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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We will beat cancer. We will be strong like you.

Jenn Allaert, rider in the Sears National Kids Cancer RideThe Sears National Kids Cancer Ride is one of the biggest and most ambitious charity cycling events on behalf of childhood cancer in the world. Jenn Allaert from Moncton, New Brunswick, shares why she’s riding across Canada to improve the quality of life for children, and their families, living with and beyond cancer.

20 years ago I watched my mom getting sick. No one knew why and answers were hard to come by. A year later her brain tumor was remove a month to the day after my 16th birthday. The relief was brief, 3 months later my Nona was diagnosed with brain cancer. The out come not in our favour this time, her presence left us 4 months later. Life was definitely not fun that year…it was far from a sweet 16.

Now that I’m a mom I know what the meaning of giving everything for you kids is. A fighting chance to be a kid. I will fight for them and fight for all the kids. I now have the reason I’m riding with me forever…it will never be forgotten.

My life changed when I was asked to be the massage therapist of the 2008 & 2009 SNKCR riders. I really had no idea how much that experience would have on my life or even the big realization of why I was doing it. I strongly believe that this is bigger than me; it’s something I have to do. I do it because I can, because I have 3 beautiful children and I can’t image my life without them. I can’t image waking up one day and someone telling me that my kids have caner. These are the words no parent should ever have to hear.

Many of my adult family members have lost their battle with cancer. It was so hard to watch their changes in health from all the countless treatments. And within my massage practice I see the emotional and physical impact cancer has on it’s survivors and think that no child should ever have to experience that. All children need to have positive touch experiences in their life and none should come from countless needle pokes and invasive treatments.

Everyday I carry the words I heard form a little girl with cancer “Mommy don’t be sad, it’s not that bad I only have cancer.” It was so heartbreaking to hear these words because the children with cancer are living adult lives…not the life of a child

So here is to all the kids out there. We will beat cancer. We will be strong like you. And you’re never alone; we’re with you until the end. You’re forever in my heart!!!


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Help IWK children live happily ever after.

Stephanie Reid is the Program Lead, Marketing Strategy at the IWK Foundation and a member of the runDisney community.

Children's Miracle Network BalloonHave you ever considered running a race but never had the right motivation? Are you an avid runner looking for a new challenge? Have you been looking for an exciting and unique way to support the IWK Foundation? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this is the blog post for you.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® is the presenting sponsor and celebratory charity of the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Funds raised for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in conjunction with this magical event will help kids grow up happily ever after. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raises funds and awareness for 170 children’s hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, including the IWK Health Centre located right here in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Pirates of the Caribbean on the race route of Disney's Princess Half Marathon 2014.

Pirates of the Caribbean on the race route of Disney’s Princess Half Marathon 2014.

It’s rare when two of your passions collide so perfectly. I’ve been participating in runDisney races since 2010 when I completed my first marathon during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. And I have to say, it wasn’t hard to get hooked as there is nothing quite like running a runDisney race. The costumes, entertainment and the overall experience of running through Disney theme parks and resort areas make runDisney races a bucket list item for any aspiring or seasoned runner.

So naturally, when I learned I could participate in a runDisney race in support the IWK I came running (pun intended). Children’s Miracle Network participants can support their local children’s hospitals by signing up for the Princess Half Marathon or the Glass Slipper Challenge (a 19.3 mile adventure over 2 days). Glass Slipper challenge participants will run the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K on Saturday, followed by the Disney Princess Half Marathon on Sunday. Currently all races are sold out to the public but you can still participate by signing-up through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® or another participating charity or travel provider.

