“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.