Sunnybrook Magazine – Fall 2018

We Are Sunnybrook


Meet some of the inspiring faces that go above and beyond each and every day, in all corners of the hospital


The Registered Dietitian

Wendy Lopez

Wendy Lopez

Giving back

A love of volunteering, a keen interest in food and a strong commitment to helping others – Wendy Lopez, a registered dietitian, has combined these passions to support patients at St. John’s Rehab.

“Volunteering has always been a part of my life,” says Wendy. As a community- minded teen, she volunteered at a hospital in Scarborough and continued the tradition throughout her years in university.

For Wendy, volunteering is about giving back. She was two years old when she and her family fled civil war-torn El Salvador and lived in Amarillo, Texas, for a time, eventually settling in Canada. “I will always be thankful for the opportunities Canada has given my family and me,” says Wendy.

In Toronto, her parents were able to start their own home- based cake-decorating business. “My mom bakes. My dad decorates,” she says. “I help with the finishing touches.”

In her role as a clinical dietitian at St. John’s Rehab, Wendy works with volunteers, leading research to help patients improve their nutrition during rehabilitation. “Patients recovering from stroke are at greater risk for low nutritional intake. They may experience swallowing difficulties [and may] have physical challenges, language impairment, vision issues and even changes in what they can taste and smell,” she explains.

Her initiative – Matters of the Plate: Meal Assistance Program (MAP), funded through the Health Professions Innovation Fellowship of the Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network (TAHSN) – trains volunteers to assist patients with mealtime tasks, supports them through socialization during mealtimes and encourages them to eat well.

What began as a pilot project has now expanded – in collaboration with the rehab team – to more than 150 patients and 36 volunteers across two patient-care units at St. John’s Rehab

– Natalie Chung-Sayers

Photography by Kevin Van Paassen


The Registered Practical Nurse

Lynn-Gilkes

Lynn Gilkes

Going the extra mile to mend

Lynn Gilkes goes the extra mile to help mend broken bones and fragile spirits.
Her career spans almost a half-century as a registered practical nurse at Sunnybrook with just under four decades spent with Sunnybrook’s Fracture Clinic, caring for patients shortly after a traumatic experience.

Lynn will tell you that the highlight of her career has been helping patients on their journey to recovery. “Often, it is difficult for patients to get to recovery,” she says. “It takes a lot of emotion, even more courage, and sometimes it may take years to rally back. Unfortunately, many people we see have major and complex injuries – hip and femur fractures, lower extremity injuries. They come back often to the clinic for different treatments. You really get to know them.”
In the busy Fracture Clinic, which admits up to 100 patients a day, Lynn is there alongside the team, listening with care to every patient.

She offers a comforting hand and warm words of empathy, and patients remember her for her reassuring smile and compassion. She has received a Schulich Award for Nursing and Clinical Excellence from her colleagues and a Sunnybrook Moment Award from a very grateful patient.

Her years of experience contribute to the success ofthe Fracture Clinic. For example, her skills in wound care reduce the risk of infection and, in consultation with the orthopaedic surgeons, she helps fast- track patients who may urgently need follow-up surgery.

“I treat patients like they are members of my family,” says Lynn. “It’s about being friendly and caring. It’s about helping their bones heal and giving them mental support and, in time, it is rewarding to see their journey to recovery.”

– Natalie Chung-Sayers

Photography by Kevin Van Paassen


The Nurse Practitioner

Amanda Squires

Amanda Squires

Helping Indigenous mothers feel at home

Amanda Squires holds in the palm of her hand a white and red cloth containing sage, folded into a tie. Despite its tiny size, the tie has a powerful meaning. Sage is a sacred medicine for many of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, particularly during the birth of a child.

The tie also represents the strong relationship between Sunnybrook and Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto (SGMT), which offers maternity care to women in the city, particularly those in the downtown area and from Indigenous communities. SGMT midwives deliver babies at Sunnybrook, where Amanda’s interest in Indigenous cultures began after she met a family who were about to have their baby at the hospital.

“The family, who are Cree and from Northern Ontario, were a long way from home and I really wanted to make them feel comfortable,” explains Amanda, a nurse practitioner in Sunnybrook’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Amanda has been helping to educate front-line staff about the unique history and current realities of Indigenous populations.
She has adapted an existing program policy on smudging -the Indigenous custom of a cleansing smoke bath – for the NICU, taking into consideration the fragile respiratory status of its patients.

“From presenting a sage tie to making families aware that we can facilitate smudging and other Indigenous traditions – these are all realities now at Sunnybrook,” notes Amanda. “The hospital’s relationship with Seventh Generation has allowed us to improve the quality of the patient experience of Indigenous families in our Women & Babies Program.”

As Indigenous families may be away from their community for up to 20 weeks if their baby is born prematurely, she simply wants them to feel at home in the NICU.

