Our Stories

Read more about the incredible stories and experiences of individuals in our communities and the Lakeridge Health team members who provide outstanding patient care and make a difference to people they serve.

Lakeridge Health Team Members Co-Author New Guidelines for Safe Handling of Cancer Medications

Photo of Darrilyn Lessels and Dr. Leta ForbesNew guidelines co-authored by two Lakeridge Health team members provide best practices for cancer centres throughout the Central East Region and beyond when handling hazardous medications.

Darrilyn Lessels, Patient Care Manager in the Durham Regional Cancer Centre (DRCC) and Nursing Lead for the Central East Regional Cancer Program (CE RCP), and Dr. Leta Forbes, Medical Oncologist and Provincial Head for the Systemic Treatment Program at Ontario Health-Cancer Care Ontario, were among the authors of the new guidelines that were published last November in the Journal of Oncology Pharmacy Practice titled, “Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs.”

The guidelines include nine recommendations for the safe handling of hazardous drugs, including the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and home care of patients who receive hazardous drugs.

Written in partnership with co-authors from the Systemic Treatment Program at Ontario Health-Cancer Care Ontario (OH-CCO), the new guidelines were developed and adapted from existing guidelines, as well as three systemic reviews, to address new issues in the handling of hazardous drugs.

In addition to being shared with other partner hospital organizations in the Central East Region, the new guidelines are posted on OH-CCO’s website.

“These recommendations are not only best practices but will help cancer centres across Ontario standardize the way they handle hazardous medications,” says Dr. Forbes.

Darrilyn notes that “the guidelines add to the many ways the DRCC team delivers high quality care to patients and a safe environment for everyone.”

“This is an outstanding accomplishment and we are very proud of the passion and expertise Darrilyn and Dr. Forbes bring to our program and the delivery of evidence-based compassionate cancer care,” says Patti Marchand, Director of the DRCC.

Article Published: February 2, 2023

Lakeridge Health Radiation Therapist Achieves National Academic Honour

Photo of Carri LavergneRadiation Therapist Carrie Lavergne has had an impressive career at Lakeridge Health. And now she has a national honour to add to her list of achievements.

Carrie recently completed the Advanced Practice Registered Technologist (Radiation Therapy) (APRT(T)) certification process. This is the highest academic honour the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists bestows within the Radiation Therapy discipline. APRT(T) certification provides a standardized means to recognize and certify radiation therapists working at an advanced level in Canada.

Dr. Peter Dixon, Medical Director of the Durham Regional Cancer Centre (DRCC), and Patti Marchand, Clinical Director of the DRCC, acknowledge how fortunate the program is for the expertise, commitment, and compassion Carrie brings to patient care and team collaboration in her role as Clinical Specialist, Radiation Therapy.

Carrie demonstrated these qualities throughout her APRT(T) certification – a process that requires years of additional education and experience to be eligible to apply. She began her career as a Radiation Therapist at the R.S. McLaughlin Durham Region Cancer Centre in 2007 and worked in many areas throughout the radiation oncology program during her first several years there. In 2015, she was accepted into the newly created Clinical Specialist Radiation Therapist (CSRT) role, specializing in palliative radiation oncology.

It was a full-circle moment for Carrie when selecting her APRT(T) specialization. Each APRT(T) specializes in a specific area, and Carrie chose palliative radiation therapy.

“When I was working on my portfolio to apply for the CSRT role, I went through my undergraduate papers and was reminded of a paper I had written in 2006 on my dreams of becoming a CSRT specializing in palliative care,” noted Carrie.

“I’ve always felt very passionate about the advantages of radiation therapy in symptom management for patients with incurable cancer. I’m excited to apply the increased knowledge and experience I’ve obtained through APRT(T) certification process to continue to provide the very best evidence-based care for patients requiring palliative radiation therapy.”

Article Published: January 19, 2023

“We wouldn’t have been able to make it through this without their care.”

It was a scary sight for parents Allan and Mandy.Baby Lennon

At just seven weeks old, their daughter Lennon had spiked a high fever and was very pale.

“After trying to break her high fever, we decided to take her to the Emergency Department at the Oshawa Hospital,” shares Allan. “The nurse brought us into a room and gave Lennon an intravenous (IV) with so much care. We were seen quickly by a doctor who took the time to explain the situation and their concerns.”

Initial tests showed that Lennon was fighting an infection and was admitted to the paediatric unit of the hospital for further investigation.

“The doctors performed a number of tests, beginning with a spinal tap,” says Allan. “That was hard to see. “They also did ultrasounds, echocardiograms, and numerous blood tests. Throughout every test, the nurses and doctors gently explained every test that was being conducted on Lennon. I felt that they genuinely cared for Lennon and treated her as family. They calmed her down when she was crying, and always made sure we had everything we needed.”

The tests ultimately determined that Lennon had a urinary tract infection. She was given medication and, after spending four days in the hospital, made a full recovery.

The family of six is now happy to be back home in Bowmanville with Lennon and their three sons. When reflecting on their experience, Allan shares that “every nurse came in our room with a smile in their face. They held my daughter like she was their own. I firmly believe that we wouldn’t have been able to make it through this without their care, understanding, and professionalism.”

Article Published: January 17, 2023

Shared Career Adds to a Special Bond for Twins at Lakeridge Health

Lakeridge Health is fortunate to have a team of talented and dedicated staff and physicians who serve our Durham Region communities. But did you know that our exceptional team includes several sets of twins? Read on about some of these sibling pairs.  Photo of Katherine and Cynthia

Katherine Pilgrim (left) and Cynthia Loughran (right) are identical twins working together in the Maternal Newborn unit at the Ajax Pickering Hospital. Katherine started working at Lakeridge in 1997, with Cynthia joining her in 2002. “We have been working as Registered Nurses together in Maternal Newborn full-time since then, and usually on the same shift,” explained Katherine. “We have welcomed many newborns into the world working together. Families think it’s fun, and many have asked to have a picture of their baby with the twin nurses.”

Cynthia added that working together also comes with several benefits. “We get to carpool, take turns bringing lunch for the day, and we have the same days off.”

Katherine and Cynthia’s families are also very close. They enjoy spending time with each other and vacationing together, including Katherine’s five children, and Cynthia’s four children. “We are so grateful to belong to the Lakeridge Health family.”

 

Karen Donnelly (left) and Kim Heevel (right) are twins working together in the Emergency Department at the Port Perry Hospital. The two have been nursing for 34 years, but it was only in recent years that they began nursing together at Lakeridge Health. Photo of Karen and Kim

“Karen and her family moved closer to me so we could see more of each other as we got older,” explained Kim. “At the time, there were a couple of positions open at the Port Perry Hospital and we were able to work together on the same line, so we took the jobs. We had never actually nursed together before. We’d always been on different floors, and never in the same city. It was such a gift to have this opportunity fall into our laps, and we couldn’t turn it down.”

Working together has allowed Karen and Kim to spend more time with each other outside of work as well. “We have our days off together so we can also do things with our other family members,” Kim shared. “We actually have sleepovers too! After our first day shift, I go over to her house and we have a sleepover. Then we go back to work together the next day.”

Karen also noted that “we are like two peas in a pod. You would think we’ve been working together our whole careers.”

Having twin nurses has also brought joy to many of their patients.

“The patients get a kick out of it. We have a lot of return patients who say, ‘I didn’t know there were two of you.’ It’s definitely a conversation piece,” said Kim.

When reflecting on their nursing career working together, both Karen and Kim praise each other. “She makes me a better nurse,” they say about one another. “We’ve only got a few years of nursing left and we get to finish our careers together, which I never thought would happen. It’s truly a gift,” explained Kim.

“Exceptional” Care During a Scary Time

When Ryan Winterink and his wife Kaitlyn realized their 19-month-old son Nash needed urgent medical care this past October, the thought of going to an Emergency Department (ED) was a difficult and scary decision for them both. 

Ryan, a Security Operations Supervisor at Lakeridge Health, and Kaitlyn, a nurse at Neupath Centre for Pain and Spine, were well aware of the challenges hospitals are facing with an early influenza season and ongoing COVID-19 transmission overwhelming EDs and paediatric units as flu cases among children soar. Photo of the Winterink Family

However, Nash, who had just recently been declared cancer-free after a year-long battle with retinoblastoma, was struggling to breathe and the couple knew he needed to be seen at an ED right away. 

The family arrived at the Oshawa Hospital ED the evening of October 4 and “right from the start, our interactions with staff across all the departments were exceptional,” said Ryan.

“The staff in the ED offered Nash a popsicle and took their time with him. We saw a doctor quickly and were referred to the paediatric team. When he needed an x-ray, the team helped with his stroller, handed me a tissue to wipe his tears, and were quick and efficient to get the tests completed. As well, the lab technician was gentle and consoling, offering my son a blanket and making every effort of taking a blood sample less stressful for him.”

Nash was ultimately admitted to the Paediatric unit and Ryan explains that the outstanding experience continued there. “All the staff were great! They always offered to help, listened to our concerns, and comforted my wife,” he says.

Ryan and his wife were equally impressed with the environmental services team. “They always knocked before coming into the room, told us exactly what they were doing, and asked every time if there was anything else we needed. Many times, staff would strike up small conversations that brought smiles and laughter to our room.”

Ryan shares that this is not the first time that they have received excellent care at Lakeridge Health. “Nash was born at the Oshawa Hospital and we had the same positive experience.”

He stresses that “it really was the many little things the team did that made such a difference. We are so grateful for the friendly and kind care we received during a very stressful time for our family.”

Lessons Learned: Can the COVID-19 pandemic help bring fragmented health systems together?

By: Cynthia Davis, President and CEO, Lakeridge Health

COVID-19 and the current waves of seasonal flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are raising serious questions about whether and how our health-care systems can provide essential resources during times of crisis and beyond.

