Spirit of Giving


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Birthing at home

This article was written by Lezlie Lowe for the Fall 2014/Winter 2015 issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre. IWK Midwives make it possible for more families to welcome babies to the world safely at home. 

Home BirthShelly Juurlink sits in her Fall River living room, pointing left, pointing right. There’s the spot on the floor where she laboured for eight hours in a birthing pool. There’s the spot the futon was set up, where her seven-pound, five-ounce boy slid out, under the care of Shelly’s husband, Perry Sankarsingh, and the couple’s doula and two IWK midwives.

“We christened this place,” Shelly says, laughing. “We were really happy we were able to do it here.”

After their son Lennon was born, Perry cooked breakfast for the whole team — coffee, eggs, toast and fresh mango.

Shelly rested, ate and nursed the baby while everyone hung out for  a few hours, talking about the birth and debating what name this new little baby, who was not arriving home, but being home for the first
time, would be called.

“They helped make it a celebration,” says Perry of the midwives and doula.

This isn’t a birth the way many Nova Scotians picture it, and it’s one the IWK is happy that women in HRM are able to access.

Registered midwife, Erin Bleasdale, checks on baby Lennon just moments after he is born.

Midwife-attended births became a core part of IWK care when midwives were first registered by the province five years ago. IWK midwives’ scope of practice includes hospital births and home births,
both with a focus on low-intervention and relationships.

“We don’t get the outcomes we get because we have ‘registered midwife’ after our names,” says Shelly’s midwife, Kelly Chisholm. “We get the outcomes we get because we spend so much time with women.
We develop a trust.”

Chisholm and her colleagues remain in contact with some clients for years. (Almost on cue, a mom and new baby walk into the café where Chisholm and I are meeting. They hug, and coo over the baby, who’s nursing inside a Snugli. The scene is repeated with a different mom a few minutes later. Another former client walks by the window and waves enthusiastically).

“There’s barely a coffee shop I can go to without running into somebody,” says Chisholm, who has attended between 400 and 500 births. “It’s really nice.”

The 41-year-old’s story of deciding to go into midwifery has an unlikely setting indeed: she watched a mother sea turtle lay her eggs on a Guyanese beach as part of an overseas youth outreach trip during
university.

4“They cry these big jelly tears and they moan. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. I walked away from that and I was, like, I want to do that with human beings.”

IWK midwives conduct prenatal visits off site at a Dartmouth clinic that isn’t much like a clinic at all. “It’s set up so that women feel like they’re more in their living room,” Chisholm says.

There are chaises instead of exam tables and space for soon-to-be siblings to play. (A big bonus for Shelly, who needed to bring her two year- old daughter, Lilah, with her to her check-ups). Prenatal appointments last about 30 minutes. Some postnatal visits are conducted in the family home.

“In terms of a service experience,” says Perry, “it’s great for the family. We never had to pack up a little baby and go to the hospital for check-ups when he was two or three weeks old. They came there.”

Perry says home birth wasn’t even on his radar before he met Shelly. With their first baby, he says, it took some convincing. Now he’s a convert.

“Going to bed as a family two hours after you have given birth is a pretty great feeling.”

5Another difference with the midwifery model is exceptional continuity of care, says IWK VP Patient Care, Jocelyn Vine.

In a family practice care model, women may have good continuity throughout their prenatal care, but when the day (or night) of delivery arrives, that woman’s physician may not be on call.

“Midwives are on call for one another,” says Vine, “but they work hard to ensure that the woman knows that other midwife in the case of her primary practitioner being busy. It’s partly the relationship you are able to form throughout the journey.”

Shelly was lucky to get into the IWK midwives’ care. She and Perry had moved to Nova Scotia from Ontario mid-pregnancy and were first with a midwife in Antigonish. They moved again to Halifax and happily made it onto Chisholm’s roster only a month before Lennon’s birth.

A little fewer than 10,000 babies a year are born in Nova Scotia, half of them at the IWK. Only one per cent are midwife-attended.

“It’s a very small subset,” says Vine, “but it could be bigger. Because the number of women who have normal, low-risk births is a fairly large group.”

The small number of midwife-attended births isn’t because the practice — which is a registered medical profession and thousands of years old — is an outlier. In fact, demand for midwifery services in HRM far outstrips the IWK’s resources.

Registered midwives Erin Bleasdale (L) and Kelly Chisholm (R) weigh baby Lennon.

