Spirit of Giving

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It’s Not Goodbye – A Summer Well Spent!

This summer, the IWK Health Centre Foundation was lucky enough to have Kristin Wilton come on board as an intern for a few months. We are so lucky she came to work with us. We cannot thank Kristin enough for all of her hard work, dedication and incredible positive attitude.  Below is Kristin’s final blog on her time with the IWK Foundation – we’re glad to know she found it to be such a rewarding experience. Thank you for everything, Kristin!

After working with the team at the IWK Foundation over the past 16 weeks, I can honestly say this organization changed me as a whole. It changed my outlook on life and has certainly reassured me of my career choice to become a Public Relations practitioner. Being involved with the public, caregivers, patients, families and events really made me feel like I was doing PR. I’ve learned that a lot of things in the world of PR can be mastered by practice. The three words “practice makes perfect” helped me in so many ways, especially with my writing. The more you write, the more you learn, the better you will get.

My experience here at the Foundation has been incredible. One experience that had a major impact on me happened on my third day of work. My supervisor informed me that I would be attending a big announcement at the Health Centre. I didn’t think much of it until I arrived at the Health Centre and met these two twin little girls – Kendra and Kinsey, who were very premature or “micro-premie” babies born at 27 weeks. A normal pregnancy is 40 weeks so being this early resulted in them spending most of their stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) on life support.As I followed a group of people down to a boardroom, hand in hand with Kendra, I sat in and watched the video of their life at the IWK. They were born at 1.8 lbs, each of them had five blood transfusions, one twin had 12 surgeries and the other had 13 and one of the girls had to have an emergency eye surgery. They spent nearly five months at the IWK experiencing liver failure and kidney failure.

As I was watching this video, I’m sitting there saying to myself “Kristin, keep it together. It’s your third day on the job. Do. Not. Cry.” But I couldn’t help it – I was completely filled up. My supervisor reassured me that each and every one of us that work in this organization has a moment like this.

After the video was over, we walked to the Gallery for the announcement – the IWK was receiving a donation of $1 million from Kent and Irving Shipbuilding. This donation will support a state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as well as ground-breaking research in the treatment of childhood blood disorders and leukemia.

Following the announcement, five-year-old Kendra and Kinsey stood up on the podium and thanked Kent and Irving Shipbuilding for their donation as it will go towards helping children like them.

Today, Kendra and Kinsey are two thriving five-year-olds, and despite continuing health issues and regular visits to the IWK, they will grow up to live normal lives. I don’t think this would be possible without the remarkable caregivers at the IWK who helped this family get through this tough time.

It was the most touching thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. It was events like this over the past 16 weeks that made me confident that the career path I’ve chosen is a perfect fit for me. Thanks to the IWK Foundation, working with this not-for-profit organization has opened my eyes and helped me discover my passion. It proved my passion for working with people, my love for children and my drive to help raise money for children and the world-class specialized care facility we all call the IWK Health Centre. 


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Pregnancy was a very difficult time for me.

Reproductive Mental Health is just one way the IWK Health Centre supports women’s health. This service helps women with mental health concerns while they are under reproductive care—before, during, or following a pregnancy. This past weekend, women showed their support by participating in the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women, and were able to raise a remarkable $12,000 to support the Reproductive Mental Health Services at the IWK. Here is one patient’s story about how the IWK helped her though her difficult time.  

IWK FoundationI was about four months pregnant with our second child when I ended up at the IWK Mental Health Reproductive Center. I was sent to a social worker at the IWK Health Centre, and I credit her for helping me get to where I am today.

My boyfriend and I have had a rocky relationship and one day I showed up for my appointment at the perinatal centre in a crying mess because we had yet another bad fight. I was immediately referred to the Mental Health Reproductive Center because I literally felt out of control – a complete emotional wreck. Pregnancy was a very difficult time for me. I have always struggled with low self-esteem, emotional irregularity, and childhood issues. I have spent over 20 years talking with therapists and realized that my issues ran quite deep. I often felt overwhelmed by my list of issues and what was required to “correct” them. I felt like I was the only mother going through this and while it was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, I felt alone and overwhelmed.