Cynthia Davis, President and CEO of Lakeridge Health, believes that answers can be found in more and better health system integration – connecting all services, from primary care to hospitals to long-term care – so they work together as one. Photo of Cynthia Davis

“Integration is no longer an option. It is a necessity. Our focus is on quality. We’re working hard to connect all health-care providers around a common purpose, so patients can expect the same high standard of care wherever and whenever they use the system.

The drive to integrate, and the logic behind it, is captured in Lakeridge Health’s vision: One System. Best Health.

COVID-19 and other viral illnesses have been putting this vision to the test.

Lakeridge Health, based in Durham Region, is one of Ontario’s largest health-care systems, with five hospitals and a sixth in the proposal stages. It has opened a new long-term care (LTC) home, welcomed one of the Region’s largest mental health providers into the system, and worked closely with the Durham Ontario Health Team (OHT) to build partnerships with primary and community care providers. It has invested in a clinical information system connecting all hospitals across the broader Central East Region, providing a unified digital health platform for all patients.

When the pandemic arrived in early 2020, Lakeridge Health became the centre for infection control expertise, supplying resources such as personal protective equipment to community-based providers and LTC homes, and the centre of advanced clinical care, treating close to 5,000 seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

During one of the most intense waves of COVID-19, in partnership with the Durham OHT, Lakeridge Health extended an urgent call to action to primary and community care partners. Within 24 hours, more than 250 recipients met virtually to offer help. Clinics across the region provided COVID-19 assessments and care options, easing the burden on emergency departments. Clinicians staffed a virtual urgent care clinic serving thousands of patients.

Regional coordination among hospitals, public health, primary care, community clinics, and emergency responders enabled one of Ontario’s fastest vaccine rollouts. More than one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered by November 30, 2021.

A COVID-19 Therapeutic Clinic, working with primary care and assessment centres, prescribed close to 20 percent of Ontario’s initial supply of the novel therapeutic Paxlovid.

Overall, the system responded quickly and effectively to the pandemic. When we rallied around a common purpose and understood our common goals, it was easy for us to be successful.

But challenges remain.

Nurses and other frontline workers have been carrying the greatest burden of crisis response. Some are leaving for less stressful positions or leaving health care entirely. Those remaining face even more pressure, working extra shifts and caring for more patients. Other professionals and non-clinical staff have been stepping in where they can, so everyone in health care is feeling the added stress.

Staff shortages have caused temporary emergency department and acute care closures across Canada. Lakeridge Health is no exception, making the difficult decision to close an intensive care unit at one of its hospitals in the summer of 2022.

Health system integration is being tested again as severe respiratory illnesses place even more strain on resources. Buthere are early signs that it’s still the right approach.

Health-care professionals leave public systems because they aren’t getting what they need as employees. This includes better compensation, but also extends to the full range of employee supports.

A large system like Lakeridge Health can recruit centrally, offering diverse career opportunities across multiple hospitals and care centres. With a team of more than 8,000 staff and physicians, it has more capacity to support succession planning, education, mentoring, and health and wellness, along with innovations that enable efficiency, productivity, and teamwork. Integrated systems will be better positioned to put these supports in place.

All of this takes time and commitment. I see building a fully integrated, sustainable health system as a journey and much more work needs to be done.

But the benefits are important and achievable. The current challenges will hopefully prompt lasting changes that strengthen partnerships and collaboration, and substantial investments in the supports needed for health-care professionals to confront new challenges while living healthy, balanced lives.

Now, almost three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our health-care workers are not looking for praise or accolades for their courage and hard work during the crisis. They want the system-wide changes that will enable them to do what they do best – deliver excellent patient care.

Wedding Bells at Lakeridge Gardens

It was a very special way to mark a very special birthday.

On November 24, Lakeridge Gardens resident, Dorothy Hosking, celebrated her 90th birthday watching her grandson Josh marry his fiancée Jess in a ceremony at the long-term care home. Photo of Jess and Josh

“Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' place in the summer,” explains Josh Wall. “My grandma would do absolutely anything for her four grandchildren. It means everything to me that we were able to get married with her here.”

Josh and Jess will head to Jamaica in January 2023 for their destination wedding. They really wanted to have Josh’s grandmother present, but realized travelling is very challenging for Dorothy who is also one of the first residents at Lakeridge Gardens. The couple, who have been together for almost three years, decided to have a ceremony at the long-term care home with a small group of relatives.

“This was beyond what we could have ever imagined,” says Jess. “There are some relatives, including Dorothy, who are unable to make the trip to Jamaica and we really wanted to celebrate with them in a special way. This was perfect.”

Dorothy’s daughter, Anna-Marie, was not only the mother of the groom, but also the officiant of the wedding. A perfect fit for an intimate evening filled with love and joy.

Congratulations to the new couple and happy 90th birthday Dorothy!

New Haemodialysis Unit Is Life-Changing for Ajax Resident

For years, Midori Kato drove her mother, Taeko Hijikata, three times a week from their home in Ajax to her dialysis appointments at the Oshawa Hospital. Now, with the opening of the new haemodialysis unit at Lakeridge Gardens, they are able to walk across the street from their home to Taeko’s appointments in just five minutes.

Midori’s brother noticed the dialysis sign when driving by Lakeridge Gardens one day and they immediately inquired. Photo of Midori and her mother Taeko

“Because of her cognitive and physical decline, my brother and I started taking turns going to her appointments with her at the Oshawa Hospital,” explains Midori. “Dialysis appointments are generally four hours but a lot of the time it was an all-day event when using specialized services, waiting, and commuting. My family and I share one vehicle and my brother is the only one who can help her get in the car safely. It became really challenging for all of us.”

Due to a combination of medical issues, Taeko began receiving dialysis in 2014 – a procedure to remove waste and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys don’t function properly. In 2018, Taeko suffered multiple strokes and required additional support from Midori and her brother.

Taeko has been receiving dialysis at the new clinic located inside Lakeridge Gardens since August 24. Midori says her and her family have more freedom now that Taeko’s appointments are so close to their home.

“Most days we walk over and I’m able to come home in between her treatments,” says Midori. “We no longer need to rely on my brother or one vehicle. It truly feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.”

The nine-station haemodialysis unit provides increased access to critical health-care services to residents like Taeko in Durham Region. The new clinic also enables an increased quality of life for Lakeridge Gardens’ residents who can access treatment in the comfort of their own home.

“We are so grateful for the amazing staff,” says Midori. “When you have someone that needs full-time care, your life revolves around their schedule. Having this clinic close to home has taken away so much stress and has brought a sense of normalcy back into our lives.”

Midori and Taeko attended the official opening of the haemodialysis clinic on November 18, along with government partners and Lakeridge Health team members. Learn more about the new clinic in the news release here.

Ruff day? Not for long! Our Pet Therapy Program is back

Our Pet Therapy Program is back in full swing with regular visits to patients and residents at our hospitals and Lakeridge Gardens. Photo of Therapy Dog

“We are so grateful to have volunteers and their animals back visiting patients at our hospitals and residents at Lakeridge Gardens,” says Amber Cockburn, Volunteer Resource Specialist. “The animals bring so much joy to patients, residents, and staff. If these pets can provide support or comfort to patients or residents for even a few minutes a day, it’s all worth it.” 

Pet therapy provides healing and comfort by reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of happiness for those need it. After the program was paused due to the pandemic, volunteers and their four-legged friends from the Therapeutic Paws of Canada are making their rounds around, putting smiles on faces one belly rub at a time.

Check out this video of Khia, Lucy, and Memphis on their recent visits.

Spreading Kindness One Button at a Time

 Terry Whittle was having a bad day when she stopped by to say hello to Health System Executive Petrina McGrath in her office at the Ajax Pickering Hospital.

“When Petrina heard I was a bit down, she gave me a ‘kindness button,’ which really made me feel great,” said Terry, who is a Technician with the Medical Device Reprocessing Department at the Ajax Pickering Hospital. Photo of Terry Whittle and Jeremy Peyton

Terry learned that Petrina had obtained the buttons from the Love and Kindness Project Foundation and decided to order some for herself to give out to staff, physicians, and volunteers across the Ajax Pickering Hospital. 

“It’s a reminder to our teams about how much the care they deliver to patients and the support they provide to each other is appreciated during these challenging times,” explained Terry. 

Petrina and Terry’s efforts are taking off across the Ajax Pickering Hospital with other staff also starting to order kindness buttons to give out.

Photo of Love and Kindness Foundation Button “There are so many incredible things that teams are doing and this is just one small way that we can recognize and say thank you for their work,” Terry shares.

 If you would like to order some free buttons from the Love and Kindness Foundation, you can do so on their website

Stroke Patient Reflects on the Day That Changed Her Life Forever

Photo of Darlene SimpsonLast May, Darlene Simpson experienced a stroke. Less than six months later, she shares details about the day that changed her life and her recovery journey.

“The night before I had a stroke, I had a massive headache, so I went to bed early, knowing I had a busy day ahead of me at work,” says Darlene.

Darlene works in the food services department at Sobey’s and shares that, “When I woke up on May 4, my headache was gone and it felt like a regular workday. I started my usual work routine but at 7:10 a.m., I was writing a list and all of a sudden, my hand wouldn’t write anymore. I looked at my colleague Sue and I could see her and I couldn’t hear her. I thought I was speaking to her, but I’ve come to learn she couldn’t understand me.”

Darlene says when Sue saw her handwriting veer and her mouth droop, she recognized the signs of a stroke and immediately paged for help. She explains that by chance, a paramedic who visits the store every morning had just walked in the door and stepped in to assist.

“The paramedic and a colleague helped me lay down until the ambulance arrived,” says Darlene. “I remember being in the ambulance on the way to the Oshawa Hospital but I couldn’t hear anything. At the hospital, they injected me with Tissue Plasminogen Activator (TPA). The TPA helped significantly, and I was transferred to Toronto Western Hospital for further assessment.”

“A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain. The lack of blood flow causes the brain cells in the affected area to die,” explains Amy Maebrae-Waller, Lakeridge Health’s District Stroke Coordinator and Patient Care Manager of the Stroke Prevention Clinic and the Outpatient Neuro Program (ARC Neuro). “TPA is administered as soon as possible after stroke onset to help break down the blood clot(s) and restore blood flow to the brain.”

