Nicola St George

When Nicola St George was 41 years old, she found a lump in her breast and called her doctor immediately

“After my initial ultrasound, I was referred to the Complete Breast Care program at Joseph Brant Hospital.  I received a mammogram and ultrasound where I was told that there was something worth investigating,” says Nicola.  “After my tests, I met with Dr. Austin who informed me I had breast cancer.”

“When I first received my diagnosis, I was in shock,” she says. “The thought of losing my hair and my breast hit me really hard.”

After numerous tests, Nicola was scheduled to have a lumpectomy and mastectomy.  After surgery, she underwent chemotherapy for 12 weeks and Herceptin for a year.

Despite the difficult journey ahead, Nicola felt confident in her doctors. “I felt really connected to Dr. Austin and I had a lot of trust in her.  She was so knowledgeable and up to date with her research and always answered all my questions.”

Throughout her treatment Nicola remarks on her care.  “The nurses, technicians, doctors and all the staff involved, I can’t say enough about their care.  Everyone was kind and compassionate.”

Today, Nicola is feeling happy.  “It almost feels like a memory that happened long ago even though it’s recent.  I received unwavering support from family and friends,” says Nicola. “My cancer woke me up and put things in my life into perspective.  I can’t control what’s going to happen, but I can control how I can take care of myself.”

After her treatment, Dr. Austin connected Nicola with Dense Breasts Canada.

“I advocate for women to learn their breast density and getting mammograms early,” says Nicola, “It’s important for women to be provided with the tools and knowledge to make decisions on their breast health.”

Flora Seul-Jacklen

When Flora discovered a lump in her breast in April of 2019, she felt apprehensive of what lay ahead of her.

Her family doctor recommended the Complete Breast Care program at Joseph Brant Hospital, and once Flora arrived at clinic, she was surprised how positive the entire experience was.

“It wasn’t crowded, the appointments were prompt and on time, and the technicians, nurses and doctors were forthcoming and kind,” says Flora.  “The machines were up-to-date, the doctors seemed very knowledgeable, and despite their busy schedule didn’t appear to be rushed.  I felt that it all helped create a positive environment.”

After being called back for a second mammogram and biopsy, it was determined that Flora had stage 2 cancer.  “I anticipated surgery and met with Dr. Bacopulos and Bliss, the patient navigator.  They were both very forward with their information and willing to listen to my questions.”

Flora appreciated the space they gave her by providing additional resources for more information. They also were open to her using supplementary strategies to support her on his journey. All of this helped inform her decision to have a mastectomy.

“They gave me resources, and I appreciated that.  It felt reassuring and I felt that they allowed me to make decisions alongside them and that I would be in good hands not only for the operation but for the journey of healing ahead of me.”

Today, Flora is feeling positive and doing well.

“I don’t think my strength is quite yet where it was before, but I feel positive.  My experience at JBH was so positive because of the care and professional knowledge by all people I encountered, be they receptionist, nurses, porters or doctors. This made me feel seen and cared for, and when you feel that, it’s a good foundation for healing.”

Pamela Jean

When Pamela Jean received a reminder letter that she was due for a mammogram, she had no idea it would be the start of a series of life changing events.

“I remember I had my mammogram, and then received a call that afternoon that additional imaging was needed.  Then I needed a biopsy.  Within five weeks of the mammogram, I underwent the first of three of my surgeries,” says Pamela.

“I honestly remember feeling my initial diagnosis was a mistake.  I thought maybe my doctor received the wrong information,” she says.

Pamela was referred to Joseph Brant Hospital’s Dr. Bacopolus who met with her and her husband to discuss what was happening.  “She put me at ease immediately.  She had worked with her team to discuss options for me,” says Pamela.  “I can’t say enough how incredible and lovely the staff at the hospital were throughout the entire process.”