My obstetrician explained that some women experience postpartum depression while other’s can experience it during the pregnancy itself. I was one of the later. I literally would feel hormones surge through my body and I didn’t know what to do. I needed help badly and I wanted to be a positive role model for my children, so I had to address my problems head on and get the help, advice, and support in order to do so.

The Mental Health Reproductive Centre at the IWK provides therapy and support to expectant mothers and will continue to do so up to a year following their child’s birth. I stayed on for two years, because I had a substantial history of a personality disorder with emotional highs and lows. My social worker was determined to see this through for me. She didn’t give up on me when she could have easily sent me on my way. I have the utmost respect for the IWK and their services as they followed through with every single physical and emotional issue that I ever raised to them.

– Tara

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation. 

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I wanted to do more.

Andrew Paris, Administrative Assistant at the IWK Health Centre Foundation

Andrew Paris, Administrative Assistant at the IWK Health Centre Foundation

The IWK Health Centre has always been very special me and now I’m  truly blessed to now be working for the IWK Health Centre Foundation. My connection to the Health Centre and IWK Foundation started when I was no taller than the desk I’m at right now.

I’m originally from Summerside, Prince Edward Island and began watching the IWK Telethon when I was three years old with my mother. We always made sure to make a donation every year. As I grew up and began going to school, there was always a kid in the school who, for one reason or another, used the Health Centre. I even grew up with a few people who wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for that great facility. For this reason and my love for watching the Telethon, I began fundraising for the IWK when I was eight. I, my friends and family would have bake sales, yard sales, bottle drives and all kinds of different things to raise money for the IWK. We all had a great time with every fundraiser that we put on, but I wanted to do more.

When I was eleven, I said that I one day want to answer telephones for the Telethon. Well, in 2004, my dream came true. I got to answer telephones during the first shift on Saturday night. I was in awe! The atmosphere was amazing! I got to meet Steve Murphy and Bill Carr, just to name a few. There was nothing that could wipe that smile off my face! I’ve volunteered at almost every Telethon since. But, after the Telethon 28 in 2012, I wanted to do more.

Soon after that night I sent out a Tweet mentioning how much I enjoyed myself at Telethon and let the Foundation know that if they needed help, I’m available. A few hours later, a Foundation staff member replied asking for my contact information. I knew this was my in! I was so excited that I absolutely inundated her with Tweets and emails about how excited I was to possibly help with Telethon 29. I swear she gave me the Telethon’s chair information just to keep me quiet. Next thing I knew, I was on the Telethon operations committee for Halifax. I was in charge of the hundreds of Telethon phone operators and captains. I was very nervous at first, but Telethon 29 was an enormous success. Everything went great with the phone operators and captains. As the Telethon was wrapping up I realized, I wanted to do more.

A couple of days after Telethon 29, there was a job opening at the Foundation and I said to myself: “The only thing better than working with the operations committee for three months of the year, would be working with the Foundation for 365 days of the year.”

I applied for the job and a nerve-wracking 4 weeks later, I got it! My wife and two kids have had to go to the hospital on multiple occasions. I love the IWK and the Foundation so much! Working here every day is great! I go home every evening with a smile on my face knowing that I did my own little part towards making the IWK Health Centre the best it can be. I’m currently an Administrative Assistant with the Foundation, but who knows, maybe down the road, I’ll get to do more.

Get involved with the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

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Made-to-Order Independence

This article was written by Debra Wells-Hopey for the Spring/Summer issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre.

11-year-old Taya and occupational therapist Julia Gates

11-year-old Taya and occupational therapist Julia Gates

How a customized wheelchair program provides quality of life for hundreds of kids.

Taya is spirited, bright and patient as she describes the way she gets around in the world.

