clinical Programs

Dr. Debra Bournes
Dr. Debra Bournes

Dr. Debra Bournes never planned to become a nurse, but when the option to go to nursing school presented itself, she jumped at the opportunity. It was during her first job as a nurse that her love for this line of work truly blossomed. It was then that she realized the opportunity and responsibility nurses have to make a significant difference; seeing patients and their families through some of the most difficult times in their lives.

Now, in Dr. Bournes’ current leadership role as Chief Nursing Executive and Vice President of Clinical Programs, she is making a difference in a new way – by creating and supporting local, regional, and provincial systems and processes that help nurses and other health professionals provide personalized and meaningful health care. She works with health-care teams to engage patients and improve their health-care experiences. She also helps create quality work environments where teams feel supported, energized, and inspired to be the best they can be.

Dr. Bournes feels confident in her abilities as a leader and mentor, having had several amazing women as mentors herself who guide her throughout her career. “In my first professional leadership role Dr. Gail Mitchell was my mentor,” Dr. Bournes explained. “She was the Chief Nursing Officer where I worked and she taught me how to be a leader and how to stay engaged with what I was passionate about, even when it got hard, because to see that you are making a difference, even if it is a little bit at a time – is very worthwhile. She also introduced me to Dr. Rosemarie Rizzo Parse, who continues to be a force in my life. Her work fundamentally changed how I relate with people and shaped how I am as a leader.”

Dr. Mary Ferguson-Paré was another source of inspiration for Dr. Bournes. Together, they created a research culture and team that supports growth and innovation in nursing and personalized care. “All of these incredible women continue to be wise presences in my life so that I can do what I do!” said Dr. Bournes.

Though these aforementioned women shaped Dr. Bournes’ leadership style, she continues to be inspired every day by the knowledge and expertise of all of the women who work at The Ottawa Hospital. “It is a privilege to call them my colleagues and to learn from and be challenged by them,” expressed Dr. Bournes. “They all make a difference every day and that is what helps make The Ottawa Hospital an incredible place to work.”

Dr. Jacinthe Lampron

Medical Director, Trauma Program

Doctor in scrubs standing in a hospital emergency room
Dr. Jacinthe Lampron

Dr. Jacinthe Lampron has always had an interest in becoming a surgeon. But it was her deployment to Afghanistan, working in the medical unit with the Canadian Armed Forces, which solidified her interest in trauma. “There, major trauma was a daily event. I realized that with resuscitation and surgical skills, I could make a difference to acutely injured patients.” said Dr. Lampron.

Though her tours in Kandahar fueled her passion for saving the lives of the most severely injured, she credits her supervisor and mentor Dr. Najma Ahmed for sparking her curiosity in this field as a surgery resident. “She definitely inspired me and probably defined my career choice,” exclaimed Dr. Lampron. “Having a mentor is very useful and helps navigate the system we work in.”

Dr. Lampron hopes that she too can act as a mentor and help pave the way for female residents and colleagues to feel comfortable in the pursuit of what interests them the most, regardless of what that may be. “I believe in equal access to opportunity,” said Dr. Lampron. “If someone is interested in a position, the gender should not matter. What matters most is fairness and competency.”

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

Inspired by these women? Support the innovative research and cutting-edge treatments taking place at The Ottawa Hospital.

More Inspiring Stories

A meningioma tumour leaves mother facing blindness
In the fall of 2020, Michele Juma noticed the vision in her left eye was becoming cloudy. Fearing blindness, she travelled to The Ottawa Hospital where she received specialized care after learning she had a meningioma tumour – and time was not on her side to save her vision.
Staying on tempo: Cutting-edge surgery technique helps musician get back on her feet
When painful leg ulcers threatened Mina King’s mobility and ability to play the piano with ease, experts at The Ottawa Hospital came together in perfect unison with cutting-edge surgery techniques and compassionate care.
COVID-19 at The Ottawa Hospital: a year of relentless care and research
A community that rallied to support our hospital, the race to find answers to a relentless virus, and the story of three nurses caring for COVID-19 patients during unprecedented times.

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.