Chisholm is one of six midwives (four full time and two part time) in a practice that takes in 16 to 20 women a month. Protocol requires a midwife and a second birth attendant at all births, so the program just hired five birth-unit nurses to act as home-birth attendants.

But that doesn’t change the demand for the service. “We could keep at least one or two more full-time midwives busy, starting tomorrow,” Chisholm says. Chisholm, who’s in her 14th year of “baby catching”, was self employed for a decade in B.C. and New Zealand before coming home to join the IWK. But she feels strongly about hospital affiliation.

“We needed to be a part of the IWK when we became registered, because that was how buy-in was going to take place in terms of all the other professions. The public has a huge amount of respect for the IWK, so it gave us the credibility instantly.”

Sanction, it turns out, has been a two-way street. Births at the IWK run the gamut from those following the most healthy low-risk pregnancies, to the most complicated highrisk situations.

Jocelyn Vine says the IWK has a strong record when it comes to low-intervention birthing for low-risk pregnancies. But the midwives, she says, “have helped ground us in that practice. I think we were good before. But we are better now.”

Low intervention was exactly what Shelly wanted and midwifery was her chosen road to get there. Her daughter, Lilah, was born at home with the assistance of a midwife in Guelph. Even with her first pregnancy, she didn’t have any reservations about delivering at home. Trust in the home-birth process,
Shelly says, stems from trust in the midwives.

Perry admits he was concerned about the what-ifs, more with this birth than with their first. In Guelph, the couple were three minutes by car from the hospital. Here, the IWK is half an hour away on Hwy. 118.

Erin Bleasdale (L) and Kelly Chisholm (R) join mom Shelly Luurlink and doula Wanda Cox in welcoming baby Lennon in the family’s home.

The midwives reassured him that signs of trouble emerge early enough that they can do a transfer of care in time from anywhere in HRM if that’s what’s needed (up to 30 minutes from the IWK). Also, Chisholm and her colleagues don’t take women into their practice whose pregnancies are likely to need hospital care, based on a specific list of medical exclusions.

Shelly was a healthy 35-year-old on her second low-risk pregnancy. Chisholm had no reservations. “We have this general feeling,” Perry says, “that science will save us. So, it’s very natural for people, when they are having children, to want to have the best care available. So they look to hospitals. But I think that we have made pregnancy into an illness as opposed to a natural process.”

Perry doesn’t discount the need for hightech care in complicated pregnancies. But when it’s appropriate, he says, midwifery should be available.

“I realize that we were lucky to have had the experience we had,” he says. “Not everybody has that experience. Shelly’s labour was pretty routine, uneventful. So we felt pretty safe.”

Chisholm, for her part, is eternally sanguine. “I get to be with people during one of the best times of their lives,” she says more than once, almost amazed at the truth of it. “And I get paid to do it.”


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You never know what lies ahead for you, your family, or friends.

IWK Health Centre Patient, Ben Harris

Ben Harris

Have you ever wondered what IWK stands for?  Officially “Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre” but to me it means, “Investing in Wonderful Kids”.  It is a truly inspiring place that we, as Maritime parents, treat as an insurance policy – we want to have it if we need it but hope to never have to use it.  At least that was our philosophy until the day we needed it and our appreciation for the IWK became a reality.

That day came for us shortly after Ben’s fourth birthday.  Our healthy active boy came down with a cold.  It was just a cold, not so bad as to require medical attention but enough of a cold to keep him home from daycare.  Then, little purple dots appeared all over his body and this Mommy went into panic mode. We went to see his family doctor immediately.  Those purple dots were petechiaean indication of low platelets which a blood test confirmed. We were admitted to the Prince Country Hospital in Summerside, PEI.

It was here that Ben was given his first round of IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin – a plasma protein replacement therapy that is given to immune deficient patients who have decreased antibody production capabilities) to help boost his platelet count.  During this transfusion he had a reaction and the transfusion had to be stopped.  This was the day our relationship with the IWK began through consultation with our local hospital.  When Ben’s numbers failed to rebound we were sent to the IWK for an appointment with hematology and for bone marrow testing.  Bone marrow results revealed that everything was working fine and because of his history of reacting to the treatment we again decided to give his body time to repair.

As time went on his platelet numbers failed to increase. He underwent another bone marrow test and consult with oncology. The results once again revealed that his bone marrow was working perfectly fine. Next we were sent to immunology.  Here his immunologist, hematologist and oncologist thoroughly tested Ben for every possible cause. All of these tests resulted in a diagnosis – Ben suffers from autoimmune conditions called thrombocytopenia and neutropenia.  Ben has had bone marrow testing, ultrasounds, MRIs, x-rays, blood work, and even dental checks at the IWK to ensure his health is being fully and continuously monitored.

