You hear this all the time. When speaking to a group of friends, at least one person will say, “I hate hospitals”. It is most likely followed with a grimace or a shiver.
It would be almost unnatural if someone blurted out, “I LOVE hospitals”, because usually, it is a place we go to because our body needs healing. We go to hospitals frail, weak, hurt or in a state of emergency. And if it isn’t us, it may be a member of our family or a friend we are visiting in that state. So of course, hospitals are not the place we think of when we think of a place we want to be. Even in our best moment as a mama, going to have a baby in a hospital is also a time of high anxiety, long labour and, let’s face it, major pain.
So, imagine if you will, my feelings as I voluntarily brought myself to the Lakeshore General Hospital last week. I was not ill, I did not need medical attention, I was attending a hospital tour, in order to see all the new facilities and equipment that have been brought into the hospital, thanks to the Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation. As you may know, I am a partner with the LGHF with my annual charity event, Shopping From The Heart. This is my fourth year as a partner and I must say, each year it is getting better. The Foundation team works so well to build a community of people working together for the common good of bettering the local hospital.
Still, as much as I want to express my gratitude for the Foundation and learn about the hospital improvements to share with you and my local #SFTHmtl community, walking into the hospital is unnerving for me. I will tell you honestly, I was keeping myself together and holding back tears, after the very first question from our tour director, Alain Carette, “have any of you been hospitalized at the Lakeshore?”
Are you kidding? Where do I start?! During my 42 years living in the area, minus a few in Italy, the Lakeshore Hospital has been a source of happiness and sadness for me in many, many ways.
Luckily, Carole Ravenda, Development Manager of the LGHF, who knows me better than the others says, “Julia was hospitalized here when she was pregnant with her twins!”. Of course, everyone was happy with this tidbit. Twins are double happiness! It allowed me to veer my heartbreaking experiences towards the happier one.
As we motioned to begin our tour, I took a closer look at the Recognition Wall that was inaugurated last year around this time. The Foundation team purposefully took a new and more personal approach to the displayed wall. Rather than have a list of sponsors and donors that, honestly speaking, don’t hold any value to the people walking the halls, the wall also included the story of the hospital and how far it has come. As well, the glass pieces used to create the display were intended to be changed over time, as the hospital grows even more and has a larger story to tell. With pictures and historic dates, it is easy to see just how much the community has changed over the years, making it even more valuable to grow the hospital as they are.
The hospital began fifty years ago, with five people and the idea to build a general hospital for a new community. I can attest that there was not much in the West Island some fifty years ago. Looking back at my family photos when my parents bought land in Kirkland, they built their home, and around them was nothing for miles. It had to take courage and true inspiration to imagine the community as a thriving hub for so many people in years to come.
The hospital began with a population of 60,000 to serve. Now, the area of the West Island that the Lakeshore General Hospital supports is 300,000, not including the off-territory patients that also come to the Lakeshore for care, and the hospital has no choice but to grow for its community.
Luckily for the hospital, the Foundation is strong. In 2016 when I heard the goal to raise 8 million dollars in 3 years, I was shocked to think it would be possible. But the Foundation made it happen. And before you say that is a ridiculous amount, let me explain. There is only a certain amount of government funding given to the hospital and with equipment for treatments and upgrades needed to each facility within, money goes fast. Now in a new round of fundraising, each year, the Foundation connects community with the hospital needs and new possibilities are created for the people needing hospital care.
Walking The Halls
As we moved into each area of the hospital to learn more, I was brought back to certain events that shaped my life. I remembered each area, and why I had been there. To the right, I took my mother for lung specialist visits and x-rays, we spent time in the waiting area, just as the people we walked by were doing. I saw their faces, although I tried not to look. Concern was the major emotion that seemed to be on everyone’s expression.
We were invited to take a glance into the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) through a side door, which I did not do. Alain explained that even though it would be amazing to see the new equipment available in their 14 ICU rooms, they felt it was inappropriate to enter while people were being treated, to respect patient privacy.
I was there more than once. More than a handful of times. Too many times. I watched as they cared for my father. I remember the shoes I was wearing because I had gone for a job interview that afternoon, not expecting to end the day in emergency. Those damn shoes. I donated them this year. My dad loved those shoes. I remember times when I was pacing the floor until either my mother or father woke up from a nap, so I could be there with them, when they woke up. I remember parking at emergency and heading through the area to get to them with a snack from home or pair of slippers. I agreed with Alain, there was no place for touring in emergency. There is so much going on and anxiety is high. So many people need care and the staff is pulled in many directions.
The hospital has many sections with many specialties. From blood work that is done (as well for the complete CLSC centers) to hemodialysis treatments, to nuclear medicine and oncology treatments, from surgeries to births, the hospital has many reasons to continue supporting them.
For me, the main and only reason is humanity. When Alain asked if we had ever been hospitalized at the Lakeshore, a flood of emotions came up. I do hate hospitals, maybe you do too. But we need hospitals. We will all need care at some point in our lives. It may be a simple blood analysis, it may be a terrifying oncology treatment, or it may be the celebration of a new life in the birthing center. Whatever the case may be, happy or sad, hospitals are what care for our community. It is my deep feeling that whenever or however we can, supporting a local hospital to grow will help the community that surrounds it.
As hard as it was, I am grateful to see so many improvements being made to the Lakeshore. The staff in each department was enthusiastic and passionate about their specialty. I am nothing but grateful to hours and dedication that these special people give to help in very trying moments in a person’s life.
On a very happy note, Shopping From The Heart has been able to directly benefit the Lakeshore Birthday Center. In each of the 10 birthing rooms, partners now have new reclining chairs that turn into beds, there are three new breastmilk pumps on wheels for new moms, two Bili blankets for jaundice newborns allowing parents to have skin-on-skin contact, 20 latest-generation basinets allowing mamas to pick up their baby while still in bed, and a centralized monitoring system so the medical team can follow mamas and babies even when out of their room.
With approximately 1,800 babies born each year at the Lakeshore General Hospital, the Birthing Center has many helpful upgrades for families, and I am so proud to be a part of this change.
To learn more about what Shopping Form The Heart is, visit ShoppingFromTheHeart.ca