Amy adds that “being able to identify a stroke is crucial as 1.9 million brain cells die every minute an artery is blocked during a stroke. So, calling 911 immediately – like what Darlene did – is critical. It’s also important to know the signs of stroke, including one side of the face drooping, weakness in the arms, and slurred or jumbled speech.”

Darlene’s road to recovery was a challenging one.

“The first six to eight weeks were incredibly difficult,” says Darlene. “I suffered so many pounding headaches, aches and pains, and nightmares that felt so surreal.”

Despite the challenges, Darlene was determined to get stronger. She explains, “I started physiotherapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy with the Lakeridge Health team. There’s a lot I had to relearn and teach my brain again.”

Since May, Darlene has made tremendous progress and completed therapy at the end of August. She gives credit to her health-care team at Lakeridge Health for helping her to get to where she is.

“The entire team was fantastic,” says Darlene. “They helped me understand the recovery process, and if I had any questions, I always had someone there to answer them. I can’t say enough about how great they were.”

In September, Darlene went back to work; a month earlier than expected.

“Going back to where my stroke happened was nerve-wracking, but I made a big promise to myself,” explains Darlene. “I’m not going to sweat the small stuff or stress out. I go in, do my job, do it to the best of my ability, then go home and relax.”

She adds, “I listened to my health-care team and set goals for myself and worked hard to get here. Yes, I had a stroke, but I still have a lot of life to live.”

For information on stroke education, including recognizing signs of a stroke, visit our Stroke Education Resources.

“They gave me my second breath.”

Critical Care Patient Recounts Lifesaving Care Experience

Photo of Dilukshan Rajkumar and Aline DemerjianDilukshan Rajkumar was not supposed to make it through the night.

When the 26-year-old was admitted to the Critical Care Unit at Lakeridge Health’s Oshawa Hospital in August with severe internal bleeding, the team was preparing for the worst.

“We did not think he would survive,” said Kelly Pasnick, Patient Care Manager of the Oshawa Hospital Critical Care Unit. “But he surprised us all and not only survived the night but continued to improve.”

For Dilukshan, that harrowing experience was the result of six months of increasingly worsening symptoms.

“I began to lose weight, going from 245 pounds to 150 pounds,” he explained. “I also had very bad back pain and a lump on the side of my neck.”

Dilukshan first sought care at another hospital and was referred to a thyroid specialist and physiotherapist. Following a move to Oshawa, he visited a physician at a walk-in clinic when his symptoms also progressed to include blurry vision and fainting.

“The doctor told me that I may have carcinoma in my shoulder and stomach and that I needed to go to the hospital right away,” Dilukshan said.

While being treated at the Oshawa Hospital, Dilukshan’s symptoms again took a turn for the worse when he ended up not being able to breathe, which led to his admission to the Critical Care Unit.

“All the nurses took such great care of me,” Dilukshan explained. “Whenever I woke up, they were always there to provide me with whatever I needed. Another nurse brought me a Bible and prayed with me. One of my doctors stayed the whole day when he didn’t have to, just to make sure I was okay.”

Dilukshan is now receiving treatment as an outpatient at the Durham Regional Cancer Centre for his carcinoma and is equally impressed by the care there.

“I have a great doctor, the best I could ever ask for,” he noted. “If I forget an appointment, the staff are always calling to remind me and make sure I’m there.”

Dilukshan has also made a point to say thank you in person to every member of the Critical Care team who cared for him.

“We couldn’t believe how well he was doing and it was very emotional for everyone,” noted Lakeridge Health Social Worker Aline Demerjian, who supported Dilukshan during his time in the Critical Care Unit.

“If I was a millionaire, I would give them all a million dollars. Thanks is just simply not enough,” added Dilukshan. “Other than my mother, this hospital is the one that gave me life.”

Photo Caption: Dilukshan Rajkumar (left) with Social Worker Aline Demerjian (right).

Surviving Breast Cancer: Bettina's Story

At the age of 48, Bettina was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in December, making Christmas 2013 one she’ll never forget. 

“I was not going to get a mammogram until I was 50 because my family had no history of breast cancer,” explained Bettina.   

But when Bettina’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier in 2013, Dr. Tony Stone, Bettina’s family doctor for 30 years and Chief of Staff at Lakeridge Health, sent her for a mammogram because of the change in family history. Following the screening mammogram, Bettina received the life-altering news and her own cancer journey began.  Photo of Bettina outside the DRCC

“After my diagnosis, I had surgery at the Bowmanville Hospital, then chemotherapy, radiation, and follow-up scans at the Durham Region Cancer Centre (DRCC),” said Bettina. “My cancer couldn’t be felt through a self-examination; I had no symptoms that I or Dr. Stone could recognize. Without the screening mammogram, we wouldn’t have known about the cancer and it could have continued to grow or spread.”   

A screening mammogram takes an x-ray of the breasts and can detect cancers when they are small, less likely to have spread, and more likely to be treated successfully. 

“The mammogram took 10 minutes, it’s really quick,” explained Bettina. “The technologists are so caring and walk you through every step. Cancer screening is so important. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it is to treat.”   

With breast cancer, there’s a higher success rate for treatment if it’s caught early. In Ontario, one in nine women will have breast cancer in their lifetime. 

Bettina shared that “this year is my trifecta of screenings. I’m due for colon, cervical, and breast cancer screening. The mammogram saved my life and all cancer screening is so important to catch any issues early and give everyone the best chance for a successful recovery.”   

Bettina is now close to completing her adjuvant therapy and being cancer-free. “We’re really lucky to have the DRCC right here in our community – it’s top notch,” said Bettina. “I didn’t have to go into Toronto for treatment. We have an incredible team at the DRCC and I feel I had the best care possible. For that I’m very grateful”.  

“Kudos to Bettina for being proactive about her own health,” said Dr. Stone. “By getting a screening mammogram after her family history changed, the team was able to diagnose at an early stage and begin treatment. I would urge everybody to stay on top of their own health and get things checked out when there’s a change in family history.”   

When asked how her cancer has changed her perspective on life, Bettina explains, “My family has always been my everything and spending time together never gets taken for granted. Every day I practice gratitude and make a point of appreciating the little things more. Life is wonderful and each day is a gift and I’m happy to share that my mom is also cancer-free”.  

Bettina also joined the Patient and Family Experience Advisory Council (PFEAC) for the DRCC in 2015. The DRCC PFEAC are Lakeridge Health patients or family members of patients who share their perspectives and insights about programs and practices that affect patient care and services.  

“I asked my oncologist Dr. Rama Koneru, how I could give back and she suggested I join the PFEAC,” explained Bettina. “Being an Advisor has been a humbling and rewarding experience. Getting a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of our cancer centre and witnessing the dedication and commitment shown by all the DRCC team members is remarkable.

Women 50 or older should have a screening mammogram every two years. Call 1-800-668-9304 to book an appointment – you do not need a referral. If you have a personal or family history of cancer, talk to your health-care provider about starting screening sooner.   

Lakeridge Health Physicist Receives U of T Physics Award for Excellence in Teaching

Congratulations to Medical Physicist, Dr. Aaron Vandermeer, who received the Physics Residency Award for Excellence in Physics Teaching from the University of Toronto’s (U of T) Department of Radiation Oncology (DRO) at their Post-Grad Graduation Ceremony event in June.  

The Physics Residency Award for Excellence in Physics Teaching is a trainee-selected award issued to one physicist across the five clinical sites that participate in the DRO Physics Residency Program. In addition to Lakeridge Health, this includes Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Trillium Health Partners, and Southlake Regional Health Centre.  

Photo of Dr. Vandermeer

Dr. Vandermeer’s award marks the first time that the award has been presented to a clinician in the Durham Regional Cancer Centre (DRCC). 

“I am thrilled and honoured to receive this award,” shares Dr. Vandermeer. “Teaching is a big part of my job and I look at it as one of the most important things I do – training the next generation of medical physicists. Being recognized for these efforts means a lot.” 

Often found working behind the scenes, medical physicists ensure that the radiation therapy that patients receive is delivered accurately and that the treatment machines are providing the proper amount of radiation to the right location.  

“Aaron is a thoughtful, effective, and encouraging teacher,” said Dr. Eric Christiansen, Medical Physics Resident who nominated Dr. Vandermeer for the award. “In addition to teaching the basics of how something is done, he also ensures that I understand why it is done and actively invites me into the decision-making process.” 

The DRCC has participated in the clinical training of medical physicists since 2009, when it joined the U of T DRO as an affiliated site for the Medical Physics Resident Training Program.   

Having trainees is a wonderful way to energize and engage staff,” said Dr. Katharina Sixel, Manager, Medical Physics. Our entire Physics team participates in the program with enthusiasm and commitment. It is great to see Aaron’s contributions to teaching recognized and appreciated!  We are so proud of him and our program.” 

“I had a lot of good mentors and teachers that helped me along the way,” reflects Dr. Vandermeer. “Teaching in Oshawa where I was born and raised is extremely rewarding as I can give back to my home community and pay tribute to those who helped me in my career path.” 

Walt's Journey of Struggle, Strength, and Hope

For Walt, his journey with addiction is a story of struggle, strength, and hope.

Walt recalls his first experience with gambling around the age of 10 using a candy machine that included silver balls among many other bubble gum balls. “If you were lucky, you could get a silver ball and redeem it for a rabbit foot,” said Walt. Photo of Walt

As a teenager, he went to his first horse race and around the same time, he would use lunch money to make bets with friends.

While earning his business degree at university, Walt says he won a major bet that allowed him to pay his rent while he earned his degree.

After graduating, Walt landed a great job at a consulting firm, but the corporate world only amplified his forming habit. “As I climbed the corporate ladder, I started to get free admission to clubs and sit alongside some big names while gambling – little did I know where this would lead,” said Walt.