While his team hasn’t been able to isolate the cause of his condition they have safely and confidently found a way to manage his platelet count which allows him to run and play!

So why should we give to the IWK?  The answer is simple; you don’t know when you are going to get a phone call saying that the specialists there want to see you the next morning.  You never know what lies ahead for you, your family or friends.  Having a facility that focuses on children and all their intricacies in our region is worth supporting.

Please consider supporting the upcoming IWK Radiothon on 95.1 FM CFCY presented by Credit Unions and the Co-operators Agents of PEI.

Sincerely, Heather Harris (Ben’s mom)

Learn more about Ben and other PEI IWK patients during the IWK Radiothon on 95.1 FM CFCY, presented by Credit Unions and The Co-operators Agents of PEI – broadcasting live October 30, 2014. Thank you to our generous sponors: 95.1 FM CFCY, Credit Unions, The Co-operators Agents of PEI, Charlottetown Mall, Rodd Hotels, and Global Convention Services.


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Gaming our hearts out for the IWK.

Extra Life is a 24hr gaming marathon where funds raised help sick and injured children at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. As a proud Children’s Miracle Network member hospital, the IWK Health Centre receives all funds raised in the Maritimes. Amanda Matthews shares how Extra Life, and video games, have made a difference in her family’s life. 

Last year, when we first found out about the Extra Life fundraiser, we were ecstatic. Not only is it a fun way to raise funds and awareness, but it was also something that was very close to our hearts. We’re a family of Gamers, it’s what we love to do together. Whether it’s Monopoly, Candy Land, World of Warcraft, or Peggle, we love to game together as a family. It’s also how Blake regained the use of his hands and legs so quickly.

Blake, IWK patient

Blake

Blake had a brain tumor in his posterior fossa, the part of the brain that controls movement, balance and coordination. We were warned that the pressure from the tumor, as well as the surgery to remove it might cause him to have balance and fine motor issues, as well as a number of other issues. Blake was not lucky. After he recovered from surgery, he could not walk very well and spent most of his time in a wheelchair. He was right handed before surgery and after, he could not use his right hand very well. He’s now left handed.

He spent a lot of time in Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy to help regain the use of his legs and hands, as well as his balance. However, being weak from radiation therapy and surgery, the level of therapy needed to regain those skills couldn’t be reached. His therapists did however, realize that he liked to play games, and so, they began using video games as part of his therapy – including Wii bowling and soccer, Nintendo DS and other handheld games. Blake struggled. Boy did he struggle. It was sometimes hard to sit through those therapy sessions and watch him get so angry with himself for not being able to do something that he knew how to do a month before. He tried so hard.

Playing games in the IWK hospital room.

Playing games in his hospital room.

His determination, and the kindness and patience of his therapists paid off. Through the use of handheld games like the Nintendo DS, he regained much of his fine motor skills. You can’t defeat Bowser with one hand. You can’t beat Naiomi at soccer sitting down. Through games and a tough sense of competition, today, he is able to walk without anyone noticing that he has balance issues. He can write his name finally. He can out play almost anyone at Mario Kart.

Games were his safe place. During treatments and hospital stays and all the bad times, he had his games to cheer him up and keep him happy. He had his nurses play with him, Child Life workers play with him, and he had Mom and Dad (who he ALWAYS beat) to play with him, be with him, comfort him.

Extra Life is important. Not just because we love video games, not just because they helped our boy through the toughest fight of his life, but because it helps save lives. In 2013, Extra Life players raised 4 million dollars for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. Money that pays for life saving equipment, research and maybe some video games 😉

Join us on Saturday, October 25th. We’ll be gaming our hearts out for the IWK Health Center in Halifax. That’s our miracle hospital.

Sign-up today at www.extra-life.org to take part in this 24hr gaming marathon in support of the IWK. 


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Friends Asking Friends – Together We Can Make A Difference.

IMG_0056We spent many days and many hours in the IWK Health Centre’s NICU, surrounded by an incredible team of nurses, doctors, social workers, etc.  We were included on our girl’s daily rounds, we were taught how to show our love to babies that were in incubators, on ventilators, with oxygen probes, feeding tubes, IV’s, and heart rate monitors.  We were taught how to change diapers on such tiny little bums.  We experienced one of the most precious moments of a parent’s life in the NICU…kangaroo care.

