Balloons for Drew

Ten-year-old Drew from Niagara Falls is determined to live life to the fullest, despite his medical challenges. The first of these challenges occurred at 38 weeks of pregnancy, when his mom Leianne became concerned that she couldn’t feel Drew kicking any more.

“I knew I had to go to McMaster Children’s Hospital,” explains Leianne, who wanted to be under the care of the hospital’s interdisciplinary specialists. “My daughter had been born there a couple of years earlier and it was a great experience. That’s why we drove an hour to Hamilton instead of going to our local hospital. That decision probably saved Drew’s life.”

Leianne was admitted to the maternity ward for monitoring. The next morning, she began to experience tiny contractions. Drew’s heart rate plummeted with each contraction, only to normalize after the contraction had ended. Feeling that Drew could not withstand having his heart rate drop so low repeatedly, an emergency cesarean section was performed.

“Drew was born with Down syndrome and he spent the first seven days of his life at McMaster Children’s Hospital,” Leianne remembers. “He experienced a host of challenges in that first week, including difficulty breathing, a falling platelet count and jaundice.”

“That decision probably saved Drew’s life.”

Drew went home after being stabilized, but he would continue attending regular appointments with various teams at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) for medical procedures and therapy. Down syndrome has caused cognitive and developmental delays, including low muscle tone that affects his speech and motor skills.

Until he reaches the age of 18, he will continue to visit various clinics at MCH, where he has made friends with many of his care providers.

Leianne is grateful for the support of donors to McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation, which positively impacts Drew’s patient experience.

“Donors are so important in helping to ensure that patients like Drew can keep receiving such amazing care.”

Drew was selected to represent McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation as the 2017 Children’s Miracle Network Champion presented by Walmart. The program unites patient ambassadors from children’s hospitals across Canada for a series of fun activities in Ottawa and Orlando, Florida.

Until June 5, proceeds from the sale of Children’s Miracle Network paper balloon icons at Walmart locations in Hamilton, St. Catharines, the Niagara Region and the store on Fairview Street in Burlington will support McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation and will help enable specialized pediatric care for patients like Drew.

 

Minimizing the stress of surgery

For any child and their family, surgery can be a stressful and scary experience, even if the procedure is a minor one. For Carmen Genuardi-Binns, dental surgery for her son Nolan was terrifying. Nolan has Autism Spectrum Disorder and has trouble communicating verbally.

Nolan is part of a study led by researchers at McMaster Children’s Hospital that is exploring how special accommodations might minimize the stress and trauma that can be associated with surgery for children with autism. The study is led by anaesthesiologist Dr. Amanda Whippey and has just completed its first phase, which included Nolan.

“It would have been a very different and extremely stressful experience for both of us without the special accommodations.”

With this study, special attention is made by all healthcare providers involved in the surgery to ensure the process goes smoothly. The special accommodations provided are dependent on the child’s needs. So, hospital staff work with the family beforehand to understand how to facilitate a more personalized, positive experience. On the day of the surgery, a prioritized booking is provided and a sedation team and child life specialist (CLS) are assigned. When the family arrives, they’re brought to a quiet recovery room to meet the team. The CLS stays with the family until surgery to ensure the parents and child are comfortable and make any changes to the environment that are needed. When it is time for the procedure, the parent and CLS accompany the child to the operating room, then after surgery the child is discharged directly from the recovery room.

“The whole team reviews the child’s triggers (are they sensitive to noise, light, crowds, specific visuals), communication style, whether assistive devices are needed, motivators, how they transition between environments and warning signs of not coping well,” says Christine Lahey, CLS involved in the study. “Knowing all of this information in advance allows us to proactively create an environment where the child will feel most comfortable.”

Finding what’s best for Nolan

In Nolan’s case, Christine explained to Carmen the step-by-step process leading up to surgery. For Carmen, this was crucial because with Nolan being nonverbal, she was his voice and security for the procedure. A pre-sedation was administered to reduce the stress of an unfamiliar environment and allow a nurse to start an IV. Then, when Nolan became drowsy, Christine ensured he was comfortable in bed and recommended to Carmen to sit with him, comfort him and sing to him.