“Over time, I started to have to go to the horse track every day,” explained Walt. “I would spend my days at the track, and work at night. “When I’d wake up in the morning my first breath would be filled with adrenaline because I knew I was going to the track.”

In 1992, Walt was the Senior Vice-President at the consulting firm but when interest rates skyrocketed, he lost his job, his house, and his wife left him in the same year. Walt was left to raise three kids on his own.

“After I lost my job, my house, and my wife, I still gambled,” explained Walt. “When casinos opened in the 1990’s, for me they were deadly and I couldn’t stop. I was always chasing the win.”

Addiction is a complex behavior and the shame associated with problem gambling is often a barrier for those accessing treatment. Walt, like many people struggling with addiction and mental health, recognized he needed help, but was hesitant to access it.

In 2018 while leaving the casino, he noticed a Lakeridge Health information booth where he picked up information about Gambling, Gaming, and Tech program.

Reluctantly, Walt called the number. “I knew I needed help but I was thinking, I’m a hard nut to crack,” recalled Walt.

After joining the program, the Lakeridge Health team referred Walt to a residential rehabilitation program in Windsor, which he says was the turning point in his recovery. “I went for three weeks and when I came out of there, I knew I would never gamble again,” said Walt. “It was the best thing I think I’ve ever done. During the day there were lectures with homework in the evenings, and on weekends we’d watch different educational movies.”

Over the past four years, Walt has made tremendous growth and has started to reclaim his life. He’s paid off gambling debts, reconnected with old friends, and spends time visiting his son in Seattle, his daughter in San Diego, and his other daughter in Ontario.

 “I meet for group meetings every Thursday for one hour,” said Walt. “Hearing other stories reminds me what life would be like if I were back gambling. The meetings are a deterrent for people who have stopped gambling and provides hope for those who are still gambling.”

Walt said the Gambling, Gaming, and Tech program has improved his life immensely.

When asked if he has any advice for those who are struggling with addiction and mental health, Walt explains, “Go for help. If you have a broken leg, you go to the doctor. This is another form of illness and the help is there. It’s a process but if you stick to it, it works.”

As gambling continues to expand in Ontario, Walt is very concerned about the risk this will have on those vulnerable to problem gambling. “I think everyone must be vigilant and understand the risks associated with gambling,” said Walt.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please visit our website for more information.

Lakeridge Gardens Resident, Louise Johnson, Reflects on being a "Bomb Girl" During World War II

From a growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan, to becoming a local legend, 101 year-old Lakeridge Gardens resident, Louise Johnson, is believed to be the last living World War II “Bomb Girl” in Canada.

Louise was one of thousands of women who came to what was then Pickering Township, to work at Defence Industries Limited (DIL), the largest munitions plant in the British Commonwealth built during World War II. Photo of Louise Johnson

Although it was uncommon for women to work before the war, growing up on a farm, Louise was no stranger to hard work.

“I worked from the time I was four years old,” said Louise. “In those days, children were brought up to collect eggs or feed chickens.”

In 1942 with most men off at war, Louise was working in a Saskatoon hospital supporting and managing student residences when she got the call from DIL recruiters.

“The phone rang and they invited me for an interview for a job in Ontario filling shells for the war and they offered twice as much as I was making,” recalled Louise.

In November 1942 at the age of 21, Louise packed her bags and boarded a train headed eastbound for Ontario, joining hundreds of other women from across Canada to work at DIL.

“We all come to two crossings in the road, and how you end up depends on your thoughts at the time and the opportunities in front of you,” said Louise.

Louise filled shells with about 30 other women and eventually worked in the office after taking a typing course in night school.

Safety was a top priority at the plant. “They were so strict with cleanliness,” Louise explained. The place was spotless to avoid creating any friction or electricity. It was a dangerous job, but so carefully managed.”

Workers put in eight-hour shifts, rotating around the clock, six days a week. “It was a job that had to be done and it was our contribution to the war,” said Louise. “We didn’t know we were going to win the war and we didn’t think or plan beyond that. It was life.”

Louise explains there were always dances and different activities for the workers.

At DIL, she met her future husband, Russell. Together they have one daughter, three grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.

After the war ended and the plant closed in 1945, Louise planted roots in Ajax, working for the local newspaper and then for Dickson Printing until she retired in 1986.

Louise has remained active in the community. She says she’s seen Ajax grow from a farm community to what it is now, a bustling town. 

In 2021, the Town of Ajax created the Louise Johnson Parkette, in honour of Louise’s 100th birthday and significant community contributions over the years.

In the spring of 2022, Louise moved into Lakeridge Gardens, which sits almost directly on the lands of the former DIL plant. She’s enjoyed writing letters and reading books, something she says she always wanted to do but never had time to.

“If you have to be some place, this is the place to be,” said Louise.

At 101, feels she has lived an amazing life and it’s clear her strong work ethic and passion for community involvement remains close to her heart. 

“I’m not boasting but if more people put the shoulder to the wheel, life would be better for everybody,” said Louise. 

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Lynda MacDonald, Porter, Diagnostic Imaging

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Lynda's story below.

Photo of Lynda MacDonaldIf I had to think of one reason why Lakeridge Health is a great place to work, it would be the interactions I’ve had with our patients over the years. It has always been my goal to give them the best of me and what I have to offer – no matter what the day has brought my way. Being the happy face that cheers them up has always been the highlight of my day, and over the many years I’ve spent here, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many wonderful people.

I began working as a student at Dr. J.O Ruddy Hospital (now known as Lakeridge Health’s Whitby Hospital) back in 1981, and I am here 41 years later!

With the transition to Lakeridge Health and due to the unfortunate fire in Whitby in 2007, I have held many different positions, such as working in more than three cafeterias, being a Service Associate in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), being a greeter at the front lobby of Oshawa Hospital, and my current job as a Diagnostic Imaging Porter at the Bowmanville Hospital.

I’ve made a lot of memories here that I will never forget. The teamwork and comradery at Lakeridge Health are second to none, and to anyone starting their career here – you’ve made a great choice.

To those of you who want to join our team, Lakeridge Health is an employer that is dedicated to developing their staff and preparing them to be the best they can be, so they can put their best foot forward. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to go home and feel like you’ve made a difference.

My journey here has been a memorable one, and I look forward to being here every day!

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Sandy Thompson, Clinical Practice Leader, Interprofessional Practice

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Sandy's story below.

Photo of Sandy ThompsonI’ve proudly worked at Lakeridge Health for almost 26 years. There are many reasons why Lakeridge Health is a great place to work. The organization’s values – inclusion, compassion, innovation, teamwork, and joy – speak to me as a person, as well as a health-care professional, and I have seen these values in action daily throughout my career here.

Lakeridge Health provides several community services that enable care closer-to-home care for the community we serve, such as the Regional Nephrology program and the Durham Regional Cancer Centre. Additionally, there are several supports in place for professional development such as bursaries, interest-free loans, paid seminars, and courses.

The greatest reason for working at Lakeridge Health is our staff. I’ve had the pleasure of working in different areas in various roles in my career at Lakeridge Health. The compassion and teamwork that all of our staff exhibit every moment every day is inspiring and heartwarming and has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. The passion, dedication, and teamwork that all staff demonstrated during this extremely challenging time is a true testament to how we have answered the call to provide safe and quality care to the community we serve.

I had the distinct privilege of working at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic, at both the Oshawa Hospital and the Ontario Tech University Campus Ice Centre, which is one of the highlights of my career. Reflecting back on the hesitancy many people initially felt regarding the vaccine and then transitioning to sheer joy and gratefulness for the opportunity to receive the vaccine as a step closer to seeing their families, or playing their part in ending the global pandemic, was truly a historical privilege to be a part of and an experience I will never forget.

Team Rallies Together to Welcome Triplets at Lakeridge Health

Stephanie fondly remembers the moment when she realized she was pregnant with not one, but three babies all at once. 

“I was shocked, excited, and terrified,” Stephanie says. “I saw the ultrasound technician write down Baby A, Baby B, and Baby C at my first appointment, but I had to call my fertility clinic to confirm if I was having triplets,” says Stephanie.

“When I called, they asked, ‘Are you sitting down?’ she says. Photo of Dr. Amir Elmekkawi, James, Stephanie, Dr. Gregory Athaide, and the triplets

Nine months later, Stephanie and her husband James have gone from a family of three with their two-year-old son, Beau, to a family of six, welcoming two boys and one girl who were born at the Oshawa Hospital on May 31, 2022.

Stephanie, a Community Palliative Nurse with the North Durham Family Health Team who has also worked at Lakeridge Health, preferred to give birth close to home, but most importantly wanted to do whatever was safest. “In addition to having a toddler, we live in Durham Region so James and I wanted to be able to deliver as close to home as possible, and safely,” explained Stephanie.

Planning was underway for an elective delivery on June 6. But in the weeks leading up to delivery, Stephanie was in and out of the hospital with some concerns about Baby C along with on and off bleeding.

So, on May 31, the team led by Dr. Gregory Athaide, Department Chief and Medical Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Lakeridge Health, decided it would be safest for Stephanie to deliver the triplets at 35 weeks pregnant - one week sooner than expected.

“There are complexities with delivering triplets, with increased surgical, anesthetic, and maternal risks,” says Dr. Athaide. “What started as a usual morning, soon changed into a discussion about what was possible for this patient that day. Almost instantly, there was a beehive of activity, with a positive energy level that was clearly contagious. It was a full team effort.”

The team rallied together to secure the resources needed to prepare for multiple scenarios while providing the best possible care. Stephanie successfully delivered Alastair (Baby A), Bria (Baby B), and Corvin (Baby C).

“Everything turned out perfectly and my experience was absolutely fantastic at the hospital,” says Stephanie. “Every single staff member we came into contact with was great and extremely caring and compassionate to our situation.”

Post-partum, Stephanie had issues with blood pressure and was readmitted to the hospital for a couple of days.

“One nurse in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Lyna, was my angel nurse,” says Stephanie. She went above and beyond and made sure I was looked after when I was going through a rough situation. However, every step of the way, everyone was fantastic.”