We spent 124 days at the IWK, the first two weeks I was on strict bed rest, the next month felt like a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs.  We prayed every day that someday we could take our girls home…Someday never came…on our 124th day, we left the hospital with only one baby carrier.

IMG_9388We left the IWK feeling incredibly empty.  Lost.  Broken-hearted.  But at the same time, we felt gratitude.  Love. Thankful.  Our loss will never be forgotten, just as the support and care we received during a most difficult time will never be forgotten.

The IWK 5K – In Memory of Jessica, which takes place on Telethon Sunday every year, was created to commemorate our daughter and at the same time show our gratitude for the care we received for our girls at the IWK and also the support to myself and my husband after our daughter passed away.  In 5 years we raised over $95,000, with every year growing exponentially.  This money was raised several different ways, but the easiest and most significant way was through the IWK’s online fundraising tool – Friends Asking Friends.

IMG_9502Friends Asking Friends allows you to create your own personal fundraising page for the IWK Telethon for Children. By creating a personal page with our story and pictures through this free site, I was able to share my fundraising goals on social media and email it to friends and family from away who were unable to participate at the event. The more personal your page is, the more you will touch people’s hearts which ultimately helps raise vital dollars to ensure maritime families receive world class specialized care.  Please help support this year’s IWK Telethon for Children and create your own personal fundraising page through the Friends Asking Friends website.  You will be surprised how easy it is, and how quickly your goals will be reached!

For more information on the IWK 5K – In Memory of Jessica please visit their Facebook page or contact Jenn Manuel at iwk5kinmemoryofjessica@gmail.com

Click here for details on how to create your own personal fundraising page for the IWK Foundation. 


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We dance for the kids.

Dance Marathon is a movement involving university and high school students at more than 300 schools across the North America, all raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in their community. On April 3, 2014, Sackville High is hosting the very first Dance Marathon to ever take place in the Maritime region.

Dance MarathonHere at Sackville High, along with close to 14 additional schools throughout Halifax Regional Municipality, Dance Marathon hype is getting ELECTRIC! So far, we’ve raised almost $6,000 dollars and have nearly 500 students ready to get their dancing shoes on and boogie for the IWK!

When I first looked out over the sea of 20 faces at our very first Dance Marathon committee meeting, I never could have envisioned just how much the initial excitement and commitment would blossom. Nor could I have imagined   just how much love, support and passion would be put into making this event a marvelous reality. As of now, our planning committee has approximately 75 students, all of which are 110% ready to make magic happen April 3rd.

Never before has such joy, love, and unity flowed through the halls of Sackville High. We are absolutely thrilled with how much giving back has positively impacted our school community and how great it makes us feel. We’d like to thank Children’s Miracle Network for bringing us the opportunity of hosting a Dance Marathon. Special thanks go out to all of our sponsors who contributed puzzle pieces of support for our special mosaic.

To all of the lovely and compassionate donors, and the phenomenally inspired students and staff, without you this day wouldn’t be possible. Last, but certainly not least, we’d like to give a HUGE thank you to the IWK for welcoming us into your hearts. We are proud to support an institution that has given countless levels of support to so many of us through the years.

On Thursday, April 3rd we dance for the kids and we dance for the IWK.  

Rebecca Butler, Students’ Council Co-President & SHS Dance Marathon Co-Chair

Support the Sackville High Dance Marathon for the IWK


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Be Wary of the Poisons You May Carry!

Child Safety Link is a Maritime wide child and youth injury prevention program located at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, NS. Partially funded by the generosity of donors, the Child Safety Link aims to reduce the incidence and severity of injury to children and youth. Julie Harrington, Coordinator with the Child Safety Link, provides some helpful tips to keep your young ones safe.

Child going through purseAs it is for many, my handbag is a catch-all necessity that I take everywhere I go. It’s full to the brim with stuff that helps make my day go more smoothly—keys, phone, wallet, lipstick, extra toothbrush, hand sanitizer, travel bottle of ibuprofen, phone charger, pack of gum—and the list goes on and on.

For small children however, “Mom’s Purse” –or anyone’s for that matter—can seem like an amusement park full of wonders! What many don’t realize is that most handbags contain at least one item that can seriously harm a small child.

Writing this blog made me curious as to what was in my own bag, so I dumped the contents out on my desk. To my surprise, it contained 7 items that could be considered poisonous! These items are everyday, ordinary things I would never have thought twice about. But, by definition, a poison can be any drug or non-drug substance that can cause illness or injury after ingesting it or coming into contact with it.