“Being able to enter into the surgery room with Nolan, hold him in my arms and sing to him while they put the mask on him, and as he drifted off, meant so much to me. Plus, having Christine with us, encouraging me, on our way to the OR made me so much stronger. I couldn’t have done it without her!” says Carmen. “Had this not happened, Nolan would have been screaming, crying and terrified. It would have been a very different and extremely stressful experience for both of us without the special accommodations.”

“Eventually, the goal is to make this a permanent service.”

Although the study results are not yet published, Dr. Whippey says, “all 20 cases in the first phase had a positive outcome. There has been 100 per cent support and endorsement of this initiative. Not only from parents, but also from all the health care providers involved including staff from the preop clinic, same day surgery, the operating room, anesthesia and recovery room. Eventually, the goal is to make this a permanent service.”

Dr. Whippey is fulfilling a real need with this service however, to her knowledge there are only two other sites in North America and four sites world-wide that are able to provide it. She hopes to start the second phase of the study over the summer. In the meantime, teams at McMaster Children’s Hospital will continue to provide extra support to children and their families who need it.

Newborn Screening saves lives

When Jessica Koppeser was born, she seemed like a healthy baby. She lost some weight during her hospital stay, but that’s fairly common. After she was discharged, her parents, Julie and Jeff took her to her first well-baby appointment with her family doctor and learned she had lost more weight. Still, the amount wasn’t concerning, so the family went home with instructions to call if anything changed.

On the drive back home, the family received multiple phone calls—both from their family doctor and their team at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) where Jessica was born—telling them to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Thanks to standardized screening tests performed immediately after Jessica was born, they had identified the cause of her weight loss, and it needed to be treated immediately.

“Without that screening, it likely wouldn’t have been caught until she was quite sick,” recalls Julie, remembering how difficult it was to get that news.

Jessica has Tyrosinemia Type 1, a rare genetic condition. Her body doesn’t produce the enzyme needed to break down protein, so harmful by-products quickly build up in her system. Untreated, it can lead to liver failure.

“We feel so lucky. The marker for Jessica’s condition was added to screening just months before she was born,” Julie adds. “We’re so thankful.”

MCH offers screening to infants as part of Newborn Screening Ontario’s program, which aims to identify genetic conditions so they can be treated as early as possible. MCH has been identified by Newborn Screening Ontario as a high performance site in the province, and offers guidance to other hospitals looking to improve their Newborn Screening programs.

“We’re the safety net.”

“We’ve developed some very effective tools to make sure every infant is offered Newborn Screening, and to follow up with those needing attention,” says Wendy Seidlitz, a patient safety specialist in Data Management at MCH. “We’re proud to be considered a provincial leader.”

To enhance the screening program at MCH, Seidlitz and her colleagues have developed electronic tools to identify which patients need follow up, created an online course for clinicians to learn about Newborn Screening, and developed standardized fax templates to communicate with health care partners.

“We’re the safety net. Our clinical teams can focus on taking care of a baby’s immediate needs and know that we are on top of this screening,” Seidlitz notes. “For example when babies born at other hospitals are transferred to us for specialized care. When a baby is born with something very wrong, offering screening isn’t always top priority before they’re transferred, so our team has a process to check on that when they get here.”

Promptly following up with families who receive a positive or uncertain result is equally important.

“Some of these families are receiving results about potentially life-changing conditions.”

“When a result is abnormal, we want to connect with the family as soon as possible to talk about next steps,” says Christina Paradiso, a genetic counsellor at MCH. “Sometimes the baby will require further testing to rule out a condition, other times, we need to start treatment as soon as possible.”

In some cases, including Jessica’s, identifying a genetic condition through Newborn Screening can significantly improve a child’s outcome or even save their life.

“Following a careful process to contact families and other care providers for repeat screening and follow-up counselling is very important,” Paradiso says. “We’re able to make sure results are accurate and help families understand what those results mean as quickly as possible. Some of these families are receiving results about potentially life-changing conditions.”

For Jessica, that meant ensuring she didn’t consume more protein than her body could process. The bubbly now seven-year old has to follow a strict diet and is extra cautious around germs, but her life is otherwise normal.

“When we look back on cases like Jessica’s, it reminds us of how important this work is,” Paradiso says. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our program, and we’re proud of how successful it is.”

 

Hand holding fidget spinner

Fidget spinners: Helpful or harmful?

Haven’t heard of fidget spinners yet? Then you’re one of few.