“When I move my head left, I turn left,” she says enthusiastically, even though she must have explained this to people many times over. “When I move my head right, I go right. And when I move my head back, I go straight forward.”

At 11 years-old, Taya has Cerebral Palsy and is a long time visitor to IWK Specialty Seating, a service within the IWK’s Rehabilitation Service. The service offers assessment and provision of customized seating and positioning equipment, including seating inserts, wheelchairs, special-needs strollers, bath seats, car seats and toileting aids.

Julia Gates, Occupational Therapist in Specialty Seating, and Nancy Cashen, Operations Manager for Rehabilitation Services, have known Taya since she was three years old. “This program is designed to assist children who can’t walk on their own, most often due to Spina Bifida, Muscular Dystrophy or Cerebral Palsy,” explained Gates. “Children are referred to the program as early as 14 months and stay with us until they are ready to transition to adult health care.”

Gates explained that although children this young are able to still use a stroller, it means they are dependent on others to get around — at an age when they want to start exploring the world on their own.

“Independence is an essential part in a child’s growth and development,” added Cashen.

Specialty Seating at the IWK consists of Cashen and Gates, as well as a Specialty Seating Technician, David Beattie, and a Funding Coordinator. Together, along with the family, this team determines what kind of wheelchair would be best for the child.

“We take many factors into account,” says Gates. “For instance, a level of hand mobility is essential for maneuvering a manual wheelchair, but not necessary for a power wheelchair.”

The amount of seating support required is a complex assessment that is completed by the occupational therapist and takes into account the disease prognosis, planned orthopaedic surgeries, maintenance of skin integrity, comfort, functional abilities and wheelchair skills. All children are different, and the amount of support required could be viewed as mild, moderate, or complex. Generally, seating for a mild support is not custom made, and may be arranged through a local wheelchair supplier in the community. The seating for children who require moderate or complex support is custom made by the Specialty Seating Service at the IWK.

There is a workshop onsite at the IWK where Beattie employs his expertise. For specialized seating, an impression is made on a mould that resembles a large bean bag. This shape can then be transferred to a 3D digital model on the computer. These images are sent via email to the United States where the only machine of its kind in North America manufactures the seat. It is then shipped to the IWK for fitting.

As for Beattie, he has been with the hospital since 1989. He was familiar with an Occupational Therapist who suggested he may enjoy the work. Considering Beattie has remained in the program for more than 24 years, it certainly is a great fit.

“This is the perfect job as far as I’m concerned,” says Beattie. “I get to work with my hands and help people simultaneously. The work is challenging and rewarding.”

Beattie’s workshop looks much like any other, yet very unlike anything you expect to see in a hospital. There are various materials stored: pieces of repurposed wheelchairs, three industrial-sized sewing machines, neoprene for upholstering, two band saws, a table saw and a wealth of tools.

“When we first see someone we measure them for a seat using a fitting frame. From these measurements I construct a seat out of foam and plywood and I upholster it. I also adjust and repair wheelchairs as needed. I’d say one of my favourite parts of my job is going on the mobile clinics. Several times a year we go to Cape Breton and the Annapolis Valley. At times we go to schools here in HRM, or even homes.”

Gates explained that the first order of business when a child needs a wheelchair or seating device is to meet with the family and get to know their needs.

“This initial meeting is so important,” says Gates. “It’s when we first get to meet the child; establishing their needs, administering a postural assessment, taking measurements, then making recommendations.”

“Recently we had a child who needed a new power wheelchair. We had two styles and tried them both in the home to see which operated better in that specific environment. It needs to work in the child’s daily life.”

Having the right wheelchair and seating can make all the difference in the world when it comes to quality of life — kids need to participate with classmates, explore their environment and have a sense of independence.

“When a child receives their first wheelchair it is often a period of growth for both the parents and the child,” says Gates.

Taya’s mother Christine knows all about it. She has been taking Taya to Specialty Seating and working with the team for eight years. Taya was only three when she received her first wheelchair and met the group at Specialty Seating. She was outgrowing a stroller at this point, not only in a physical way but also as a growing child her needs were changing — she had a desire to be independent, to be able to explore the world on her own.

