Spirit of Giving

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Getting into the Swing of Spring!

The Child Life Activity Area at the IWK Health Centre is ready for colourful flowers, green grass, and warm winds. On this past Thursday, this innovative area of the Health Centre held their annual Spring Party. The Spring Party is an opportunity for young IWK patients and their families to celebrate the end of Winter with games, crafts, tasty treats, and a classic egg hunt.   This event is a great chance for kids to come together to relax and have fun. The IWK Child Life department works tirelessly to make sure the kids at the IWK get to enjoy the usual traditions of childhood, and, as you can see by these colourful pics, they were able to do just that.

We just wrapped up Child Life month! Read more about this incredible organization and how you can help.

To make a gift to the IWK Foundation visit www.iwkfoundation.org.


Ready for the egg hunt!


Spring colours


Spring chicken


Ready for decorating


Colourful icing – almost too pretty to eat!


Let the games begin!


Artist at work.




Sprinkles for Spring!

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Colours for Cancer

Natasha McCarthy, from Mount Albion, Prince Edward Island, is the organizer of Colours for Cancer – fundraising initiative  in Montague, PEI, to raise money for pediatric cancer.

I’ll never forget the date because it was the day before my birthday. The day I heard four-year-old Autumn Newell was diagnosed with Leukemia. Autumn and my four-year-old, Samantha, were in the same dance class together. I went to school with Autumn’s Mom, Stacey, but grew closer to her the previous year through our children’s association. I remember reading her Facebook post that day.

“Worst day of our lives, please pray for our little Autumn”.

Children's Artwork available for auction.

Children’s Artwork available for auction.

I didn’t know what that meant at first but being from a small community word spread quickly that Autumn was at the IWK and was a couple days later diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and about to start the battle of her life. As a mother of two girls myself, as did many I’m sure, tears streamed down my face. I prayed for them. I sobbed uncontrollably alone in silence for the heartache, fear and helplessness her parents Stacey & Donnie must have been feeling. I could not help but think how in heaven’s name do you explain that to your child? Where would you even begin?

Since that helpless day I have watched a miracle be born. I have watched through Facebook a four-year-old little girl turn into a warrior of strength, courage, determination and positivity. A video was posted three days later of her at the IWK saying “Kick Cancer in the Butt” and that slogan has now been adopted by a community of people. We wear bracelets with her name and slogan on them in support of her fight. In every photo whether it be in a hospital bed or at home she carries a huge smile on her face. She shows bravery far beyond what any four-year-old should ever have to possess. I have told her mother Stacey on numerous occasions that she is destined to do great things WHEN she wins this fight. This battle was meant for her, because she is so strong and will show others the way!

IMGP3480I knew I wanted to do something big to help Autumn’s journey to recovery and help with such a financial burden. So I decided I would do something huge! I would shave my head in an effort to raise money, but I would tell no one and wait for a while. Help often pours out quickly at the beginning of diagnosis but I knew this family at a 2.5 year battle ahead of them and money would run out. So I waited, and it is now obvious to me there was a reason I chose to wait. Because five months later when I decided the time was right after watching how amazing she has been I knew I couldn’t only help Autumn, I needed to help other children battling cancer too. She has inspired me to be a better person – to help as many as I could and make this much bigger. So I have included the IWK’s Hematology & Oncology Department in my fundraising efforts as I know she needs them to win her fight as do & will other Children.

Colours For Cancer was an idea to involve my children in raising money and helping others. A small idea that got big very fast. On Saturday, March 9th I had 54 amazing children come to paint a canvas and donate it to be auctioned off. This Friday, March 15th from 5:30-7pm there is an Art Exhibit and Final Auction (online bidding takes place all week).

One of the many young artists.

One of the many young artists.

The children are so very excited about it and the bid’s are rolling in already with some paintings as high as $88 in just two days! Over 8,000 people have viewed the Auction Album on Facebook which is incredible. I hope to raise a substantial amount of money through this event as well as some others in the coming weeks to help the IWK. We are so very blessed to have this facility available to us in the Maritimes and it takes money to offer the services it has. I have always donated through the Telethon since having children myself but now it’s time to step it up and find bigger and better ways to donate more, because we just never know when we might need the facility ourselves.