The small toys have soared in popularity over the past few months. You can find them in convenience stores, class rooms and all corners of the internet. The three pronged gadgets centre on a ball bearing mechanism, that allows them to whir in circles when spun. Many vendors market them as therapeutic—a way to deter hyperactivity or anxiety.

Lisa White, an occupational therapist in the Child & Youth Mental Health Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital, says the concept isn’t new, but she has noticed a rise in popularity among this particular type.

“Manipulating a tool discretely in their hands can be soothing.”

“Fidget tools have always been a pretty popular self-regulation or grounding strategy, especially amongst children and youth,” White says. “Fidget spinners are a type of fidget tool, and in the last few months, it seems like they’re becoming more widely used among young people.”

As an occupational therapist, White helps patients find ways to fully engage in meaningful activities, like school or hobbies. For youth with mental health challenges, like anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, this process can involve overcoming thoughts that overwhelm their ability to concentrate.

When experiencing anxiety, someone may become more restless or fidgety. This can get in the way of daily functioning, and even lead them to avoid situations or tasks that make them feel most anxious. By channelling this restlessness into a focused activity like using a fidget tool, they may be soothed at least to the point that they are able to focus on the task at hand.

“Fidget tools in general are meant to support users in their efforts to self-soothe and self-regulate,” White says. “Manipulating a tool discretely in their hands can be soothing, and help them remain focused and engaged in an activity.”

“Use solutions that work for what you need to do, instead of opting for the latest trends.”

Not everyone is a fan of fidget spinners. Some schools have gone as far as to ban them, saying they’re a distraction in the classroom. White says, if used improperly, they can be a negative influence.

“If a user becomes engrossed in the fidget tool activity to the point that they’re unable to concentrate on the task at hand, it can be counterproductive for the user, and even distracting to those around them.”

White says simple solutions, like an elastic band around your wrist, may be just as effective as fidget spinners.

“Use solutions that work for what you need to do, instead of opting for the latest trends,” she suggests. “It’s best to choose a fidget tool that is effective as well as discrete and not overly distracting.”

She recommends consulting with an occupational therapist to determine what kind of stimulation or strategy is needed, and whether a fidget tool is the right solution.

Faces of HHS: Stephanie Beverley

Stephanie Beverley is a certified child life specialist in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH). She has worked at Hamilton Health Sciences for four years.

Favourite colour: Purple/ book: currently reading puppy training books/ vacation spot: a quiet cottage on the lake in northern Ontario/ music: all music/ animal: dog/ food: Thai food or ice cream/ Holiday: Christmas

child life, Child life specialist, McMaster Children’s Hospital, medical play, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, PICU, Stephanie Beverley

What made you enter your field of work?
I have always had a interest in working in a field related to both children and health care. Growing up as a sibling of a hospitalized child, I learned first-hand the psychosocial impact that health care has on children. When I discovered the field of Child Life, something clicked inside and I knew that I had found my dream job.

“When I discovered the field of Child Life, something clicked inside and I knew that I had found my dream job.”

What do you love most about your job?
I love watching children grow and discover strengths within themselves. It is so rewarding to see them be as proud of themselves as we are of them when they succeed at a goal that they have been working towards.

I feel unbelievable lucky to be one of the many sidekicks that travel with a family during some of the most difficult times of their lives. Working in the PICU, children often require many lines and tubes to deliver their critical treatment; finding a way to play amidst all of that is downright magical!

child life, Child life specialist, McMaster Children’s Hospital, medical play, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, PICU, Stephanie Beverley

What do you wish you had more time for at work?
Medical play. “Medical play” is allowing children to learn about their health care experiences, by safely using real medical equipment in play to reduce stress and promote a sense of mastery and control over their environment. Medical play is sometimes used with a specific education topic in mind, for instance if a child life specialist is preparing a child for a test or procedure. However, I wish I had time for more of the type of medical play that is solely child driven – there is no specific topic to teach, no end goal, no time constraint, other than to promote positive coping with treatment and have children show us their perceptions and feelings about their hospitalization and correct any misconceptions along the way.

child life, Child life specialist, McMaster Children’s Hospital, medical play, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, PICU, Stephanie Beverley

What do you do after work to unwind?
Cook! I love to cook and bake and test out new recipes of all different types – which often leads to goodies left in the office for all to share. Going for a walk after dinner in our quiet neighbourhood or sitting outside are a great way to end the day.