After undergoing two lumpectomies, the doctors informed her that the margins weren’t great and there would be a new discussion around what Pamela’s next options would be.  “When I received the results of my second lumpectomy, I met with my oncologist.  We decided that for me and my health at the time, it was best to have a mastectomy,” recalls Pamela.

But two weeks before her surgery when Pamela met with her surgeon, her doctor sensed a slight hesitation.

“I was very lucky to have a caring surgeon who picked up on my hesitation even though she only knew me for a few months.  She insisted I meet with Dr. Sun, a plastic surgeon, and go through all my options to make sure I had no regrets.”

After discussing with Dr. Sun, Pamela decided to undergo breast reconstruction using her own tissues.  “I left feeling like I was taken care of and now I was scheduled for a mastectomy and a reconstruction together,” says Pamela.

After surgery, Pamela spent time in the ICU where she was monitored for complications from the tissue reconstruction, before being transferred to an inpatient unit.  “The nurses and doctors were compassionate, kind – I truly can’t say enough about them.  This entire experience was scary, but everyone was so calm and lovely, I never felt like I wasn’t taken care of,” says Pamela. “Dr. Bacopolus and Dr. Sun made a terrible situation into one of optimism.  I am forever grateful.”

After her experience, Pamela wanted to give back to the Hospital for the incredible support she received.  “I wanted to show my appreciation to the hospital.  I became a monthly donor and volunteered at the hospital.  I believe it’s important to support the hospital, and every little bit helps.”

Abbey

“I don’t feel happy anymore.”

It was last July, after months of suffering in silence that Abbey approached her mom and told her how she was feeling.

“I just felt numb,” she said. “There is really no way to describe the way I was feeling.”

The last 18 months have been so hard on everyone. Nothing has been normal. Nothing has felt right. And nobody has felt this more than kids.

Studies have shown that in the last year, more than 50% of children and adolescents have reported clinically significant depressive symptoms.

But thanks to the generous support of donors like the RBC Foundation, our CAP Clinic has been there to provide youth with the right care at the right time, including Abbey.

The RBC Foundation began supporting the expansion of the CAP Clinic back in 2013, enabling the program to grow from one-day a week to five-days a week, offering the children, youth and families in our community better access to care.

Over the past eight years, the CAP Clinic has seen a 400% increase in referrals, while providing a significant reduction in wait times. Prior to the pandemic, the CAP Clinic achieved zero wait time for appointments with a child and adolescent psychiatrist, nurse and social worker, down from 52 days in 2013.

The impact on children and adolescents has been particularly hard during the pandemic and, as a result, the CAP Clinic referrals have increased exponentially over the past 18 months. Loss of control, feelings of uncertainty, and changes to routine are contributing to symptoms of anxiety, low mood, adjustment disorders, eating disorders, and parent-child relational problems.

It was a feeling of loneliness and isolation that brought Abbey to the CAP Clinic.

“I remember feeling so alone. Both of my parents are essential workers and weren’t home,” she says. “I’m a very social person and I rely on others to make me happy and I was spending a lot of time in my room alone and crying.”

Abbey began with a psychiatrist, but found a connection with Gwen, a social worker in the CAP Clinic. She remembers having an immediate connection with Gwen, who was so welcoming and really made her feel like she had someone she could talk to that understood.

“A lot what helped was her validating the way that I felt,” Abbey says. “It felt so good to know that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling and I wasn’t going to get in trouble for feeling this way.”

Over the course of her final year of high school, Abbey and Gwen continued to meet regularly, and after graduating in June, Abbey is studying Early Childhood Studies and Early Childhood Education at the University of Guelph-Humber.

For Abbey, the support of donors like the RBC Foundation has helped a great deal and made her more resilient. “All I can say is thank you,” she says. “Without the program, I don’t know where I would be. I’m sure you’re helping a lot of people, not just me.”