I thank Autumn for being so amazing and inspiring me, she is a blessing and her fight will end triumphantly thanks to her courage and many others including the IWK!

For other details on fundraising efforts, please visit https://www.facebook.com/#!/FundraiserForAutumnQeiiIwk

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I saw firsthand where donations are used

Angela Faulkner from Sackville, Nova Scotia, shares why she is forever thankful for the IWK Health Centre for changing her life.

Hopefully no one reading this will ever understand what it’s like to spend time at the IWK, but at least you will have an inside perspective to how all our fundraising and hard work will touch someone else’s life.

Ty and Carter

Ty and Carter

I’m the mother of two very handsome little boys, Carter, age five and Tyler who is two-and-a-half. I’m also a type 1 diabetic which adds a lot of extra concerns during pregnancy. I was followed very closely throughout both pregnancies and during my 20th week of pregnancy with Tyler, an ultrasound revealed a problem with his tiny heart. His aortic valve was too narrow for blood to travel through so the heart couldn’t operate properly. If it didn’t correct itself by the time Tyler was born, he would require open heart surgery. Little did I know at the time that Tyler’s heart problems were just the beginning of a very long relationship we would form with all the Doctors and Nurses at the IWK.

On May 26, 2009 I delivered a beautiful baby boy. I was full of anxiety worrying about Tyler’s heart but was so excited to meet. Tyler’s umbilical cord was only three inches long, resulting in a tear in my placenta and an emergency c-section. The doctor bundled Tyler up and handed him to my very proud husband, Kirk. Our excitement was short lived – almost immediately Tyler’s his nose started to bleed and bruises began to form all over his tiny body. He was immediately rushed to the NICU while we waited anxiously in recovery for news on my new baby.

Tyler had a very rare condition that results in virtually no platelets in his blood. He would require several blood transfusions before he could come out of his incubator and there was a chance of death from internal bleeding.

Tyler had seven blood transfusions over the next six days. Even once they had the platelet condition sorted there was still the matter of his heart condition, which had deteriorated. Four holes now needed to be repaired, but we had to wait until he was bigger and stronger.

I spent the next five months in the IWK and it became like my home. Tyler’s heart surgery was scheduled for September 1, and we started our daily countdown. That day was the hardest and longest day of my life. Tyler went into surgery that morning for six hours and all we could do was wait.

Ty baby picture_EDITAfter surgery, Tyler was moved into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for the next seven days. I would spend hours sitting beside Tyler in Intensive Care talking to the nurses who explained the purpose of every tube, needle, and sensor on him. I was terrified to hold him for fear of hurting him. The nurses taught me to change, bath, play and hold him until I was confident I could do it by myself.

I now know from the absolute bottom of my heart that there is nowhere else I would want my children to be if they are sick. I was so happy to go home with Tyler but at the same time was sad to leave the safety and security of the hospital. The doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are the best around. They meet families on the worst day of their lives yet and find a way to reassure that things will get better. Today, Tyler has several monthly appointments and has been seen in hematology, plastic surgery, genetics, cardiology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, audiology, and respirology.

I owe my son’s life to the IWK and am very proud to work for a company like Wilson’s Fuel that supports their cause. They’ve changed so many lives and my sweet smiling two-year-old son is one of them.

The Faulkner Family

The Faulkner Family

Learn more about the IWK Health Centre Foundation.
Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.. 

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The moment that changed everything

This article was written by Heather Laura Clarke for the inaugural issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre.

A box jellyfish sting drastically affected Liam MacCormick’s life – Dr. Jill Chorney of the IWK Health Centre’s Complex Pain Team is working to bring his suffering under control.

Liam MacCormick was enjoying a lively family vacation in Jamaica last March. But his life changed suddenly during an afternoon snorkelling session when he was stung by a box jellyfish — one of the most venomous creatures in the world.