“It is wonderful to see families become empowered when “the impossible” is thrown at them.”

When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react?
I am sure many health care professionals working in pediatrics can relate to the response that I often get. After hearing that I am a child life specialist at a children’s hospital and specifically in the PICU, I am usually met with a sad face and hear “That is so sad”. People often don’t realize that there are MANY more happy days than sad ones.

Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.
I think it is impossible to narrow it down to just one. It is wonderful to see families become empowered when “the impossible” is thrown at them. Many families come to visit or turn around months or years later to give back to the MCH community, so that other children benefit from the same positive experiences in hospital that they did.

child life, Child life specialist, McMaster Children’s Hospital, medical play, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, PICU, Stephanie Beverley

 

Touching moments for NICU moms

Sheri is spending her first Mother’s Day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at McMaster Children’s Hospital with her daughter Jayden. Born 15 weeks premature on April 24th, Jayden weighs just one pound, six ounces. The NICU isn’t where Sheri envisioned spending her first holiday as a mom, but she’s focused on bonding with her daughter. She’s enjoying ‘Kangaroo time’ with Jayden—it’s a chance for them to connect skin-to-skin, which has many benefits for both parents and their babies.

“I love it. It feels nice that I get to have her on me and be close to her,” Sheri says. “She’s way more calm and she seems to be happy when she’s on my skin.”

“Mother’s Day in the NICU is no different, however our NICU mamas are in a unique circumstance.”

Staff in the NICU promote skin-to-skin contact because it helps to regulate babies’ vital signs and gives parents a sense of purpose and normalcy in a challenging hospital environment. On Mother’s Day, that normalcy is even more important.

“Mother’s Day is all about recognizing and celebrating the limitless love and kindness that a mother gives day after day,” says Ashley Crawford, a registered nurse in the NICU. “Mother’s Day in the NICU is no different, however our NICU mamas are in a unique circumstance as they celebrate in the NICU. Mothers who have babies in the NICU are fiercely dedicated to their little ones.”

Crawford says that skin-to-skin contact helps NICU moms feel less helpless. There is a lot of uncertainty in the NICU, and parents can’t do all the things they would with their baby at home. Skin-to-skin lets them bond with their baby and contribute to their well-being.

“It makes me feel more involved. Otherwise, you can feel pretty helpless.”

Nicole tries to spend at least a couple hours skin-to-skin every day with her eight day old daughter, Jocelyn.



“It’s one of the only things I can do so it’s a high priority,” Nicole says. “It calms her right down. She doesn’t move, her heartrate steadies and her oxygen levels go up. It makes me feel more involved. Otherwise, you can feel pretty helpless.”

Nicole and Sheri both feel mixed about spending Mother’s Day in the NICU, but they’re glad to be close to their tiny little girls.

To help recognize Mother’s Day on the unit, Crawford made special cards for each baby to share with their mom. She says it’s a small way she can help families celebrate an important milestone in a difficult circumstance.



“For some of these families, they’re taking things day by day, even hour by hour, so it’s important for us to pause and take time to recognize this day,” Crawford says. “These moms are relentlessly selfless and nurturing beyond words. It’s a privilege for us to celebrate them with cuddles, crafts and a whole lot of love.”

BLOG: Government commitment brings hospital redevelopment one step closer

By Rob MacIsaac

Last week our community received some very good news in the provincial budget. The government’s capital spending plan for hospitals over the next 10 years now includes the major redevelopment of Hamilton Health Sciences.

We’ll be one of five hospital systems in Ontario to share in a newly-pledged $9 billion for renewal and rebuilding, and our proposal is the largest of the bunch. Hamilton Health Sciences is recommending changes that will transform the way we provide care – and although there is still much planning and discussion ahead, this early commitment by the government is a tremendous vote of confidence in the direction we’re pursuing

Two years ago, Hamilton Health Sciences began developing a 20-year vision for the future of our organization. Late in 2016, with the input of patients and families, service partners, our staff and physicians, as well as the public at large, we made a series of bold recommendations to the provincial government.

This includes redeveloping existing facilities and designing new ones to improve our reach in the communities we serve. We are also thinking long-term about the growing significance of our many specialty programs, in terms of local economic stimulus, provincial health care planning and global research impact.

This includes redeveloping existing facilities and designing new ones to improve our reach in the communities we serve.