In Atlantic Canada, poisoning accounts for 7% of all childhood injuries that require hospitalization. Not surprisingly, children aged five years and younger account for 79% of these hospitalizations due to their hand-to-mouth habits. One common place young children are accessing poisons is from purses that have been left within reach.

According to the IWK Regional Poison Centre, there are five items commonly found in purses that we purse-carriers need to be especially careful with:

  • Toothpaste: Toothpaste can be appealing to kids, especially those with candy-like flavours and packaging. Many types of toothpaste contain sodium fluoride, which is meant for topical purposes to prevent tooth decay. However, if it is swallowed, this mixes with stomach juices to create a poison that can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or in more extreme cases, low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
  • Medication: Kids can be attracted to pills because they can look or taste like candy, with bright colours and sugary coatings. However, young children are especially vulnerable to medication because of their smaller size and weight, and can be seriously injured by even common medicines (i.e. acetaminophen) or supplements (i.e. iron pills).
  • Nicotine: Cigarettes, nicotine gum and some electronic cigarette refill bottles can be a poisoning risk for children. Even mild nicotine poisoning in a child can result in nausea and vomiting, weakness, tremors or seizures. Nicotine gum is especially scary as it is packaged just like regular bubblegum, which many kids love.
  • Alcohol:  That peach-scented hand sanitizer?—not so “peachy” after all. Perfumes, hand sanitizers, mouthwashes—these cosmetic items all contain concentrated alcohol, and can be attractive to small children because of their colour or scent. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can range from drowsiness and vomiting, to difficulty breathing.
  • Coins: Swallowing a coin could be harmless, if it passes through the digestive system, but can become VERY dangerous if it becomes lodged at any point in the digestive tract.

What can we do to help prevent unintentional poisonings? Because we are always going to carry these necessities in our purses, it is of the utmost importance that handbags be kept away from small children whether you are at home or visiting another home. Be aware of what Grandma does with her handbag when she comes to visit your home, too.

As for the contents of the purse, it’s a good idea to always keep medication in its original, child-resistant container, NOT in a plastic baggie or pill container. Keep in mind that “child-resistant” packaging does not mean “child proof”—even children as young as one have managed to open these containers!

March 16-22 is Poison Prevention Week across Canada, and the public can visit the Child Safety Link website at www.childsafetylink.ca for these and more tips on keeping children safe from unintentional poisonings. Please share this message and help keep our children safe!

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.


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10 reasons we love our donors

Happy Valentine’s Day! Donors are an essential part of making the IWK the centre of excellence that it is today. We are so thankful for their love and generosity! This Valentine’s Day, our staff members at the IWK Foundation wanted to let our supporters know exactly why we love them. 

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10 reasons why we love our donors.

1 – I love the passion so many of our donors have for the IWK. They are fiercely dedicated to the cause and they understand the direct impact their giving has on patients and staff.  It’s a beautiful thing! ~ Carla Adams, Principal Communications Strategist

2 Our donors provide more than money – they give passion, energy, and expertise! ~ Molly Cotter, Director of Finances and Donor Services

3 – They  not only give, they can go above and beyond, volunteering their time and efforts beyond the financial. They’re so happy to give to total strangers! It really is inspiring. ~ Christie Moore, Major Gifts Officer

4 – I love our donors because they help the staff at the IWK make miracles happen! – Lynda Moffatt,  Development Officer – Cape Breton and Eastern Nova Scotia 

5 I am very grateful and love our many donor’s who, because they care, are quietly having an impact on the quality of health care we have come to expect from the IWK; they help to ensure that this level of excellence can continue well into the future. Their continued support is both humbling and vital. ~ Mary Theresa Ross, Manger of Planned Giving 

6 – They inspire me to be more giving.  ~ Trena Crewe, Director of Donor Relations

7 – I love our donors because they give children hope. ~ David Huett, Donor Service Specialist

8 – I love our donors because they care about the IWK as much as we do. Their donations are special and come from the heart. We both share the same the goal, to make the IWK the place possible for Maritime children, women and their families. ~ Andrew Paris, Administrative Assistant/Receptionist 

9 – I love our donors for their spirit of generosity and support for Maritime families.  ~ Natalie Foster, Database & Donor Services Administrator

10 – I love our donors because beyond the financial support they provide, they provide the most important gift of all:  hope. ~ Geoffrey Milder, Development Officer, Mainland NS & Children’s Miracle Network Program Director


From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to every one of our supporters. You are part of everything we do. 

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.