Linda Matthews (Etler) and Lorraine Etler
Grateful Patient & Sister
“I know I’m terminal… but my last wish is to raise funds for the hospital that has helped me so much.”
When I took my sister Linda to the South Muskoka emergency department on August 11th, I thought she’d had a stroke. And initially, so did the emergency doctor, who has known our family for many years. In fact, many locals know someone in our family because we’re fifth generation Muskokans—on both sides.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor ordered a CT scan for Linda and the news was not good. The scan showed a cancerous brain tumour. Still, Linda took comfort in hearing it from a familiar face and appreciated how direct and honest he was. With an additional CT scan, the news got worse, confirming Stage 4 cancer and three more tumours on the liver. We were devastated. Our concerns mounted when we learned my sister’s case would be transferred to a different doctor at the hospital, whose job it was to care for—what they call “orphan” patients—those who don’t have their own family doctor.
We quickly discovered that Dr. Cole Krensky, a recent graduate of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, could not have been a better choice to entrust with my sister’s care. He worked relentlessly to get Linda quickly into surgery to remove the brain tumour. And he made it happen at a Toronto hospital, just one week after her diagnosis. With the surgery, however, came more bad news. Linda’s cancer was extremely aggressive and, although we could buy her some time with treatment, her diagnosis was terminal. I’ll let Linda tell you the rest of her story…
I know I’m terminal. How long do I have? Whatever they tell me, I’m going to double it… or triple it. I’m determined because I have a mission and that’s to give back to this hospital and the people here who have helped me so much.
The entire team here at South Muskoka hospital is incredible but I need to make a special mention of Dr. Krensky. I liked him right away. He gave me the facts and everything that I needed to know and yet, at the same time, he treated me with great compassion. I know to the bottom of my heart that he and his team truly care about their patients. I also know people are concerned that if they don’t have a family doctor, they won’t get looked after while they are in the hospital. I’m here to tell them that’s simply not true.
I’m very proud to be a local resident with deep roots in the area. Our great-grandfather was Bill Henshaw, the steamship captain whose life was taken back in 1934 when the Waome sank during a storm on Lake Muskoka. And now I’m proud to have a great local hospital too. Everyone here—the whole medical team—has treated me with compassion and looked after my every need. So I’m determined to fundraise to give back… but also to ensure this stays a great hospital long after I’m gone. I didn’t know this until recently, but almost all of the equipment here at the hospital has been paid for by the community, including the CT scanner that detected my brain tumour.
I’m determined to be more aggressive than the cancer in getting my message out. Will you help my fundraising goal and give to the hospital? By donating, you will support the staff in their efforts to give their very best to all patients.
Linda Matthews (Etler) and Lorraine Etler,
Ian North and Jennifer Claveau
Grateful Husband & Wife
“I don’t know how we would have got through the initial crisis and the recovery afterward without the dedication and compassion of the hospital staff. “
For two years we lived on a beautiful country property outside of Bracebridge. I was short of breath one night walking back from the chicken coop and the next morning my wife Jennifer insisted we head into town to the hospital. While I was getting ready, it happened again. This time, I collapsed on the bed, not able to breathe. I was terrified. I remember the paramedics getting me down the stairs and then not much else until I woke in the hospital eight days later. So I’ll let Jennifer continue with my story…
After the ambulance left with Ian, I quickly made arrangements for the animals and drove to the Emergency Department at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital. When I arrived, the news was the worst a spouse could ever hear. The staff told me Ian was in critical condition: in cardiac arrest from the blockage of blood clots obstructing the flow from the lungs to his heart—a massive double-lung pulmonary embolism. I could actually hear the sound of the monitor flatlining and I watched as the medical team kept my husband alive. I can only describe it as a “choreographed dance” where, as they worked, team members flowed around each other, doing everything they could to save Ian’s life. I was deeply impressed with what I saw, how calm the team stayed and how everyone responded to direction yet knew exactly what to do.