Hamilton Health Sciences’ specialty programs are among the highest  quality, and highest volume in Ontario. People travel province-wide to Hamilton to receive the care we provide for cancer, pediatrics, neurosurgery, rehabilitation, burns, stroke, trauma, cardiology and vascular. 

We foresee a need to cluster these programs at our Hamilton General and Juravinski campuses, in order to maintain the best patient experience and to ensure fast access to emerging, high-cost medical technologies. We propose to build a new Children’s and Women’s Hospital at the General campus and to relocate programs at St. Peter’s Hospital to new, custom-built space at the Juravinski campus. The West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby would also be rebuilt on its existing site, with a focus community medicine and day surgery.

These changes would create a new platform for our hospital care, designed for the next generation of patients and families, health care needs and medical technologies.

we’re going to need 50 per cent more hospital space than we occupy today

This plan does mean major change – positive change that will allow us to increase the number of beds we have and the number of people we can serve. We know we’re going to need 50 per cent more hospital space than we occupy today because of population growth and the need to enhance privacy, accessibility and infection control standards. This investment will be significant and that’s why we’re so grateful to know that Hamilton Health Sciences is in the Government of Ontario’s queue for capital funding to support our redevelopment.

Hamilton Health Sciences is also working hard with community partners to design ways  to prevent people from needing hospital care in the first place.

However, robust hospital services are only part of our vision. Hamilton Health Sciences is also working hard with community partners to design ways  to prevent people from needing hospital care in the first place.

Today, many of our patients come to the hospital for care not because of medical issues, but as a result of social circumstances. If you don’t have a roof over your head, nutritious food to eat or a family member to catch you when you fall, you are very likely to become a frequent user of hospital services. This is a particular problem in Hamilton’s urban core, where hospital usage is the highest of any city area in Ontario.

Hamilton’s unique health determinants, combined with the impact across Canada of aging and an accompanying rise in the incidence of chronic disease, means that business as usual will not be good enough to meet the needs of this community. Hamilton Health Sciences’ plan is a careful balance between reimagined facilities and community-based services that will create the best health services for the people we serve.

I am tremendously proud of our teams at Hamilton Health Sciences, and the care we provide to people and families from our local communities and from across Ontario. Last week’s announcement brings us one step closer to securing that care for generations to come.

Faces of HHS: Zeb Demaiter

Zeb Demaiter is a social worker in the Child and Youth Mental Health Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital. He has worked at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for seven years.

Favourite colour: Green/ book: Flowers for Algernon/ vacation spot: the cottage/ music: whatever my kids are listening to these days – so right now, Turkey Rhubarb is my band/ animal: The Liger/ food: gourmet donuts/ holiday: Christmas!

Tell us about your first day at HHS.
On my first day at HHS I was greeted by a new co-worker with a warm hug and a sign welcoming me to my desk! This was the first of many expressions of the welcoming and inclusive environment that I work in at HHS. I often think of this moment as being representative of the type of place at which I’d like to work.

Child and Youth Mental Health, Faces of HHS., McMaster Children’s Hospital, mental health, social work, social worker, Zeb Demaiter

What do you love most about your job?
What I most love about my work is being given the opportunity to support young people and their families through some of the most challenging times in their life. Although this isn’t always a comfortable place to be, it inevitably is a place where movement towards change in the lives of the people with whom I work is most likely to happen. Helping people through this time of change is always a unique and challenging experience that keeps what I do feeling fresh and new every day.

“I find great satisfaction in trying to grow food wherever I can.”

What do you do after work to unwind?
I grew up in rural Southwestern Ontario and now live in urban Hamilton. So, probably because of my rural roots, I find great satisfaction in trying to grow food wherever I can. Now that spring is here I’m itching to get back into my garden and start a new crop of urban fruits and veggies!

Child and Youth Mental Health, Faces of HHS., McMaster Children’s Hospital, mental health, social work, social worker, Zeb DemaiterWhat do you eat to keep you energized at work?
I used to be known as the guy who’d eat anything at work, and probably still am a bit! Over the past few years I’ve been trying to make healthier and more balanced food choices and have found that his really impacts my energy at the office.

Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.
One of the most gratifying moments in recent memory was when I was working with the father of a young person with whom he had been having difficulty speaking. The father was trying so hard to reach out to his child but having little effect in making a connection with him. Then, after some hard work on the parent’s part of thinking through what was getting in the way of him being able to speak with his son, the parent was able to leave our session with a renewed hope and some new skills that helped him feel like he might actually be able to create a change in his relationship with his child. Being able to witness these moments of change are truly inspiring and energizing events for me.