With everyone back home, including Stephanie and the triplets, the family is settling in well. “Beau has been a great big brother and he loves his younger siblings. He’s doing amazingly well,” says Stephanie.

“I’m really proud of our team,” says Dr. Athaide. “Despite the pressures in the health-care system that the team continues to face, the multi-disciplinary team worked together to provide exceptional care to this family and many others, including a set of high-risk twins later that same day.” “This is a great example of the comprehensive services we offer at Lakeridge Health as we continue to provide safe, accessible, and high-quality care close to home for Durham Region residents.”

When asked if she has advice for other parents of multiples, Stephanie explains, “Connecting with others who have been through the experience is really helpful. I joined a group called Durham Parents of Multiples, which has a really good support system for those who are expecting or already have multiples.

Congratulations to Stephanie and James!

Lakeridge Health Nurse Awarded for Providing Exceptional Care to Seniors

Jennifer Maughn (right) accepts the Tammy Rankin Legacy Award from Jennifer Josephson, Chair of Durham Elder Abuse Network (DEAN), which developed the award.Throughout her nursing career of more than 20 years, Jennifer Maughn has always been passionate about working with seniors. Now, she has been honoured for this dedication as the recipient of the third annual Tammy Rankin Legacy Award.

“Tammy Rankin worked tirelessly throughout her career to advocate for and support the senior population in Durham Region,” said Jennifer Josephson, Chair of Durham Elder Abuse Network (DEAN), which developed the award. “Not only was she a founding member of DEAN – an organization committed to advocacy and education within our community to keep seniors safe – she was also the Senior Safety Advisor for Durham Region and developed a partnership with Durham Regional Police Services for a Senior Support Coordinator position.”

Although Tammy passed away in May 2019, Jennifer Josephson explained that the legacy award in her name is meant to highlight an inspiring individual or organization with a powerful story about going above and beyond to make a meaningful impact in the lives of seniors and their families, including COVID-19 support.

Jennifer Maughn’s story fits this description perfectly.

Jennifer began her nursing career in 1998 working at the Centenary Hospital in Scarborough, starting as a Registered Practical Nurse before becoming a Registered Nurse in 2000. At the same time as she was working at Centenary, Jennifer also held a part-time position at the Tony Stacey Centre for Veterans Care nursing home, which is where her interest in working with older adults developed.

“A key element of seniors’ care is taking the time to truly listen to them and hear their stories, which is what I love to do,” Jennifer shared.

With this career direction in mind, Jennifer completed her Masters of Science in Nursing, as well as a specialty to become a Geriatric Emergency Management (GEM) Nurse. Since 2011, she has worked in the Emergency Department (ED) at the Ajax Pickering Hospital.

Jennifer was nominated for the award by a number of her colleagues, including Social Workers Riley Sinnott, Michelle Springer, and Judy Mapp, and other ED team members.

“In addition to the incredible nursing care she provides, Jennifer is an outstanding advocate for the seniors population across Ajax and Pickering,” Riley said. “She is so deserving of this award.”

“I had the privilege of knowing and working alongside Tammy and saw how she did everything she could to put the care of seniors first,” Jennifer shared. “It’s an honour for me to be following in Tammy’s footsteps.”

Photo Caption: Jennifer Maughn (right) accepting the Tammy Rankin Legacy Award from Jennifer Josephson, Chair of Durham Elder Abuse Network (DEAN), which developed the award.

"It's life-altering." Stroke patient shares his health-care journey to help educate others

It all started when Bill Boyd’s left arm went numb. Pat and Bill Boyd

On April 13, 2022, the 73-year-old was sitting at the dining room table with his wife Pat in their Oshawa home when his arm went numb and his speech became, as Pat explains, “a little funny.”

“At first I didn’t think anything of it,” Bill notes. “But then I went to stand and down I went. I broke my hip and the upper portion of my femur. And from then on, I was just floundering and feeling totally, totally helpless.”

Pat was already on the phone calling 911 as soon as Bill’s initial symptoms started. When paramedics arrived, they quickly determined that he had suffered a stroke. Bill was immediately taken to Lakeridge Health’s Oshawa Hospital.

“A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function caused by the interruption of the flow of blood to the brain, which causes the brain cells in the affected area to die due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients,” explains Amy Maebrae-Waller, Lakeridge Health’s District Stroke Coordinator and Patient Care Manager of the Stroke Prevention Clinic and the outpatient neuro program. 

Amy adds that “with a stroke ‘time is brain’ as 1.9 million brain cells die every minute after a stroke. So, calling 911 immediately – like what Pat did – is extremely important. It’s also important to know the signs of stroke, including one side of the face drooping, weakness in the arms, and slurred or jumbled speech.”

After spending the first two weeks of his treatment recuperating from surgery to repair his broken hip and femur, Bill was transferred to the Integrated Stroke Unit (ISU) for rehabilitation therapy.

Since then, Bill has made much progress and is looking forward to going home on July 5. He credits the “absolutely amazing” health-care team for their support in getting him to this point.

“From the nurses I had when I first came in, to the rehabilitation team who have been so good in helping me, you could tell that everyone has truly cared about my condition and my feelings,” Bill shares. “The staff stand behind you and encourage you and that’s so vital in your recovery.”

Connie Stamp, Patient Care Manager of the ISU, adds that “there has been excellent teamwork between the surgery and stroke teams in Bill’s care, which has made a positive impact in his recovery.”

Pat echoes these comments and points out that “even more than the care the team provides, there are many nurses who come in and just talk with him. Even nurses who are no longer on his floor will come by and say, ‘I just wanted to see how you’re doing.’ That means a lot.”

Bill adds that he is “very grateful for the support I received from the staff during a very difficult and lonely time throughout the COVID-19 restrictions when the rest of my family was not able to visit me.”

Pat also shares that “when it came time to discuss Bill going home, the team organized everything we needed for Bill’s comfort and care, as well as what I need to help care for him. They deliver care with dignity and kindness.”

As Bill reflects on his health-care journey these past months, he has a simple message for others: “If anybody ever thinks for a second that a stroke is not life altering, take it from me, it turns your life upside down.”

Two Brothers and Best Friends Sharing Their Lives Together at Lakeridge Gardens

Charles (“Charlie”) Horchik wouldn’t have it any other way. Photo of Charlie Horchik

For all of his life, the 85-year-old Oshawa native has lived with his fraternal twin brother, Andrew (“Andy”). And now, in their golden years, the Horchik brothers* continue to live together, in adjoining rooms, at Lakeridge Gardens.

“We see each other every day and we’re back and forth with our walkers,” said Charlie. “This is so ideal.”

While they call Lakeridge Gardens home at the moment, during much of their twenties, the two brothers travelled together through the eastern United States, Europe, and Scandinavia performing tap dance routines as part of variety shows. Andy and Charlie Horchik became known as the “Taylor Twins.”

“At that time, Horchik was a foreign name, which wasn’t very popular,” Charlie recalled. “Our manager said, ‘I’ve got you booked for your first appearance, but you have to have a name because of the advertising.’ He said, ‘How about the Taylor Twins?!’ There is no significance, but we all liked the alliteration!”

By the late 1960s, the Taylor Twins were booking so many gigs, they relocated to London, England. Ever so popular, the dynamic duo often danced with big headliners including jazz singers, Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney.

“In our youth, we took tap dancing lessons,” Charlie remembered. “Our father was obsessed with Fred Astaire. We never planned on doing anything professionally with it, but through a set of circumstances, we fell into show business after auditioning with a friend for a variety show.”

That first audition eventually landed Charlie and Andy an incredible gig crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean between London and New York, travelling to and from American bases.

“There were so many big stars we had the privilege of working with,” said Charlie.

After about 10 years travelling and performing on the road, Andy and Charlie returned home to Oshawa to settle down. There they went into business together, operating a convenience store, before taking customer service gigs with Nelson Publishing in Scarborough.

“My brother and I didn’t see a need to get married,” Charlie said. “We are best friends. We understand each other so well, so we built a life together.”

Unfortunately, shortly after they retired, the fraternal twins both contacted chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes difficulty breathing. Both brothers now live with a ventilator in each of their rooms.

“Andy got it worst,” said Charlie. “And it has just caught up with me and gotten progressively worse. We had a lovely apartment, but we couldn’t handle it anymore. It was time to move.”

And so, when two spots opened up at Lakeridge Gardens, Andy and Charlie took them immediately.

“When we got here, we just couldn’t believe how nice this place was,” Charlie said. “The staff and the dinners – all are fabulous.”

COPD restricts much of their activities these days. And though Charlie says he wishes they could participate in more of the home’s activities, so far, the visits from staff, volunteers, and their friends help to make life so enjoyable.

“We really feel at home here,” said Charlie. “We also have good companions, Russ and John, who join us for our meals daily.”

*During our interview, Andy was unable to join us because he was convalescing in his room. 

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Debbie DiLella, PACS Administrator, Diagnostic Imaging

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Debbie's story below. 

Photo of Debbie DiLellaMy first years at Lakeridge Health included working midnights as a Medical Radiation Technologist. In addition to x-raying patients, one of my tasks was to check the schedule of patients for the next day and pull previous films from the rows of ceiling to floor imaging files stored in the film library. Today, that job is automated by a pre-fetching task that retrieves local and third-party imaging files directly into our Picture Archiving Communication Systems (PACS) where images can be visualized almost instantaneously across all the hospitals. From dark rooms to digital imaging, x-ray film to PACS, my role now consists of assisting clinicians across all Lakeridge Health sites to ensure imaging is available when and where it’s required for patient care.

A few of my most memorable highlights while working at Lakeridge Health include operating a mobile CT scanner parked outside the hospital loading docks, contributing to Cancer Care Ontario’s Lung Cancer Screening Program, implementing the Hospital Diagnostic Imaging Repository Services (HDIRS) Foreign Exam Manager, and attending many educational conferences. Team involvement with professional practice, controlled documents, peer review and the implementation of Epic have also allowed me to interact with and learn from other health-care professionals across Lakeridge Health.