Over the next two hours, they restarted his heart and saved his life three times, earning him the title of “Miracle Man.” One of those times he was in cardiac arrest for 15 minutes—yet the staff kept him alive. At the same time, they also looked after me. They were forthcoming about everything that was happening while holding my hand and treating me with such kindness and compassion. Finally, Ian was stable enough to be transported to another hospital that specialized in multi-organ failure.
When Ian came back to the South Muskoka hospital to recover, once again we witnessed the same excellent care from the staff. He had to learn to walk again and even how to operate a phone. I don’t know how we would have got through the initial crisis and the recovery afterward without the dedication and compassion of the hospital staff. They gave us the gift of time. It could so easily have gone the other way. When we needed them, they were there for us.
We wanted to show our gratitude. When I learned that all the equipment is funded by donations, I knew I had to help staff to do what they had done for Ian and save the lives of other patients. I’m a visual artist and we did a fundraiser to purchase a crash cart—for heart attacks. It costs $5,400 and I thought we could (maybe) raise $1,000 toward a crash cart. We raised $5,600 and covered the cost of an entirely new crash cart!
Ian North and Jennifer Claveau
“Smaller is often better. When you need a hospital to see you quickly, this hospital excels! “
Recently, I cracked open my head in my cottage basement. Bloodied, I needed a trip to the South Muskoka hospital. What a fabulous experience. They gave me an ice pack to slow the bleeding even though I had not gone through triage. Since I was nauseous and headachy, they gave me a CT scan within 10 minutes of the resident ordering it. Wow! What other hospital can do that? But most important was the positive attitude and morale that I experienced, from doctors to technicians to nurses to the cleaning staff. Well done everyone! Smaller is often better. When you need a hospital to see you quickly, this hospital excels! Quick treatment by wonderful staff results in a happy patient.
Even though I am not a permanent resident of Muskoka, South Muskoka Hospital gets my donation dollars.
“I have never been treated with such care and compassion as when I was in Emergency at the South Muskoka hospital.”
I’m relatively new to the area and we recently purchased a place on an island in Lake of Bays. My husband had gone tothe city and I was on my own the day I started to feel ill. It was like indigestion but I progressively got worse and couldn’t sleep all night. I knew something was wrong and first thing in the morning, I got on the ferry and then drove myself to the hospital.
I braced myself for – what I believed would be – a long wait and dealing with stressed-out staff. Instead, I was surprised to encounter calm and friendly individuals at every turn. I was greeted warmly, admitted promptly, and my vitals were checked by a helpful nurse – all shortly after my arrival. This was not like any other hospital experience I’ve had before. Was I in the right place?
The doctor’s exam quickly revealed an area of acute tenderness in the lower right section of my stomach. He immediately knew it was either appendicitis or kidney stones. We joked about how appendicitis was normally a younger person’s malady (does that make me cool?) but not unheard of at my age.
He sent me to have a CT scan and the diagnosis remarkably came back just one hour later; what I found even more impressive was the way I was treated all throughout my stay – with such kindness and compassion. It felt exceptional
to be treated as a human, a real person, in a health care setting.
The nurse said to me, “Well, it looks like you’re going to have emergency surgery, we have to take your appendix out.” I was surprised, and nervous and asked, “Is that really necessary? Are there other options, like antibiotics?” She looked at me and told me confidently with her many years of experience she was certain I would need the surgery. I immediately realized I needed to listen to what she was telling me and that this surgery must really be necessary.
When the surgeon came to see me, she told me my appendix was inflamed, not ready to burst yet, but that we needed to remove it. They contacted my husband to give him the news and the surgery was done early the next morning
laparoscopically, using three small incisions, and I was discharged that afternoon.
During my entire stay through the diagnosis and surgery I was thoroughly impressed by the collegiality between staff, how everyone was so polite and
respectful to each other.
There was real teamwork here and such a positive atmosphere. How can that be possible in a workplace where the demands are so high? I’ve been in customer relations for almost 20 years and it’s not easy to impress me. But I was… and still am.