What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a soon to be father of 4! In October my family will, with lots of excitement, be welcoming a fourth child into our home. This growing family of mine has made the work I do with families so much more personal, and given me a whole new perspective on how challenging and rewarding parenting can be.

McMaster Children’s Hospital pilots new autism intervention

A change in their son

As a baby, Gavin was smiley and enjoyed playtime with his older brother. His speech developed early and his vocabulary quickly grew to include over 30 words. As he got older he stopped talking. It became difficult for his parents and siblings to communicate with him, and his mom Kara felt like his personality was slipping away.

“He was going backwards, which was really hard to watch,” she recalls.

Gavin was diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) just before his third birthday. His doctor referred him to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Service at McMaster Children’s Hospital’s (MCH) Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre. After receiving his diagnosis, Gavin’s parents were excited to learn about a new opportunity designed for kids his age.

A new opportunity

The Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services had recently selected MCH to pilot a new intervention for toddlers with social communication challenges—an early sign of ASD. In December, Gavin and his family became one of the first participants in the Social ABCs program, developed by Jessica Brian of the University of Toronto and Susan Bryson of Dalhousie University. The family was paired with Chantelle Shaver, Social ABCs program coordinator at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre, who made visits to the family’s home to work with them on communication goals.

“We’re teaching parents to be contingent.”

“The main goals are to teach the child how to use language to communicate and to encourage sharing of positive emotion through smiles and eye contact,” Shaver says. “We are teaching the parents how to achieve these goals with their children.”

The program involves 12 weeks of home-based intervention. Each week, a parent coach guides the family through a module that’s meant to help the child develop social and communication skills through motivational and behaviour strategies.

“We are focused on empowering parents to help their children towards their verbal goals,” Shaver notes. “By giving them these skills, they are able to continue progressing after the 12 week intervention concludes.”

Focus on vocal

Over the course of the program, Kara learned how to engage with Gavin so he’s more likely to give a vocal response. He enjoys movement activities like jumping on his trampoline and playing in his tunnel. When she plays with him, he vocalizes, asking her to continue.


“When I prompt him during the tunnel game, he’s able to vocalize to me that he wants me to keep going,” Kara says. “I wait until I get that vocal cue before I keep playing. He’s learned that when he vocalizes, he gets that reward.”

“The program gave us the tools we need to keep going in this direction.”

“We’re teaching parents to be contingent,” Shaver notes. “If we prompt the child vocally, we expect them to respond vocally. We’re reinforcing that when they make an intentional attempt to vocalize —whether that’s by making a noise or using a word—they get the reward.”

Still making progress

Gavin’s 12 week session wrapped up in March, and since then, his family has continued to work through the strategies with him. They spend time on it every day and are seeing ongoing improvements.

“The program gave us the tools we need to keep going in this direction,” Kara says. “We’re really happy with the progress.”

Gavin has started vocalizing to his siblings when he wants them to stop touching his toys. He is also starting to use some words—night night, cracker, Caillou—he enjoys saying hard “C” sounds. His babbling has increased and he is making eye contact more frequently. Beyond the progress in his communication, his family has enjoyed discovering more of his personality through the curriculum.

“I’m learning more about what he likes and dislikes,” Kara says. “It’s nice to connect with him.”

Since the Social ABCs program launched at MCH in December, 22 families have started the intervention. The pilot will continue for three years, at which point the Ministry will decide whether to expand it to other sites in Ontario.

HHS nurse encourages colleagues to get screened

Sharing her wisdom with fellow staff

Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) nurse Dawn Scales has a message to share with women ages 50-plus who consider themselves at low risk of developing breast cancer.

“Make time for free mammograms through the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), even if you feel perfectly healthy, have no symptoms and no family history of the disease,” says Dawn, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit transport nurse at McMaster Children’s Hospital who was diagnosed with breast cancer in August, 2015.

During the month of April, Scales shared her story with HHS staff at six hospital sites during lunchtime sessions organized by Shine Wellness in partnership with the Regional Cancer Program and CIBC Breast Assessment Centre.

“I feel very strongly about reaching out to other women and encouraging them to take part in the OBSP,” says Scales, 58. “Through mammography, women can find breast cancer in its early stages, when it’s easier to treat.”