“Although she was small enough to still use the stroller, it no longer seemed to be the appropriate choice,”explained her mom. “The chair was so much better for her

Izaak#Provincial#05-02-2013#A01posture, and allowed her to be eye level with her peers. Her diaphragm was also better supported which made her breathing and therefore her speaking so much better.”

Taya was born with cerebral palsy. She enjoys her grade five class and likes to read — especially Harry Potter books. She also swims and uses a sit ski at Wentworth ski hill.

“I have both a manual and a power chair,” explained Taya. “I use the power chair at school. Some places are easier to use a wheelchair in than others though.”

Although Taya drives herself around by using head movements, the wheelchair must be steered remotely by a device similar to a joystick when it is being loaded into the family van. Apparently, according to a laughing Taya, dad is an expert at it, while mom, who is quick to agree, isn’t as deft.

Taya was eight when she got her first power chair. She started at six years old “training” with a joy stick, but it was a lot of work and a head array began to make more sense. The family visits Specialty Seating about once a year.

“To a certain extent, the chairs grow with her. Especially the manual chair, which she will have for about eight years,” explains Christine. “The power chair needs changes or replacing more frequently.”

As for cost, the family is fortunate that both Christine and her husband have good health care plans, however, they still certainly incur costs. The head array alone cost $10,000, which is as much as the chair. Then there are the costs of converting the family van with a manual ramp that has to be lifted and unfolded. A power system is even more expensive. This is the reality for families with a wheelchair. Taya gets to continue to visit the team at Specialty Seating until she is ready to transition to adult health care.

“I can’t say enough about the program and the staff,” says Christine. “When your child is first diagnosed, you’re in a daze. You don’t know where to go or what to do. They have helped us immensely, even in emergency situations.”

One such situation was during a weekend when Taya’s chair was accidentally run over, crushing one of the wheels. It meant facing a whole weekend propped up or in bed. Not a great thought for a young, energetic girl like Taya. Christine contacted Gates and Beattie who were more than willing to go into work on a Saturday to get the chair fixed. Says Taya, “Dave and Julia are extremely nice people and I would come to them all my life if I could.”

And there’s no higher praise than that.

To read the full issue of Izaak magazine visit www.iwkfoundation.org/izaak

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

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Generosity Rocks!

Thank You Bedford Masonic Lodge 104 and the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia!

This past weekend was a busy one for the IWK and the IWK Foundation, but only one event brought the crowd to their (dancing) feet. The Bedford Masonic Lodge 104 held Free Bird, a rockin’ benefit concert in support of Mental Health Awareness, at the Lower Deck Bar & Grill on May 26. This event benefited several mental health organizations, including the IWK Health Centre.

The incredible generosity of the Masonic Lodge did not stop there; the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia recently announced they will be donating $10,000 to mental health care at the IWK! Their donation will go a very long way to changing lives through excellence in care.

Events like Free Bird not only raise much-needed funds, they also bring our community together to create an open dialogue on mental health. This is a conversation that must keep going! One of the Health Centre’s goals is to remove the stigma that exists around mental illness, and the more we all talk about it and share our experiences, the faster we will move toward positive change.

The crowd at Free Bird was treated to concerts by local bands who played everything  from rock to swing-influenced tunes. Bands included: Loose Ends, Swingology, Remedy, Memphis Nights, and The Take It Easy Band. A silent auction and 50/50 draws rounded out the event perfectly.

We are so grateful to the Bedford Masonic Lodge 104 and the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia for their generosity and for including us as a beneficiary of this unique event – and to the community as a whole for attending and supporting this very important cause.  Your contribution will surely change lives; together, we really can make a difference.


Swingology had people up and dancing the night away!

Loose Ends at Free Bird

Loose Ends rocking the stage!