I never expected to find myself in the hospital this summer, I don’t think anyone ever does. But I am thankful they were able to help me in my time of need.
“My son and I are thriving and that’s all due to our community hospital.”
I was looking forward to having my second child at the South Muskoka hospital, just as I’d had my first. Little did I know that I would almost lose my life and his… even before my son was born.
Early in my pregnancy, I’d experienced stomach pain on my right side, but thought it would pass. When I was just 18 weeks pregnant, I was out for dinner with friends and the discomfort increased. I went home early to lie down and get some rest. By 2 a.m., I knew there was something wrong. I drove myself to the hospital while my husband, Daryl, stayed home to care for our infant son, Harvey.
The ultrasound showed a large mass in the area of my appendix. With concern for my unborn baby and suspecting more than appendicitis, they sent me for an MRI in Orillia to see if it would reveal more information. Back at the South Muskoka hospital and still in tremendous pain, I had another ultrasound and the doctor concluded I needed surgery right away. His concerns were validated when they opened me up and found a baseball-sized mass. The team believed it was cancer and, even worse, that it could be appendix mucinous adenocarcinoma, an extremely dangerous condition with a 75 percent fatality rate. Later tests confirmed it was. This rare form of cancer spreads very easily when cells make contact with other internal surfaces. I’m so grateful the surgical team knew exactly what they had to do and had the skills and tools to perform this delicate surgery.
They carefully removed the mass intact — a challenge in itself — to prevent contamination. They also needed to remove a third of my colon, as they could see the tumour had started to grow into my colon. I felt reassured when the surgeon told me he was confident he had removed all of the cancerous cells, even taking an extra few inches of my colon to be certain.
I was referred to an oncologist in Toronto, who recommended we terminate the pregnancy so that I could undergo chemotherapy. Daryl and I were faced with an unbearable choice: to lose the baby or potentially allow an aggressive cancer to kill both of us. I kept thinking back to the surgeon’s words, of his confidence that his team had removed all the cancer and the dangerous tumour had been removed intact. I didn’t want to lose the baby and then try to live with the regret… I didn’t think we could come back from that.
We decided to take the risk and try to save our baby. We went for a second opinion and this oncologist suggested that we could delay chemo and monitor for cancer throughout the pregnancy. They checked back at 32 weeks, the point at which the baby could survive outside the womb. The tests came back clear, so we decided to go for the full term of 40 weeks. Quinn made his appearance at 38 weeks, all on his own! Thankfully, there was no indication of cancer.
I still can’t believe how my baby and I survived this ordeal, thanks to the skill and fast action of hospital staff. They were so thorough, they left nothing, not even a trace. This cancer is so risky, and so easily spreads, there is no doubt in my mind of the exceptional capability of the team at the South Muskoka hospital.
Since then, I’ve been checked every six months and the tests have remained clear. My son and I are thriving and that’s all due to our community hospital.
I’m so grateful for how they saved two lives at the hospital that day. And here we are, four years later, thriving and loving our lives!
Janice & Norm Jackson
“The care we both received during and after our surgeries was beyond our expectations.”
Having been lifelong residents of Muskoka we have seen many changes to our local hospital over the years. Aside from the birth of our children in the 1960’s and a few minor issues we had not had a great deal of need for it.
However, 2001 was an eventful year as we both found ourselves requiring unexpected surgery. One in March, the other in Nov.
The care we both received during and after our surgeries was beyond our expectations.
The entire medical staff was amazing. One could not have been in better hands. We consider ourselves most fortunate to have this wonderful facility in our region.
Janice & Norm Jackson
A Mother’s Story
“We truly feel we’re part of the hospital’s family now.”
I’m Johanna Tilson and this testimonial is on behalf of my husband Kerry and my two daughters, Julia and Rachel.
I’m here to tell you about how important it is to have the CT scanner here at South Muskoka Hospital, close to home.