Lindsay Myke

When Lindsay Myke woke up the morning of her wedding, she had no idea if her dad was going to be able to walk her down the aisle.
Just two days earlier, Peter McCormick suffered a massive heart attack and was rushed to the hospital where he had three stents inserted.
“My dad knew what was happening so he packed his bag and called 9-1-1,” recalls Lindsay.
The day before her wedding, he was transferred to Joseph Brant Hospital and was under the care of Dr. Hong. Peter had been incredibly involved in planning his only daughter’s wedding, and the care team knew how important it was for him to be there for her.

“I got the phone call that morning that while he was not being discharged, Dr. Hong was providing a medical leave to attend my wedding,” says Lindsay. “The team at JBH were incredible, taking into account the life of the patient and not just the medical situation.”
Peter was able to walk his daughter down the aisle and complete the traditional father-daughter dance, before returning to the hospital. Lindsay said she had the kitchen pack up her dad’s dinner, including dessert, for him to enjoy back at JBH.
“Somewhere at JBH is a dessert plate from my wedding,” she says laughing. “And when my dad got back to the hospital, he was doted upon by all the nurses who were wondering why he was all dressed up.”
Peter was discharged the next day, and continues to be in good health. But for Lindsay, having her dad as part of her wedding day was incredibly special thanks to the personal care he received at JBH.
“I really do believe the nurses and Dr. Hong treated him so well – as a human being,” she says. “Thank you to every single person at JBH for the outstanding care and compassion. We are forever grateful.”

Deb Swire

Deb Swire has a long relationship with Joseph Brant Hospital, back to her days volunteering at the JBH coffee shop.

“That was before Tim Horton’s,” she laughed. “So that tells you how long ago it was!”

Unfortunately, it was surgery that brought Deb to the hospital most recently but her experience was a good one.

“I feel like sometimes we’re quick to criticize and never quick enough to thank, so I wanted to send a note,” Deb said.

The little things made her experience a positive one. She says from the moment she arrived she felt welcomed and treated very well by everyone she encountered including a maintenance staff member who provided some directions with a smile.

“Someone turned my bed, so I could look out the window and look at the lake and the activities, and I thought what a nice touch,” Deb said. “It really helps in the long run with the healing process when you feel good mentally and feel you had great care.”

For Deb, JBH has always been there. From having both her children there to recently receiving her COVID-19 vaccination, the hospital has always been an important part of the Burlington community.

“I’m trying to tell everyone give it a chance, it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s a great hospital and a wonderful place and I’ll keep supporting it.”

Sasha Menezes

For Sasha Menezes, the Mental Health & Addictions program at Joseph Brant Hospital has been a life-saver.

After she received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at 18, Sasha struggled with taking her medication, especially when she was younger. But thanks to the care of the team at JBH, especially the inpatient unit, Sasha has a better hold on her illness.

“I’ve had this illness for more than 30 years. I’ve got a hold on it now, but you don’t always,” she said. “The team at JBH have been wonderful to me – they actually saved my life.”

For Sasha, artistic expression has always been an outlet and a form of self-care. One of her paintings depicts a shark in a living room, which she says is her representation of mania.

While she’s received incredible care during her time at JBH, Sasha strongly believes that the Mental Health & Addictions programs needs to be expanded. She is the co-founder of Artrageous, a fundraiser in partnership with the Art Gallery of Burlington, dedicated to raising much-needed funds.

“Being a part of Artrageous has been amazing, and has been part of my recovery,” she says. “I think the whole community of Burlington should get behind mental health.”

For Sasha, sharing her story is about eliminating the stigma of mental illness, and inviting those that need support to ask for it.

“It’s important to get help and have access to help. Joseph Brant Hospital being there for me saved me life.”

In recognition of her birthday on May 20, Sasha is raising funds in support of the Mental Health & Addictions program at JBH. To donate in her honour, please visit Sasha’s personal fundraising page https://jbhf.akaraisin.com/pfp/sasha

Danielle Murphy

Joseph Brant Hospital is a special place for the Murphy family, with Danielle having received excellent care during her pregnancies, and they want to give back to the hospital and the Maternal Child Unit.