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Turning adversity into action – young philanthropist couple pays it forward 

It isn’t every day that people respond to difficult experiences by stepping forward to make a difference in the lives of others, but that’s exactly what local philanthropists and entrepreneurs Harley Finkelstein and Lindsay Taub did. And they hope their story will inspire others to do the same. 

Unexpected complications 

In February 2019, Lindsay was in labour with the couple’s second child. They headed to the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital with nervous excitement in anticipation of meeting their new baby. But the birth did not unfold as they had hoped. After a relatively easy labour and delivery with their first in 2016, they expected a similar experience. This time, labour was extremely difficult and tremendously painful. 

Lindsay required an emergency c-sectionThis is not what she and her husband, Harley, had planned for. They were scared at the prospect of surgery and for the well-being of their unborn child. Thankfully, their daughter was delivered safely, and both mom and baby were healthy.  

Lindsay and Harley were exhausted, overwhelmed by the unexpected series of events, and desperately needing a chance to decompress and rest  a challenge while sharing a room with three other patients and a constant stream of their nurses, doctors, and visitors.  

Discovering a need 

As the Chief Operating Officer of Shopify, a Canadian multinational e-commerce company located right here in Ottawa, Harley has dealt with his fair share of stressful situations but even he found this experience pushed his limits. “It was a stressful experience and we just hadn’t anticipated it,” said Harley. 

As healthy young parents, Harley and Lindsay have been fortunate to have limited interaction with the hospital. It wasn’t until this difficult experience that Harley realized what it was like to be the loved one of someone experiencing a health complication. The care Lindsay and their baby received was excellent, and he was confident they were in good hands. Yet, he saw a need for a space that would provide a better family experience following the birth of a child. Lindsay and I experienced a need and saw an opportunity to do something about it,” said Harley. 

“Everyone can do something that makes things better for someone else,” says Harley.
“I think this idea of paying it forward is what creates a vibrant, well-run, and prosperous community. And it doesn’t need to start when you’re 60 years old and retired- it should start as early as possible.” – Harley Finkelstein

Building community by paying it forward 

Harley and Lindsay both come from humble beginnings but reflect fondly on their respective childhoods and the emphasis that was placed on spending time together. This is what inspired Lindsay to open her own ice cream shop, called Sundae Schooland provide a place for families to gather together and enjoy a treat over conversation.  

As their respective businesses and careers grew, they felt strongly that along with their good fortune came a responsibility to pay it forward and help others. They have become well-known in the Ottawa area, not only for their entrepreneurial successes, but as influential philanthropists in a thriving community of people who believe in making life in Ottawa better, including contributing to the building of The Finkelstein Chabad Jewish Centre. 

“Philanthropy isn’t always about writing a big cheque,” says Harley. “It’s about finding someone who might be going through something difficult and making their life better. You don’t have to change everything but being incremental in donating your time or money can have a very big effect, especially if a lot of other people are inspired to do the same.” 

Mom and baby look into camera in kitchen
Baby Zoe at home with mom, Lindsay.

Turning their challenging circumstance into action  

And that’s exactly what Harley and Lindsay plan to do. With a donation to The Ottawa Hospital, they hope to inspire others to give back to their community in a way that is meaningful to them. 

“Supporting the hospital was very personal having given birth there and having received such excellent medical carebut also wanted to contribute to other aspects of people’s experiences. It was really important to us,” says Lindsay. “I want our girls to see that not only do we have businesses we care about, but we also care deeply about our community and want to contribute however we can – there are so many ways to do it.” 

“We care deeply about our community and want to contribute however we can – there are so many ways to do it.” – Lindsay Taub

A hope to inspire others 

Ultimately, Harley and Lindsay feel strongly that they need to lead by example, not only as role models for their own girls, but to motivate others in the community. 

“Everyone can do something that makes things better for someone else,” says Harley. “I think this idea of paying it forward is what creates vibrant, well-run, and prosperous community. And it doesn’t need to start when you’re 60 years old and retired- it should start as early as possible.”

Join Harley and Lindsay in paying it forward by
giving in support of The Ottawa Hospital today.

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