So are you in? Here’s the run-down (again, pun intended – I just can’t help myself!):

  • Sign-up for either the Princess Half Marathon or the Glass Slipper Challenge at princesshalfmarathon.childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org
  • Fundraise the required minimum amount for your race to support children and families at the IWK Health Centre
  • Make your family’s travel arrangements
  • Pack your bags for the happiest place on earth
  • Just keep running…

The upcoming Glass Slipper Challenge will mark my 5th and 6th runDisney races, and they certainly won’t be my last. But for right now, my focus is on fundraising and supporting this wonderful cause that is very important to me. As an extra incentive to my supporters, if I reach my minimum fundraising goal by August 18, 2014 I have promised to come to work dressed up like Mickey Mouse and stay in character for an entire business day. That’s right, I will do absolutely anything for this cause and the children and families at the IWK Health Centre.

Have a magical race and thank you for your support!


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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.


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Making a change in the world

Shanyn, Maddy, Jessica, and Luna

Shanyn, Maddy, Jessica, and Luna

At the beginning of the school year we got our class outline. On it, our expectations and our teacher’s goal for this semester was for us to do something to change something in the world, whether it was big or small.  A couple of us got together and figured out a great cause we wanted to help.  I loved the idea of the IWK, it was so important in our community and they saved two of our group member’s lives.  Neither of us would have been here if it weren’t for their help!  We had a goal of $500 to raise for them.  We wanted to make sure that the IWK would always be there to help children like us.  In our school, in the community of Liverpool, on October 24th, we had a bake sale. Altogether we raised $125 for that day and scheduled a bottle drive for the 2nd and 3rd of November.  In the freezing cold we managed to raise $380 which was just enough to reach our goal.  We were so glad to be able to give them $505 towards the kids that needed our help.  We drove into the IWK one day and did the cheque presentation.  The girl that assisted us from the start was very helpful, and I am glad that we chose this charity.

We had a great journey with the IWK and loved every step of the way.

Shanyn, Maddy, Jessica, and Luna


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Change Makers – Jacob

This article is a series of three, written by Tom Mason for the Fall 2013/Winter 2014 issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre. A stay at the hospital can be tough, but for some exceptional young people, it’s also a time to grow , gain strength and learn about who they are. 

Jacob Hamilton

Jacob Hamilton

For Jacob Hamilton, paying it forward means finding strength in his own life. At 19, Jacob has been through more than most people his age. He’s already struggled with mental illness, and the stigma that surrounds it, for several years.

Jacob spent four months in the IWK inpatient mental health unit starting at age 17. He endured weeks of difficult medication changes, missed out on family and school events, even spending his birthday and the days leading up to Christmas in the hospital. Through it all, the IWK staff was there to help him, at times becoming almost part of his extended family. “They even took part in Christmas activities with me,” he says.

Today Jacob uses his own experiences to help other young people suffering with mental illness. He volunteers with the IWK Foundation and has worked to raise money for a new inpatient mental health unit for the hospital that will offer much improved care space for those with acute mental illness requiring hospitalization at the IWK. He speaks out to help improve adolescent mental health care in Nova Scotia, and he advocates for young people, to help them overcome the stigma that so often goes with mental illness.

“Mental illness is a disease like any other,” he says. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and there’s always hope. There are a lot of youth out there dealing with these issues. They need to know how they can access mental health care.”

He’s also attending Dalhousie University, working on a science degree and planning to major in neuroscience, microbiology and immunology. Jacob recently received a $40,000 scholarship to help him pay for university and he’s doing well with his studies, but he still deals with his illness every day. “I have good days and bad days,” he says. The hours he gives back as a mental health volunteer are one of the ways he copes. “I do it as a way to give back to the IWK. I lost a lot of time in my life because of my illness. I lost a year of school. The IWK helped me get better. They helped me get back to real life.”

Jacob says that people with mental illness need someone in their corner to help them get proper treatment in their most difficult days. That’s what motivates him to work so hard. “They need to fight for the right care, and the irony is they really aren’t equipped to fight,” he says. “There are a lot of patients who can’t speak about their problems, but I don’t mind speaking out.”

This story and many exciting others are available for FREE though Izaak Magazine’s fully interactive mobile app, available for download on the iTunes Newstand and Google play. You can also read Izaak magazine online through your desktop computer.