Liam, who was 12 at the time of the sting, was still experiencing significant pain when he returned home to Halifax, and he was admitted to the IWK Health Centre. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jill Chorney still remembers the intense level of pain Liam was experiencing when they first met. “He was in such excruciating pain that you couldn’t even go near his leg because of the breeze it would create as you walked by,” says Chorney. “He couldn’t always attend school or be involved with sports. His pain was affecting his entire life — and his whole family.”

Stings from a box jellyfish are extremely painful and sometimes fatal to humans.

Stings from a box jellyfish are extremely painful and sometimes fatal to humans.

Chorney works on the IWK Health Centre’s Complex Pain Team — a part-time group, which includes another psychologist, two clinical nurse specialists, a physical therapist and the medical director, who is an anesthesiologist. Once Liam’s pain was somewhat under control — through a nerve block on his femoral nerve — Chorney and the rest of the Complex Pain Team began working with Liam and his family to understand the different kind of pain he was experiencing. “Most people understand acute pain, which happens when we break our leg or get surgery. We feel pain, get immediate treatment, and it goes away in a short time,” says Chorney. “‘Chronic pain’ is different. It means that even though your injury has healed, the body is still producing pain messages. So the jellyfish sting turned into a version of nerve pain.”

One of Liam’s therapies involved touching his left leg while using a mirror to trick his brain into thinking he was actually touching his right leg. He also used a computer program to distinguish between photos of right and left feet. “Evidence suggests that when kids — or adults — are having chronic pain on one particular side of the body, it can lead to changes in their brain,” says Chorney. “The brain gets a bit reorganized and interprets messages differently, so we need to retrain the brain.” Liam initially spent a month at the IWK Health Centre, and now he just visits every few months to work on techniques to cope with the pain.

“We used cognitive behaviour strategies — not because the pain’s in his head, but because you can use the brain to send messages to the leg, telling it to turn down the pain signals,” says Chorney. “Relaxation techniques and deep breathing can also send messages to turn down his nervous system.” Liam’s dad, Rob MacCormick, says the IWK’s Complex Pain Team has had such a positive effect on the entire family. “He’s had setbacks when he was out of school for a while, and wasn’t able to walk. But he worked at it with his team — bit by bit — and he’s continued to move forward,” says MacCormick. “We don’t know where we would be without the IWK. To be able to get that ongoing support so close to home has been amazing.”

Liam, who is currently a Grade 8 student at Georges P. Vanier Junior High in Fall River, Nova Scotia, spent the summer paddling every day with the local aquatic club. “He had an amazing summer. Getting active has been a very positive thing for him, — plus he’s getting back into football now,” says MacCormick. “His coaches have always been very understanding with things he may not be able to do. But he’s not somebody you want to say no to!” MacCormick says Liam’s determination and strength have been inspiring to him, and that even during the hard times, he’s never regretted swimming and snorkelling in Jamaica. “He’s just been amazing through this whole procedure. He’s taken it on like an adult, and kept so positive,” says MacCormick. “Nothing will stop him from his goal of having a normal life.”

To read the full issue of Izakk Magazine visit www.iwkfoundation.org/Izaak

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

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On the front line

This article was written by Elizabeth Patterson for the inaugural issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre.  Through the lens of a microscope, laboratory technologists are often the first to uncover the diagnoses that will change lives.

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Even in a job featuring some of the world’s most up-to-date technology, there’s nothing like old-fashioned human contact to put everything into perspective.

“A child who has been sick for weeks may come into the emergency department. They’ll have blood work done and when we look under the microscope, we’ll find abnormal white cells count and see leukemia,” says Randy Veinotte, Manager of the Core Laboratory, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the IWK Health Centre.

Laboratory technologists use microscopes to examine different body fluids, blood, and tissues. For example, when a patient has blood drawn for a CBC (complete blood count) and it is run through the analyzer, a blood smear is made and stained for review when results are abnormal. When reviewing a blood smear with a microscope the technologist is looking at the number and types of cells present.