Amanda then recalls the first time she presented an Indigenous mother with a sage tie. “The mom simply said, ‘You’ve recognized me. Thank you.’ ”

–Marie Sanderson

Photography by Kevin Van Paassen


The Resident Veteran

Mel-Storrier

Mel Starrier

A vet with a ‘can-do’ spirit

Mel Starrier is a survivor in every sense of the word. Now 97 years old, Mel was 66, semi-retired and living in Etobicoke when he suffered a severe stroke that would change his life.

The stroke affected the left side of his body, leaving him paralyzed with no range of motion and without the use of one hand. His vision and hearing were also affected. Then, to complicate matters, Mel fell and broke his hip during physiotherapy.

“Staying at home was not possible,” recalls his middle son, David, who visits his dad often at the Veterans Centre. “My mother was showing early signs of dementia and was not able to care for Dad. Sunnybrook was the perfect place and it has been his home for the last 29 years.”

Mel was born in Rose- mont-La Petite-Patrie, in the centre-east part of Montreal. In 1939, at the age of 18 and still in high school, he decided to join the army rather than be conscripted. He served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals as a motorcycle dispatch rider delivering messages to the front line and signalman sending Morse code messages. In the summer of 1943, Mel and his unit participated in the Allied invasion of Sicily. Like many veterans, he never spoke openly about the war to his family.

When he returned from the war in 1945, Mel studied at McGill University in Montreal and graduated with a degree in engineering in 1951. It was at McGill that he met his wife, Teresa ‘Lee’ Eileen. During his career as a mining engineer, he ran several companies, working mostly in Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.

Mel has always approached life with a great deal of determination. A lifelong learner, he is a keen reader and frequent visitor to the library at Sunnybrook. Keeping his mind and body as active as possible has been important to him.
Art therapy has provided enjoyment too, and with his “can-do” spirit, he always comes up with new ideas. “I’ve always had a little bit of art in me and I’ve just let it grow,” he says. “It comes naturally to me.”

Mel, who works on his photography as well as with fused glass in the art studio at Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre, has shown that there is indeed a great deal to life after a stroke.

– Sally Fur

Photography by Kevin Van Paassen


The Family Partner

COPELAND_Tom

Tom Copeland

Partners in care

Tom Copeland and his family know more about trauma and critical care at Sunnybrook than they would wish on any other family. Their journey began late in the evening of October 30, 2015, when they learned that their 27-year-old daughter, Brittany, had been involved in a car accident.

Thrown 30 metres from the vehicle, she had sustained atraumatic brain injury. She was rushed to the closest emergency department and then sent by air ambulance to Sunnybrook for specialized care for her complex injuries.
The Copeland family, including Brittany’s partner and 19-month-old daughter, spent the next nine weeks by her side as she fought for her life. At times, the prognosis looked extremely bleak, but she slowly stabilized and began the long road toward recovery.

“Our family was incredibly touched by the exceptional compassion we were shown by the Sunnybrook team,” says Tom. “Brittany was cared for by some of the very best medical minds in the world and we are extremely grateful they were there at the darkest time of our lives.”

Now, as a member of the Patient and Family Partner Program at Sunnybrook, Tom brings his first-hand experience and perspective to the Quality Improvement Committee of Sunnybrook’s Emergency Department.
In this role, Tom helps the committee identify gaps and challenges in the patient experience and advises on improvements.

“My involvement as a Family Partner is a way to express both thanks and appreciation for the incredible effort and care we received at Sunnybrook,” says Tom. “I’m honoured to be able to give something back to the team responsible for saving Brittany’s life.”

– Laurie Legere

Photography by Doug Nicholson


The Music Therapist

Trish MacAulay

Trish MacAulay

Using harmony to heal

Trish MacAulay was a new-to-the-city 22-year-old when she started working at Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre as a freshly minted music therapist.

“I was so excited to get this job,” says Trish. “But then I would think, How can I, at age 22, be the therapist to a 92-year- old with so much life experience and who went through a war?” The answer was music. “We used the music to connect,” she says. “The music became the bridge [for] our age gap.”

Eleven years later, Trish still provides one-on-one and group music therapy sessions at the Veterans Centre. Sessions are individualized to meet residents’ needs and can include, but aren’t limited to, listening to music, singing or songwriting.

“Many of our veterans don’t want to talk about their time in war,” says Trish. “Music can help process loss, anger, sadness and grief. It helps take those feelings and shift them to a better place.”

Trish turned to her guitar to process her own feelings in 2011 when, after working with a therapist as part of a psychotherapy training program, she realized she’s gay. Music supported her as she came out to her then-husband, family and friends and ended her marriage.

“I wrote songs and recorded an album to help me work through my identity crisis,” says Trish. “We all face life hurdles, we all face grief, and it has helped me as a therapist in my work with patients. Music is a catalyst to express those feelings that are too hard to put into words.”

– Alexis Dobranowski

Photography by Kevin Van Paassen

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