Constant collaboration with others and advancements in medical imaging will continue to make my career at Lakeridge Health exciting for years to come. My advice to others would be to explore and welcome new opportunities, you never know what might be waiting for you just around the corner!

Chance Encounter Leads to a Lifetime of Love and Family

 

At 99-years-old, Lakeridge Gardens resident Kay Madill is a bit hard of hearing. However, there is one thing that her family never tiresPhoto of Kay Madill and family of making sure she hears – and that’s “I love you.” 

Kay, who will join the elite group of centenarians in Canada when she turns 100 this November 7, is not only mother to four girls and one boy, but also grandma and great grandma to 26 children. 

This big, loving family of more than 30 owes its origins to a chance encounter when Kay and her husband Bob were both serving in the Navy during World War II.  

“Mom worked in Payroll in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) making up the pay packets with cash for each sailor,” explains Kay’s daughter Marilyn Brewer.  

“Poppa came into the office one day for an advance on his pay, took one look at her, and that was that,” Jennifer says with a laugh.  

Fast forward almost eighty years later – which includes a marriage of 62 years between Kay and Bob before he passed away in 2009 and Marilyn and her daughter, Jennifer Cooke, are helping to keep these stories alive with Kay. Kay’s room at Lakeridge Gardens includes a large portrait of her late husband, Kay as a young child, as well as other photos of her family. In addition, there are many well-preserved momentos such as issues of the WRCNS magazine – that are regular topics of conversation.  

Although Kay and Bob initially spent some time out west in Saskatchewan and then in Stouffville when they first moved back to Ontario, the family truly set down roots in Ajax. Kay volunteered as a member of the Ajax Pickering General Hospital (as it was formally known) for more than 25 years, and Marilyn and Jennifer have both delivered their children at the Ajax Pickering Hospital.  

Now, as one of the first residents to move into Lakeridge Gardens after it opened in March 2022, Marilyn shares that Kay continues to “settle in” after living at the former Sunnycrest Nursing Home in Whitby. “The facilities are lovely here and the staff are amazing,” says Marilyn.  

Jennifer adds that “it’s so nice that a lot of the Sunnycrest residents and some of the staff are now here because they’re her friends and it just makes everything seem more home-like.” 

But the most important review is, of course, from Kay herself. When asked what she thinks of living at Lakeridge Gardens, Kay simply replies, “it’s pretty neat.” 

“She truly is the best grandma ever and we’re lucky to have her,” says Jennifer.  

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Robyne Stevenson, Clinical Extern

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Robyne's story below. 

Photo of Robyne StevensonI was lucky enough to be placed at Lakeridge Health for all of my clinical rotations during nursing school. This allowed me to explore a number of different nursing environments, which included geriatric rehabilitation, oncology, paediatrics, surgery, and critical care. My experience working on each of these units has been phenomenal. I found the staff to be very kind, knowledgeable, and passionate about patient care.

I began my journey on an acute medicine floor at the Ajax Pickering Hospital, which was one of the units hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the nurses and other staff members were under a lot of stress, I felt welcomed and supported.

As my final placement came to an end, I expressed interest in joining the Critical Care Unit to my supervisor, and she facilitated my transfer to the Oshawa Hospital. I worked on the unit for a short period while I studied for my licencing exam, and quickly discovered that Critical Care was where I was meant to be, as there were so many new learning opportunities, and I really enjoyed the fast-paced environment. A few weeks later, I gladly accepted a Registered Nurse position within the Critical Care Development Program.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work as a clinical extern at Lakeridge Health. Getting to know the management and staff on my new unit has eased the transition from student to Registered Nurse, and I can confidently say that I’m excited to begin this next chapter!

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Janelle Hannon, Opioid Patient Navigator

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Janelle's story below. 

Photo of Janelle HannonAs the Opioid Patient Navigator at Lakeridge Health’s Oshawa Hospital, I support patients struggling with their opioid addiction regardless of their current substance use goals. This support can range from offering someone a warm coat to providing information on their options and offering community linkages. I also assist the medical team by preparing information on the patient's substance use history, use of opioid agonist therapy (OAT), and current medical needs.

I work with a team of dedicated clinicians, including our addiction medicine physician and Registered Nurse, inpatient Nurse Practitioners, and other health-care professionals from Durham Mental Health Services, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Pinewood Centre. Together, we provide care and resources to assist clients in successfully transitioning from hospital to the community.

My passion for providing support to this population was born when I completed my degree in public health. I worked as a research assistant on a study that examined the factors putting singles at risk of homelessness in the Durham Region. It was shocking to learn that addiction and mental health were the leading causes of homelessness. This led me to do a deep reflection on my positionality, privilege, and community.

It was then that I decided to begin my career in supporting those with substance use and mental health conditions. This provoked my interest to further complete a graduate certificate in Addiction and Mental Health and eventually a Master of Social Work. Although we are continuously being educated on the explicit and implicit stigma those with opioid addiction face, unfortunately it is still pervasive within society. The need for non-judgemental, compassionate, and trauma-informed interventions is reflected in my role as I provide this education in casual conversations, meetings, and presentations.

While building rapport and trust with patients can be challenging at times, it brings me immense joy when they recognize I am an ally. That at one of the grimmest periods in their life, they are not alone. I envision a world where people are not shamed for their mental health or addictions, but instead greeted with a warm embrace and "How can I help?" Until then, I strive to do my part as a friend, a neighbour, and clinician.

Peregrine Falcon Chicks Hatch at Oshawa Hospital

The family of Peregrine Falcons has returned to the Oshawa Hospital!Photo of Peregrine Falcon Chick

These rare birds were first noticed by the Engineering team about nine years ago. With help from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, a nest box was set up on the roof. Since then, the Engineering team has witnessed new falcon chicks being born nearly every year.

This year, three peregrine falcon eggs hatched, welcoming Jessie, Eva, and Don. On Tuesday, May 31, the Canadian Peregrine Foundation came to band the chicks. Identifying the chicks makes it possible for researchers to track their journeys and monitor patterns.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation safely removed the baby falcons from the nest and brought them inside to weigh them, measure their talons, and confirm the sex before there were returned to the nest. As the fastest birds on earth, the teams involved in the banding had to keep a close eye on the mother falcon, who kept a close eye on her babies throughout the process.

Over the next few weeks, the chicks will prepare to fly or fledge for the first time. Until then, they’ll enjoy the views from the Oshawa Hospital, getting strong enough to take their first flight. Check out the photos from Tuesday.

Thank you to Canadian Peregrine Foundation and Ministry of Natural Resources for continuing to partner with us to keep this falcon family safe and healthy.

Watch the video of the chicks here.

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Anne Sinclair, Manager, Surgical Ambulatory Clinics

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Anne's story below. 

Photo of Anne SinclairI joined Oshawa General Hospital as a newly qualified Registered Nursing Assistant (RNA) through Durham Health Services Agency in 1991. My manager at the time noticed my dedication to the job, offered me a part-time role directly with the hospital, and I haven’t looked back since.

It's now been 31 years and counting, so it’s safe to say that I love it here. During my career, I’ve worked in many areas, furthered my education, and pursued opportunities along the way.

I stayed in the OR until 2009 when another opportunity came up to be the Night Operations Supervisor, which over time, transitioned to a permanent role as the Day Operations Supervisor. Being in the role motivated me to go back to school for my Bachelor of Nursing Science.

Today, I’m the Manager of the Surgical Ambulatory Clinics, which includes pre-operative care, Day Surgery, Endoscopy, Fracture Clinic, Minor Treatment Hall, Colposcopy, and Rapid Access Clinic. This role has challenged me over the years, but in a good way. I love my position, as surgery has always been my passion.

Over the years at Lakeridge Health, I’ve built many relationships with staff – both professional and personal – and I still get together with some of my first colleagues from the early 1990s, where we reminisce and laugh about the great times we had all those years ago. Over the years, many of us have had opportunities that led us to various departments, but the bond we built at Lakeridge Health has held us together for more than 30 years!

At no point in my nursing career have I thought or wished I had chosen a different path. I would like to thank Lakeridge Health for providing me with amazing growth opportunities in my profession and for being so supportive of furthering my education. Whether it was by accommodating work schedules to attend school or assisting with bursary applications, the organization’s support has helped me build a career while also raising a family.

Durham Regional Cancer Centre's Patient and Family Experience Council Celebrates 10 Years!

Darla Sells and Connie Bell PhotoDarla Sells remembers the day she rang the “end of treatment” bell at the Durham Regional Cancer Centre (DRCC) – signifying the completion of 16 rounds of treatment for breast cancer. While her patient journey ended with this common tradition for cancer patients when they finish treatment, her journey to help others began when she joined the newly formed Patient and Family Experience Advisory Council (PFEAC) in 2012.

“I remember thinking this is my chance to give back and to share things from a patient perspective,” recalled Darla. “It’s about continuous improvement for patients and for me, sharing my story and being part of the Council has helped me on my path as a cancer survivor.”

A decade later, the DRCC PFEAC is now celebrating 10 years in its partnership with leadership and staff of one of Ontario’s top cancer centres.

Advisors on the DRCC PFEAC are Lakeridge Health volunteers who have either received care as a patient at the DRCC or are a family member/Essential Partners-in-Care (EPC) of a DRCC patient. They provide input and feedback on initiatives involving patient care and services. The Council ensures the voices of patients and their families/EPCs are heard, considered, and included.

Another cancer survivor, Connie Bell, joined the Council in 2013 after becoming a patient at the DRCC with a diagnosis of stage two breast cancer. “I saw this as a unique way to give back and voice my opinion in a meaningful aspect,” said Connie.

Over the past 10 years, the Council has collaborated and consulted on over 30 committees and projects including:

  • Renovations in the DRCC.
  • A collaborative engagement with the DRCC team that involved the placement of 200 pieces of art donated by Artworks for Cancer, a not-for-profit foundation that brings works of art to cancer treatment units in hospitals across Ontario.
  • Developing the Building Emotional Therapies Through Education and Relationships (BETTER) clinic – a clinic that helps cancer patients manage their worries or concerns.
  • The High-Risk Cancer Screening Pilot.
  • Development of the Gynecology-Oncology Centre at Lakeridge Health.