“The technologist can be the first person to see abnormal cells,” explains Veinotte. “Abnormal cells can be caused by different conditions like infections, malaria, sickle cell, or could reflect abnormalities in the bone marrow, pointing to Leukemia. So, you can see why this is such an important step … the earlier the diagnosis the quicker the treatment for the patient.”

Medical lab technician Terri-Lynn Lawrence analyze patient samples for indicators of illness.

Medical lab technician Terri-Lynn Lawrence analyze patient samples for indicators of illness.

For Veinotte, information like this is a call to action for the hospital’s medical staff. Every day, his team of laboratory technologists, assistants, and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), are on the front lines, meeting with patients who require tests that can unearth every type of ailment imaginable. While some results may not be good, it’s still better than not knowing.

“When you’re in a position of caring for patients, understanding your boundaries is important. Yes, we’ve found something, but you have to believe maybe we’ve caught it in time,” says Veinotte.

Veinotte says that this is what keeps everything at a very human level.

“We’re lucky here at the IWK,” says Veinotte. “When we do the collections, we see the patient — what’s contained in that tube is the patient — it reminds you that every specimen is important.”

As a teaching facility, the IWK labs host students from the Medical Laboratory Technologist program at NSCC, as well as laboratory assistants, and residents from different medical programs.

“They all use our laboratory to help train their students and prepare them for life in the real world,” Veinotte says. “What makes our laboratory so different is that we get to see samples from women, children and babies all under one roof — a very challenging setting, but also extremely rewarding.”

The Core Laboratory looks after chemistry and hematology is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It has a staff of about 30 people who provide test results on a daily basis to ensure patients get proper care.

Izaak - SMALL.pdf - Adobe Acrobat ProBesides tracking down illnesses, working at the IWK presents a unique set of challenges. The patients range from infants to elderly women and that means using different techniques. For example, collecting a blood sample from a newborn isn’t the same as getting one from a 35-year-old woman. For one thing, you need smaller tubes to collect the samples and you can’t take as much of a sample. If the samples aren’t taken properly at the beginning, it won’t necessarily yield a proper result. It all means that the staff must always operate at the top of their game.

“We have individuals here who are very skilled at what they do,” says Veinotte. “It takes a special person to do this type of job.”

Compassion and understanding for patients and their families are the most important aspects of the job. Veinotte says that seeing a patient get properly diagnosed, treated and then recover is one of the benefits of his position. “We are there for their care and we do get to see them get better. We get to see the full circle.”

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

Make a gift to the IWK Foundation.

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An unforgettable gift

Dorothy Grant of Bedford, Nova Scotia, is the mother of David, a former IWK Patient who sadly passed away at age 11 from a rare neurological disease. She shares with us a memory of spending the Holiday Season at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

It happened in late 1983, at a time in our lives when, for us, the prospect of Christmas had no meaning and the thought of having to cope with the excitement and joy that surrounded us was almost painful.

People will understand why we were feeling this way when I explain that our beloved son David, who was only 11 at the time, was seriously ill, no longer responsive and had been a patient in the IWK Hospital in Halifax for almost a year,

David Grant

David Grant

Sitting by his bedside in the hospital, it was impossible to understand why before being diagnosed with a serious neurological condition, David had been a wonderful little boy who did extremely well in school, had constantly delighted us with his hugs and his caring personality such as the day he confided,” When I grow up Mom, I’d like to find a cure for cancer.”  Having he and his older brother Ian in our family had made our life the most rewarding existence and we, like all parents, believed nothing would ever alter this treasured reality.

Sadly, something very devastating did alter this reality, when in 1982 we learned David had an incurable disease. Soon our daily lives experienced a traumatic transition when in late 1982 he was admitted to the hospital, and we spent every day with him.

The day I will never forget occurred very close to Christmas Day, 1983. As usual, I found myself sitting by David who no longer spoke and was very ill. Outside his room, the hospital ward was aglow with signs of the Christmas season. A large Christmas tree near David’s room was full of ornaments – many of which had been made by the young patents on his floor.