I’ll never forget November 24th, 2006. My daughter Julia called me at work and said she had a terrible headache and that the back of her neck hurt. She told me she thought she was going to die and for me to please hurry.
I dashed over to her school and by the time I arrived, she’d lost consciousness. We went by ambulance to South Muskoka Hospital and within a very short period of time, she had a CT scan.
All the hospital staff were so responsive to us – they showed us they cared at every opportunity. There was this atmosphere of concern – we knew even without them saying anything, that they cared and they tried to do everything to comfort us.
The doctor told us the CT had shown that Julia had bleeding on the brain. With this information and Julia now in a coma, she was airlifted to a special paediatric hospital in Ottawa. I went in the helicopter with Julia while my husband Kerry went home, packed our suitcases, and followed us by car.
The nurses at South Muskoka helped prepare me as I waited for the helicopter. They thought of everything – packing a lunch for Kerry’s long drive, Gravol for me and saline solution for my contacts.
Julia had surgery in Ottawa and came out of her coma 11 days later. Julia had a second surgery and we go down to Toronto periodically for follow-up observations.
Since Julia’s incident, everyone at South Muskoka has been keeping tabs on us – we’ve been back a few times and we truly feel we’re part of the hospital’s family now.
I’d like to relay something my husband Kerry told one of the nurses and I feel the same way: he told them that although they may call themselves doctors and nurses, to us you’ll always be our angels.
That’s because, on a Friday in November, you responded to our call for help. If it wasn’t for the South Muskoka Hospital and the CT scanner, I don’t know where we’d be today.
Please read the testimonial from my daughter Rachel, Julia’s sister, who wants to tell you about what she did, with the help of her cousin Bradley, to support the campaign for the CT scanner.
A Big Heart for A Little Girl
“She just wanted to help other kids, just like her sister.”
When Rachel was eight-years old, she made a speech about what happened when her sister got sick. Five years, later, Rachel’s words still resound – after all, she just wanted to help other kids, just like her sister.
When my sister Julia got sick and was in the hospital, I went to my Aunt Silvia’s house. My cousin Bradley suggested that I knit headbands with my Grandma and we could sell them to donate the money to the hospital.
We want to help other kids, not just Julia, but other sick kids too. So we sold a lot of headbands and have raised over $400 for the campaign. We bought a stuffed cat so other kids can hold on to it if they are scared to go in the cat scan machine.
Update: Rachel & Bradley have raised more than $1,000 for the CT scanner.
Active cottage family needs cottage hospital
“I’m so thankful that a well-equipped hospital with excellent staff is so close by. “
Over the years that we’ve been cottaging in Muskoka, we’ve had to use the services of the Bracebridge Hospital on a number of occasions. My wife, Carrie, sliced her hand while washing dishes, I fell while trimming trees and my daughter, Brianne punctured her foot jumping on the trampoline. We’re an active family and we enjoy working and playing at our cottage on Lake Muskoka. Each and every time we’ve needed the services of our cottage hospital – they’ve been there for us, providing excellent medical care and treating us with care and compassion.
One summer when my 13-year-old daughter Caroline took a rough fall when wakeboarding. She had what they call a third degree concussion and has actually lost her memory of that day. At the hospital, because of the severity of Caroline’s case, we knew we were being fast-tracked. Thankfully, the doctor could tell from the CT scan that although there was some swelling, there wasn’t any bleeding on Caroline’s brain. The doctor advised that Caroline stay for observation. During the next two days, the staff monitored her closely and did a second CT scan for comparison. The treatment and care we received at Bracebridge hospital was nothing short of outstanding.
As active cottagers enjoying all the recreational opportunities Muskoka has to offer, having a CT scanner at the hospital gives us great peace of mind. We spend approximately 25 percent of our time at the cottage and during that time, engage in higher risk activities than what we typically do in the city. I’m so thankful that a well-equipped hospital with excellent staff is so close by. We are supporting the Foundation and I hope you’ll consider doing the same.