“The most valuable part for me is we’re always invited to various meetings and so involved in the DRCC’s plans or concepts, whether it be big or small,” said Connie. “For instance, we helped to design the BETTER clinic, including choosing the paint colour, furniture, and décor to help create a comfortable space for patients.”

“When people go through cancer, it’s a family experience and everyone in the home is affected in some way,” said Darla. “I bring my personal experience as a patient to my role as an advisor and can see my ideas come to life”.

Since the first PFEAC meeting on March 28, 2012, the group has grown to include 13 advisors who meet regularly with the Clinical Director and other members of the DRCC leadership team. At the onset of the pandemic, the PFEAC maintained its commitment to meet by pivoting to gather virtually. The Indigenous

Navigator for the Central East Regional Cancer Program joins the PFEAC meetings, which creates engagement opportunities and information sharing with the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities in the Central East Region.

As a top performing cancer centre, the DRCC at Lakeridge Health sees 7,000 new patients and delivers 58,800 treatments (includes both radiation/systemic treatments) for a total of 131,300 patient visits each year.

Congratulations to the DRCC PFEA Council on 10 incredible years of life-changing impact!

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Shraddha Patel, Registered Nurse

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Shraddha's story below. 

Photo of Shraddha PatelLH. These two letters – which stand for Lakeridge Health – written on a bulletin board are what helped to motivate Shraddha Patel as she studied to become a licensed nurse in Ontario.

Shraddha and her husband immigrated to Canada from India in 2014. Although Shraddha was trained as a nurse and midwife, she initially worked in Environmental Services for a walk-in clinic and did not complete the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) requirements to become licensed to practice.

However, when the couple decided to move from Scarborough and buy a house in Whitby in 2021, Shraddha had to leave her job at the clinic because she did not have a driver’s license and access to a car to make the commute.
“My husband encouraged me to write the exam to become a licensed Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) now that I had more time,” Shraddha explains. “When I started to investigate job opportunities in Durham Region, I was so impressed with the many positions available at Lakeridge Health. So, as I was studying for the RPN exam, I wrote the letters ‘LH’ on my bulletin board, along with my other motivational messages, as a reminder of where I wanted to work.”

Shraddha not only aced the RPN exam in September 2021, but also successfully completed the exam to become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) in January 2022. She is now a proud member of the team on one of the Medicine units at the Oshawa Hospital.
Shraddha shares that “there are just so many skills I can develop as a nurse here at Lakeridge Health. I want to work here as long as I can.”

If you’re an internationally educated nurse (IEN) or know someone who is, learn more about our IEN career pathway program to help IENs start their careers in Ontario and transition into registered nursing positions.

Police Officers Pedal to Lakeridge Health

Photo of Steve CrittendenOn Monday, May 16, a group of local police personnel hopped on their bikes and pedalled to the Durham Region Cancer Centre (DRCC) to say thank you to the DRCC nurses as part of the Pedal for Hope cycling tour in support of paediatric cancer.

Pedal for Hope includes members of the Durham Regional Police Services (DRPS), Peterborough Police Services, Metrolinx, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Each spring, they cycle throughout Central Ontario making stops along the way, while raising money for paediatric cancer research and counselling for families living with a paediatric cancer diagnosis.

Steve Crittenden, a member of the Pedal for Hope team, says they wanted to honour the DRCC nurses for all that they do, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “The last couple years have been very taxing on the health-care system,” explained Steve. “We wanted to honour the dedication and hard work of the DRCC nurses and say thank you to those who get us through cancer treatments.”

For Steve, this stop hits closer to home.

In late 2014, Steve was diagnosed with stage four cancer and required chemotherapy. He says the nurses at the DRCC played a major role in saving his life and in his recovery. “Although I was scared out of my mind, everyone I encountered at the DRCC was fantastic,” said Steve. “I entered the unknown at the DRCC, but because of the nurses that looked after me and others, it made it so much more bearable.”

Pedal for Hope has raised more than $5 million dollars with the support of local businesses and sponsors over the past 18 years. 

#MyBestMoments Campaign - Caroline Stiers, Physiotherapist

Photo of Caroline StiersIn our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Caroline's story below. 

Looking back at my years as a physiotherapist with Lakeridge Health, I’d have to say the best thing about working here is having the privilege of being part of an amazing multidisciplinary team of health-care professionals. From occupational therapists, other physiotherapists, speech language pathologists, rehabilitation assistants, and recreation therapists, to social workers, nurses, and doctors, the expertise and skills of these different disciplines all contribute towards meeting patients' complex needs. I’ve seen over and over in many different settings, how inpatients and outpatients alike benefit from the many varied and dedicated Lakeridge Health team members.

In February and March 2022, I was part of the team at the temporary Activation and Restoration Program at Lakeridge Gardens that was created to enable hospital capacity during the fifth wave of the pandemic. It was wonderful to see what can be accomplished when people who have previously never worked together before come together so quickly, collaboratively, and effectively, and it is something I am proud to have been a part of.

Another great thing about Lakeridge Health is its commitment to providing exceptional learning and teaching environments for all kinds of health-care careers. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor many physiotherapy students during their placements. It’s important to me to share my knowledge and experience with students, as these practical hands-on placements are so valuable in their training. Supervising students keeps me on my toes with my own skills and knowledge. Some of my students have even gone on to roles at Lakeridge Health, which is great to see.

"Medicine for the Soul" 

Photo of Dr. Priya Iyer and Dr. Suchrita Mensinkai alongside 30 other physicians on the stage of Canada’s Got Talent

Lakeridge Health Physicians Find Solace – and a Bit of Fame – in Choir

When Lakeridge Health physicians Dr. Priya Iyer and Dr. Suchrita Mensinkai joined more than 30 other physicians on the stage of Canada’s Got Talent earlier this month, it was the culmination of what has been a deeply healing and comforting experience for these talented health-care professionals.

Dr. Iyer and Dr. Mensinkai, a respirologist and family physician, respectively, are part of Voices Rock Medicine – a choir of diverse female physicians who use music as a way to deal with the pressures and challenges they face every day, which has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been a stressful time for everyone during the pandemic and particularly those in health care,” explained Dr. Iyer. “I’ve always enjoyed singing and I joined the choir after hearing about it from a friend. It has been a good distraction and outlet for me and other physicians.”

Dr. Iyer notes that one thing she loves about the choir is getting to know the different women. “To have this community, it's so lovely to know all these people with different backgrounds and experiences,” she said. “It’s wonderful to have shared this experience with these women.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Dr. Mensinkai, who joined Voices Rock Medicine in 2021 after attending a conference for female physicians and felt inspired to find a similar community. “It’s been a really difficult couple of years trying to keep our patients and ourselves safe,” explains Dr. Mensinaki. “I started thinking about what I could do to bring me joy and take a break from the constant worry. The choir gives me that little bit of time to play and recharge with an amazing group of women before coming back to my role and responsibilities as a physician,” she said.

The group was thrilled when they got the call to audition for Canada’s Got Talent. Leading up to the performance, the choir had only rehearsed virtually and a handful of times in-person.

“The first outdoor rehearsal as a group felt magical,” described Dr. Iyer.

The practice seemed to have paid off, with the choir receiving a standing ovation by the crowd and the judges during their Canada’s Got Talent performance. The physicians describe the experience as an honour and privilege to perform on stage and inspire others to take care of themselves.

Congratulations to Dr. Iyer and Dr. Mensinkai!

Watch the performance by Voices Rock Medicine on Canada’s Got Talent here.

Lakeridge Health Midwives Reflect on Years of Collaboration and Compassionate Care

Photo of Midwife Catherine AlstrupFor Lakeridge Health midwives Judi Brandson and Catherine Alstrup, empowering patients to make informed choices and fostering an empathetic and compassionate care environment fuel their dedication to practicing midwifery at Lakeridge Health.

Midwives deliver hundreds of babies at Lakeridge Health each year. For Judi, one delivery truly stands out. In February 2003, she delivered a little boy named Matthew, who was the first baby delivered by a practicing midwife at Lakeridge Health.

“It was a milestone for me and the other two midwives who also assisted,” said Judi.

As Judi reflects on nearly 20 years since that special delivery, she speaks with pride about the growth of the program since then.

“Lakeridge Health has now established community partnerships with multiple midwifery practices in Durham Region and midwives deliver babies at the Lakeridge Health Ajax Pickering and Oshawa Hospitals. As well, midwives are integrated within the obstetrical team, and we have a respectful and collaborative relationship with all members of the interprofessional team.”

Catherine Alstrup – a midwife with Community Care Midwives who has been practicing at Lakeridge Health for four years – echoes Judi’s comments. “The collaboration I feel working with the nurses and doctors at Lakeridge Health is something incredibly special,” said Catherine.

Catherine decided to become a midwife after using one for three of her pregnancies, and appreciated the unique care model midwives offer pregnant people.

“The continuity of care during my own birth experiences is what made me want to work in the health-care sector,” she explains. “As registered health-care professionals, midwives provide safe, evidence-based care to their patients. People have many questions during their pregnancy, and we are there to listen to their concerns and give them the information they need to feel empowered to make informed choices. As well, patients have access to their team of midwives 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we’re with them during active labour and through the initial postpartum period.”

Ultimately, Catherine notes, “it’s about working together with the patient to provide the best care.”

 #MyBestMoments Campaign - Alyssa Holmes, Screener

In our #MyBestMoments campaign staff and physicians from across our hospitals and community sites share the moments that have mattered most to them in their careers at Lakeridge Health. Read Alyssa's story below. 

Photo of Alyssa HolmesAlyssa Holmes was completing a shift as a screener in the Emergency Department (ED) at the Oshawa Hospital this past January when she noticed a patient who seemed very upset.

