Even the greatest challenges haven’t stopped Unity Health community members from showing compassion and empathy to patients and colleagues. Here, we’re shining a light on some of the wonderful stories of kindness we’ve heard from staff, physicians and volunteers that capture the spirit of Unity Health Toronto:

Got a story of kindness to share? Email us at Communications@unityhealth.to

Answering the call of an urgent email

Jiten Jani, the in-patient pharmacy lead at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, happened to check his email one weekend when he noticed a message marked “urgent.” The email said one of Unity Health’s community partners was looking to find vaccines for a group of Afghan refugees who’d recently arrived in Canada. They were required to get the vaccines by public health and without them the younger children would face delays going to school. Jiten knew the pharmacy team had to help however it could, and after checking what St. Joe’s had in stock, the team made sure the required vaccines were safely on their way to the families.

“We don’t usually supply these sort of vaccines to community partners, but given the circumstances we needed to step in and help them out. We treat everyone.”

Survivor song

Michelle McTaggart, a registered nurse in the ICU at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, was part of a team that cared for many COVID-19 patients during the height of the second wave. One patient she cared for in the ICU at this time, like others, had to be intubated. After a few weeks, the patient’s condition improved and they no longer needed the ventilator. When it came time for staff to remove it, Michelle and her colleagues wanted to make the moment more meaningful, so they arranged to have the Destiny’s Child song “Survivor” playing over the intercom in the negative pressure room so the patient could hear it.

“It was a moment of lightness amid some difficult times, as a lot of our COVID patients weren’t doing so well,” Michelle said. “Just as much as this was a win for the patient, it was a win for the whole team to see the patient survive this battle and be extubated.”

Going above and beyond for a son

Donald Brown, a visitor screener at Providence Healthcare, took extra steps to make sure a visitor was able to see their elderly father. The visitor was trying to book an appointment to see their father, who was admitted to Providence on the weekend. Due to weekend staffing and the visitor protocols at the time, the visitor was likely going to have to wait until Monday to see his dad. So Donald went up to the patient’s floor to speak with staff and secure approval for a visit that weekend. 

“I understood where he was coming from and his concern for his family, because family is everything to me,” said Donald. “With this pandemic, we have had a lot of isolation from not being able to see friends or family. I take upon it myself to help try and ease some of that. It was my pleasure to show him that there are people out here who do care and do want to help.”

A special letter to help a patient in need

Alyson Martinez, a registered dietitian at St. Michael’s Hospital, found a way to help a patient secure life-sustaining formula. Alyson first started working with this patient’s family four years ago, shortly after the family arrived in Canada. The patient has a feeding tube and due to their medical complexities, the patient could only receive one specific type of formula. Previously, the St. Michael’s team had arranged for the patient be provided with the formula at no cost through an agreement with the manufacturer. But when the patient was told they were losing their free access to it, Alyson had to get creative. She reached out to the patient’s care providers and helped draft a letter to the company, asking them to reconsider the case. The letter was signed by 15 caregivers from St. Michael’s Hospital, SickKids and Holland Bloorview Hospital. The company eventually changed its decision, and the patient continues to receive the formula they need.

“If you’re providing care to medically complex children, you have to step up and explore every option on the table and advocate for what they need,” Alyson said.

The bonding power of plants

Dina McGovern, a Unity Health volunteer, developed a special routine with a patient in the palliative care unit at St. Michael’s Hospital. The first time she met the patient, Dina noticed she had several flower arrangements in her room. She offered to change the water and rearrange them and the patient accepted. Soon enough it became a weekly routine, where every Thursday Dina would freshen up the patient’s flowers and plants while they chatted.

“It became my thing with her. She would tell the nurses not to do them, that I would be in on Thursday and I would do them for her,” Dina said. “Even if she wasn’t feeling up to it, she knew that I was there and we would talk about her flowers and her plants, and whatever else. She knew that there was another person in the room.”

Got a story of kindness to share? Email us at Communications@unityhealth.to

By: Marlene Leung