The nurses’ station was trimmed with chains of bright bows, and charming tiny figurines such as elves and reindeers, which danced across the front desk. Christmas music filled the air and I knew in my heart that I should be finding the surroundings comforting but, I just couldn’t arouse this kind of reassuring feeling.

As I was sitting there in the darkness, the door to David’s room opened and in came Sylvia Wedderburn who was the evening nursing supervisor.  For almost a year, she had   faithfully visited me when she was on duty and had a few minutes to see how I was doing.

She had the loveliest, soulful brown eyes and also the most engaging personality. If anyone could cheer me up- a little – it was Sylvia.

What surprised me was that just a few seconds after she arrived, she made what I thought was a rather strange announcement. She said  “ I’m going away for Christmas but before I go I want to give you a gift!”

I immediately noticed she didn’t have anything in her hands and candidly, the last thing in the world I needed was a gift!

As I sat there feeling rather confused, Sylvia began to sing a moving Christmas carol. She had a beautiful voice, which magically filled the room with a   sound that was miraculously uplifting and truly inspiring.

It overwhelmed me with a momentary but an astonishing sense of comfort and the awareness that I was in the company of someone who sincerely wanted to ease the hopelessness I had been experiencing.

As her carol ended, she put her arms around me and with tears in her eyes, whispered that  she would be thinking of David and me while she was away.

I shall never forget Sylvia’s extraordinary gift because it taught me something so significant – that Christmas is not about material things but about demonstrating one’s love and caring for someone  – especially when it is so greatly needed,

I can only hope this Christmas others will think of sharing  her amazing kind of gift with someone who also deserves the precious message of human kindness it so tangibly represents.

Sylvia’s gift didn’t even cost a penny but for me, it was priceless!

Learn more about the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

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Without the IWK I would be short two daughters

Anne Van Donkersgoed is a mother of three beautiful daughters, and author of  ‘The Year Of The Babies’. 

Ed and Anne Van Donkersgoed with daughters Emma, Sarah and Gracie.

Without the IWK I would be short two daughters! … Let me explain. From as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a mom. It wasn’t until 2011 that being a mother became a reality. We were able to adopt three beautiful girls! Twenty-two month old Gracie came in January. Nine month old Emma came in June. Sarah came as a newborn in August. Three little miracles all in one year! I am truly blessed.

That’s only part of the story. Emma was born at the IWK and her birth mom was told there was a good chance Emma would not survive birth. She did survive and with the help of the IWK team she lived to become ours. She has complex congenital heart disease and will be monitored by the IWK Heart Center for years to come.

Sarah was born on PEI and for the first five weeks appeared to be doing great. She was welcomed and loved by her sisters and we were settling into the busy but fun routine of feedings, cuddles, and sleeps. On September 27/11 I took Sarah to our family doctor, expecting to be reassured that she was fine. Within minutes we were on our way to the QEH in Charlottetown and within hours she was in the air on the way to the IWK. She was deteriorating before our eyes. Three days later, on her six week birthday, she was diagnosed with stage 4s neuroblastoma. The cancer itself is very curable/treatable with a great prognosis. Her problem was that her abdomen was so swollen it was affecting her other organs and making it difficult for her to breathe. Sarah survived because of the treatment she received in the PICU at the IWK. After ten weeks in hospitals, Sarah came home on December 9/11. She was declared cancer free on March 2/12 – my birthday!

So, as I said at the beginning, if it wasn’t for the IWK I would be short two daughters! These amazing stories are what inspired me to write a book entitled The Year of Babies. It is my hopes that in reading my story, others may be encouraged on their difficult journeys.

I can’t imagine life without my three girls. That is why when I launch my book on December 9, 2012 I will do it as a fundraiser for the IWK. My hope is that my story will inspire others to care enough to give. It is through our collective giving that the IWK is there for the Emma’s and Sarah’s of this world!


Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.