“This individual had been in the ED for a long time and was frequently going in and out of the hospital,” Alyssa shared. “I asked them if there was anything I could do and really what they needed was someone to listen and help them through their experience during a challenging time.”

“Alyssa’s compassion meant so much to this patient that at the end of their ED visit, they left a Tim Horton’s gift card for Alyssa to receive on her next shift,” explained Deputy Chief Financial Officer Julia Raudanskis, who helps to oversee the screener team at Lakeridge Health.

Alyssa has worked as a screener since last November. Screeners are stationed at all hospital entrances and are an integral part of how Lakeridge Health keeps our sites safe for everyone. In addition to asking patients and visitors about any possible COVID-19 symptoms and exposures and ensuring visitors are fully vaccinated, they are a friendly and knowledgeable first point of contact at the hospitals.

“My motto is to treat others the way you'd like to be treated and it truly gives me such gratification going above and beyond day in and day out for patients and knowing I’m able to help in someone’s time of real need,” Alyssa said.

The support she provided to the patient in the ED was not the only time Alyssa has been acknowledged in her role. Recently, she was also commended by the hospital’s Security team for noticing a confused, elderly patient who had wandered away from her room before she inadvertently left the hospital.

“It’s people like Alyssa that make me so passionate about working in health care and so proud of our entire team,” said Julia.

Alyssa shares that she’s looking forward to building a career at Lakeridge Health and ultimately training to become a nurse. “I've really come to fall in love with it here!” she said.

Reflecting on Ramadhan 2022 

Photo of Shakir Ahmed Pandor As we mark the beginning of Ramadhan, Shakir Ahmed Pandor shares the following reflections. Shakir is an Imam/Resident Scholar at the Islamic Centre of Oshawa and a registered community partner who works closely with the Spiritual Care team to help meet the needs of Muslim patients.

Ramadhan Mubarak! A blessed Ramadhan! This is how Muslims greet one another during Ramadhan. As I get ready for Ramadhan, the Islamic fasting month, it is exciting to share this message with my fellow brothers and sisters in humanity. My family and I, like all Muslims, find a unique excitement in Ramadhan.

Fasting for Muslims means avoiding food, drink, and sensual pleasures during the daylight hours, for the entire lunar month of 29 or 30 days. While a 15-hour fast might be long enough, the day is increased by a special 20 unit nightly “Taraweeh” prayer at the Masjid (mosque). The joy, peace, and tranquility experienced in performing these worships is escalated by doing it collectively. As an Imam, I lead the extra prayer, reciting the entire Qur’an from memory. Thus, my preparations as a Hafidh (one who has memorized the Qur’an) differ slightly from others. Culturally, most Muslim families enjoy various delicacies, some only prepared during Ramadhan, as a family at Suhoor/Sehri (pre-dawn meal) and Iftaar (post sunset) meals.

Fasting in Islam is about mindfulness of God, appreciation, and empathy. Unlike the saying “a hungry man is an angry man,” to truly fast as one should, Islam requires Muslims to be cheerful, give freely in charity, and assist the poor and needy – all with a smile from the heart. Muslims are required to treat a fasting day just like every other day, except with more discipline and good character.

Ramadhan always seems to whiz by, and the festival of Eid, which marks the end of Ramadhan, always comes too soon. Eid al-Fitr, a day of eating, drinking, and time with the family, begins with a special morning prayer at the Masjid, and is marked with new clothes and Eid gifts. As with Ramadhan, the Eid greeting is Eid Mubarak, or a blessed Eid!

‘Colorectal Cancer Screening Saved My Life. It Can Save Yours Too’

Phyllis Crowley, her three children, and her grand-daughterImagine seeing your life partner and father to your three children pass away from colon cancer at only 41 years of age, only to be diagnosed yourself with the same cancer 11 years later. That’s exactly what Phyllis Crowley, a longtime Ajax resident, faced in 2007 at the age of 51.

During a visit to her family physician, Phyllis expressed some minor symptoms of constipation. “I had no other ‘cancer’ symptoms,” shares Phyllis. “I was well aware of all the symptoms to watch for after my husband was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.”

In March 2007, Phyllis met with Dr. Hugh Kendall, Colorectal Screening and Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Lead for the Central East Regional Cancer Program to have a colonoscopy procedure. Based on the colonoscopy results, Phyllis was then referred to Dr. Michael Ricer, a General Surgeon at the Ajax Pickering Hospital.

“Dr. Ricer told me that I had stage three colorectal cancer,” explains Phyllis. “I had a right hemicolectomy – a type of surgery done to remove the right side of my colon. As part of the surgery, 17 lymph nodes were removed, five of which contained cancer cells.”

Shortly after returning home from the hospital in June, Phyllis started a six-month aggressive chemotherapy plan.

“Having a positive attitude was half my battle,” she shares. “I knew with the faith I had and the strength and support of my children, family, and community, I would give it a good fight.”

In March 2008, Phyllis received good news from Dr. Kendall that her post-chemo follow-up colonoscopy was clear. “I had a team of heroes who did not give up on me and made sure I was cared for,” says Phyllis.

Today, Phyllis is 66 years old and 14 years cancer-free. She participates in regular cancer screening, along with her children, due to their family history of colon cancer.

“I am thankful that my children are able to be proactive with screening,” says Phyllis. “It provides them the opportunity to foresee any issues and stay on top of their health.”

Colorectal cancer is most treatable when found early. Colonoscopies not only detect the disease but prevent cancer as polyps can be removed during the procedure. “Both my son and daughter had polyps removed during their routine colonoscopies,” notes Phyllis.

Today, individuals who are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer have access to the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), a free, safe, and painless test that checks a patient’s stool for tiny amounts of blood sometimes caused by colorectal cancer or large polyps.

“A FIT test is mailed right to you and can be done at home, making it a more convenient and easier way to be screened,” says Dr. Kendall. “It’s important for individuals over 50 years old and those with a history of colon cancer in their family to be screened every two years. Don’t wait for a screening reminder in the mail, follow up with your family physician to ensure your screening requirements and needs are being met.”

Phyllis hopes that sharing her story encourages more people to get screened. “We are so fortunate to have such incredible health care available to us and should take full advantage of the screening program,” she notes. “Screening saved my life. It can save yours too.”

"You Don't Want This. It's Unlike Anything You've Ever Experienced Before."

 COVID-19 patient shares his story to encourage others to get vaccinated.

Like many people who have contracted COVID-19, Craig Wilson has a simple message: get vaccinated.

It was Christmas Eve 2020 when Craig began to feel unwell. After being diagnosed with COVID-19, Craig spent nearly four months in hospital receiving both acute care and rehabilitation. At one point, his condition became so grave that he was on the cusp of death and his family prepared to say their goodbyes.

While Craig has made an incredible recovery from COVID-19, he has had ongoing health issues – often referred to as ‘Long COVID’ – as a result of his ordeal.

"I need dialysis three times a week because my kidneys failed while I was in hospital. As well, I require ongoing physical therapy to regain my strength, and I still become winded when I go up stairs,” Craig explains.

While Craig is unsure where he picked up the virus, one of his two sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, who spent Christmas with him that year, also contracted it. Thankfully, they had far less severe cases, but Craig notes, “it was a still a really long haul for me and my family.”

Prior to contracting COVID-19, Craig, a retired Toronto Fire Captain, was an active man who enjoyed time with Mary, his wife of 42 years, his children, and four grandchildren, and he misses being able to do many of the activities he used to do. He wishes there were vaccines available before he became sick and urges everyone to be fully vaccinated. “By not being vaccinated against the virus, people are taking a risk,” Craig says. “You never know. You're gambling with your life. Everybody should get the vaccine.”

The care he received at Lakeridge Health has also left a real impression on Craig. “The staff and physicians were all so amazing – they saved my life during a really challenging time when they were also dealing with so much,” Craig explains. “Even now, when I go in for my treatments, I know I am getting top quality care and I am so thankful.”

Craig hopes sharing his story encourages more people to get vaccinated. “You don't want this. It’s not like anything you’ve had before. This is 100 times worse than anything you've ever experienced,” he shares. “I went through a lot, but there are many people who went through a lot more or didn’t come through it at all.” 

Epic Helps Teams Deliver Lifesaving Care through Collaboration

When Lakeridge Health Critical Care physician and Anaesthesiologist Dr. John Maybee realized his patient needed urgent, additional care at Scarborough Health Network (SHN), instead of reaching for a paper chart to send with the patient, he logged in to the Epic clinical information system.

Lakeridge Health and SHN are among seven partner hospital organizations that introduced Epic on December 3, providing patients across the Central East Region of Ontario with a single, unified digital health record.

“Epic has ushered in a new era for the way care is delivered and experiences like the transfer of this patient are evidence of this tremendous change,” says Dr. Maybee. “This patient required transport via our partners at Ornge Transport Medicine and his medical history, test results, and medication records were easily accessible in real time to both the transport team and team waiting for him at SHN.”

Dr. Randy Wax, Lakeridge Health Critical Care and Ornge Transport Medicine physician, who accompanied the patient with paramedics in the critical care transport ambulance that day, has also witnessed the many benefits of Epic since the system went live.

“Epic has provided health-care teams with standardized tools and processes that allow them to better collaborate and make the best possible decisions about an individual’s treatment,” Dr. Wax shares.

Dr. Martin Betts, Chief of Critical Care at SHN, adds that “thanks to Epic, our team was able to review all the patient’s information while she was en route to SHN. From her medical records, such as key clinical data and health history, we had all the necessary information to provide her the highest quality of care as soon as the transport team arrived.”

Dr. Wax also notes that the data collected in Epic provides an important opportunity for research to improve patient safety and quality of care. He and other members of the Lakeridge Health team were recently awarded a $17,500 grant from the Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada (HIROC) to analyze how Epic can use an automated warning system to help detect deterioration in hospital patients earlier to reduce their risk of negative outcomes.

“Our goal with this study – as with everything associated with Epic – is to use this powerful tool to help our teams deliver the very safest and most seamless care experience to all our patients,” says Dr. Wax.