Women’s Wellbeing EXPO

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The IWK Health Centre Foundation is committed to supporting excellence in specialized care in all areas of the IWK Health Centre – including women’s services. Thanks to the talented health care professionals, the IWK is able to provide specialized health care to Maritime women throughout their lifespan, including urogynecology and gynecology services, and breast health care. That’s why the IWK Foundation and IWK Health Centre are proud presenting sponsors of the inaugural Women’s Wellbeing EXPO taking place May 24, 25, & 26 at Cole Harbour Place.

The Women’s Wellbeing Expo is a great opportunity to gather up your girlfriends, sisters, mothers and daughters and have some fun this weekend.  The Expo will feature a wide variety of exciting informational topics highlighting wellness, personal health issues and financial management. Make sure to catch the incredible line-up of speakers and seminar topics, including several top physicians and experts from the IWK Health Centre team. Here is a list of topics and times for the IWK presenters:

 Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen, MD FRCSC
3 Things You Should Know That Could Save Your Life Saturday, May 25, 2013, 10:30 am – 11:30 am
 gillian Dr. Gillian Graves, MD FRCSC
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm
 susan Dr. Susan Lappin, MD
Barriers to Breastfeeding
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm
 natalie  isabelle Dr. Natalie Rosen, BA PhD & Dr. Isabelle Delisle, MD FRCSC
Vaginal Pain and Women’s Sexuality
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm
 renda Dr. Renda Bouzayen, MD FECSC
Assisted Reproduction Treatment
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:45 am – 11:45 am
 margaret Margaret Devries, Breast Health Educator
Demystifying Breast Health
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:45 am – 11:45 am

Catherine Walsh, Dietician
Women’s Nutritional Health: Navigating the Journey
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm

When it comes to your health, knowledge is power. We are very proud to be a part of this unique event, which will bring together education, conversation, and the power of the female spirit. Come and join us for a weekend of fun, wellness, and girl power!

Women’s Wellbeing Expo
May 24, 25 and 26, 2013
Cole Harbour Place
51 Forest Hills Parkway
Dartmouth, NS  B2W 6C6
(902) 464 – 5100

To get full details on all presenters and weekend events, and to purchase tickets, please visit  www.womenswellbeingexpo.com

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Laps for Loonies

Adam Ramsay is an on-air personality for 95.1  FM CFCY, and will be participating along with Q93 personalities in the Laps for Loonies event on April 12 from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. at Charlottetown Mall.

Adam Ramsay, 95.1 FM CFCY Radio personality

Adam Ramsay, 95.1 FM CFCY Radio personality

There are so many incredible charitable organizations and wonderful causes in our communities to support today that it’s easy to find disappointment within yourself for not being able to champion them all. But maybe the silver lining comes from the thought that perhaps the groups you do choose to support, and dedicate your time, energy and resources to, are chosen because they best reflect who you are and where you feel the closest connection to through the moments  you’ve experienced.

For me, the IWK Foundation (and the Children’s Hospital it represents) is one of those causes that hits home and inspires me to do what I can to support all those who touch the organization.  Many years ago, my sister was born at the IWK, more than three months premature.  And as I grow more into adulthood I’m seeing friends, co-workers, and more members of my community rely on the services and the special care of the IWK.  It’s hard not to feel close to an organization that has been such an integral part in the lives of the important people around us.

Through the Laps For Loonies fundraising event that we have developed in Charlottetown, I’m hoping to be a part of a day that will look to raise thousands for a cause that is so important to pursue. Through a simple act of walking ‘laps’ inside the largest shopping centre on the Island, we’re hoping to be a part of something much bigger – something that will help families who are not yet even aware they will need the assistance of the IWK, be taken care of when their time of need arrives.

And for me, that’s a cause more than worthy of championing.

Thank you Adam for you support! Don’t forget to tune in to 95.1 FM CFCY on April 25 & 26 as we broadcast live from Charlottetown Mall for the IWK Radiothon – Proudly presented by Investor’s Group. 

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.