This year the Murphy family’s home at 5031 Spruce Avenue in Burlington will be decorated front and back with over 150 inflatables for Christmas.

“Every year people try to give us money for the joy it brings their families to visit and walk the grounds, so this year we will be accepting donations for the hospital,” says Danielle.

Both her daughter and son were born at Joseph Brant Hospital, most recently her son Hudson was born in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The best thing about Joseph Brant Hospital is how all the nurses and doctors go above and beyond their job to make sure you are cared for,” says Danielle.  Danielle was looked after by Dr. Stella Psarakis and Dr. Paul Wu for her fibroid surgery.  With Dr. Wu aiding Danielle with her fertility and pregnancy related concerns.

Danielle came to the Emergency Room with high blood pressure. The ER physician brought in Dr. Wu, who told Danielle that she was going to her baby that day. Immediately, Danielle was admitted and underwent an emergency caesarean.

“Hudson had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for two weeks. The physicians explained to me how the medical machines were helping Hudson and they introduced me to the nurses on shift and walked me through everything,” says Danielle, “They listened to what I had to say, and valued my input.”

Craig Brown

Craig Brown found himself in and out of the hospital from October until January. “I thought I was having a heart attack because I was so twisted up with my anxiety, and I thought maybe my medication wasn’t working,” says Craig. “When you see yourself as your enemy, it is the worst feeling in the world, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

During a follow up appointment in January, Craig was admitted to the inpatient Mental Health Unit for a week.  Here, he would be monitored and receive proper treatment.

During that admission and through his treatment, Dr. Viljoen diagnosed Craig with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  “For 30 years, I’ve battled with anxiety and OCD.  To be finally diagnosed with OCD, it gave me relief.  It was like the puzzle was put together, and it made sense why I felt the way I did,” says Craig. “I’ve acted a certain way my whole life, and my anxiety stemmed from not knowing why I felt the way I did.”

Through therapy, he found himself able to manage his mental health properly. “I worked with my therapist, Neena Malhotra, for many months, and she had a tremendous impact on my life.  She taught me techniques to manage and even eliminate some of my symptoms,” explains Craig. “Both Dr. Viljoen and Neena have had a significant and positive impact on my life.”

Craig considers himself to be fortunate to be looked after by his team at Joseph Brant Hospital.  He remarks on the support he received from the hospital as well as from his employer, co-workers, family, his children, step-children, and wife.  “When I sit and reflect over the past year, I am very appreciative.  My goals are back, my life is back, and my dreams are back,” says Craig, “If you’re struggling with your mental health, know that there are people who want to help you.  Tell your doctor, a loved one, or someone you trust.”

Susan Gilbert

When Susan Gilbert’s father broke his leg and was dealing with spinal stenosis, he was admitted to Joseph Brant Hospital. Medically, he was doing well in his recovery and Susan and her family were preparing to relocate their father into a retirement home. But what Susan and her family didn’t anticipate was the COVID-19 pandemic to hinder their transition plan.

“It has been an unusual and difficult transition considering the circumstances, but we are so grateful to the staff at Joseph Brant Hospital,” says Susan.

With the new hospital policy limiting visitors, Susan realized the family would not be able to celebrate her father’s 89th birthday together.

But that didn’t stop Susan and her family. They created signs for him, and worked with the nursing staff to find the best place where they could be outside so her father could see them from his room.

“The nursing staff helped us to co-ordinate getting my father over to a window, where a few family members gathered in the courtyard below with a celebratory sign,” recalls Susan. “These wonderful, caring nurses went above and beyond to capture the event in photos and shared them with the family.”

For Susan, it was about celebrating her father’s birthday despite the difficult circumstances. “The staff at the hospital got together to make my father’s birthday special when we couldn’t be there. I hope that the staff feel the gratitude and support from my family, the community and the entire country. A heartfelt thank you – for everything they do,” says Susan.