“Life is busy, and because I didn’t think breast cancer was an issue for me I allowed several years to pass between screenings.”

The OBSP offers free screening mammograms to women aged 50 to 74 with no signs of breast cancer. It’s recommended that these women get a mammogram every two years since early detection through mammography can result in significant health benefits including increased treatment options and better survival rates.

What if she had kept waiting?

“Although I’m a nurse, breast health isn’t my field and I didn’t realize that most women with breast cancer have no family history,” Scales noted to staff at the sessions. “I considered myself at very low risk because no one in my family had ever been diagnosed.”

She also ate well, exercised regularly and maintained a healthy body weight. “I even breastfed my three children, and research shows that breastfeeding protects against breast cancer.”

“If I had waited longer for my mammogram, the outcome could have been much worse.”

Her first mammogram at age 51 showed no signs of cancer. But instead of returning two years later for another screening, she waited five years until booking her next appointment. “Life is busy, and because I didn’t think breast cancer was an issue for me I allowed several years to pass between screenings.”

It was her second mammogram, in 2015, that found breast cancer in its early stages. “I’m so grateful that it was caught early. If I had waited longer for my mammogram, the outcome could have been much worse.”

The hardest part about being diagnosed was telling her family. “But because my cancer was caught so early, at least I could tell them I expected to be okay.”

Recovered, and spreading the screening message

Dawn was treated with surgery and radiation at Juravinski Hospital & Cancer Centre. “I recovered quickly from surgery and did well through radiation treatments,” says Scales, who credits her healthy lifestyle for helping with treatment and recovery, along with the excellent care she received from her healthcare team.

For more information on the OBSP, including locations right here at HHS, please visit hnhbscreenforlife.ca

 

Faces of HHS: Dr. Alan Taniguchi

Dr. Alan Taniguchi is a Palliative Care Physician who is currently based at Juravinski Hospital & Cancer Centre. He has also worked extensively at McMaster Children’s Hospital and St. Peter’s Hospital. He has been with the Hamilton Health Sciences family of hospitals for 25 years.

Favourite Colour: Blue – the colour of ocean and sky. Timothy Findley once wrote that “blue is the colour of hope”/Book: So many great books!  Maybe Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess/ Vacation spot:  Portugal – the first time my siblings and I took a holiday together as adults, departing from 4 different Canadian cities to rendezvous in Lisbon/ Music:   Misa Criolla (Agnus Dei) by Jose Carreras/ Animal:  Horse/ Food:   My mom’s udon:  Japanese noodles in a clear, dark broth, flavoured with soy sauce and mirin, topped with a sprinkle of green onions and a thin, half-moon slice of kamaboko/ Holiday:  Christmas – a time of year where life, if only momentarily, quiets down and we think of world peace.

dr alan taniguchi, Faces of HHS., hamilton health sciences, Juravinski Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, palliative care, Palliative Care Physician, St. Peter’s Hospital

What do you love most about your job?
I love hearing patients’ life stories – how they met their spouses; how they forged a life despite adversity; their joys, their sorrows; what they’ve learned along the journey.  Having intimate, heartfelt conversations with patients about their disappointments and hopes and about what they want for their time remaining is special.   These conversations unfortunately are not commonplace in our health care system, yet it is through such conversations that perhaps suffering can be eased and healing can occur.

dr alan taniguchi, Faces of HHS., hamilton health sciences, Juravinski Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, palliative care, Palliative Care Physician, St. Peter’s Hospital

The challenging days at work are ones where the system gets in the way of providing quality care to patients and families.

Describe one of your most challenging days at work.
The challenging days at work are ones where the system gets in the way of providing quality care to patients and families.  Days where patients are lying on stretchers in hallways, awaiting beds on the ward; while other patients are being abruptly discharged when they may not be quite ready; where staff are working short under high degrees of stress; where policies and procedures do not truly support best care but must be adhered to; where wait times for investigations are long and where resources are limited; where one more form needs to be completed before anything happens.  In some ways, every day is challenging for these types of reasons.  The worst days feel like we are swimming upstream, when everything requires effort just to provide the basic care that patients need – when it’s difficult to find calm amongst the chaos.

dr alan taniguchi, Faces of HHS., hamilton health sciences, Juravinski Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, palliative care, Palliative Care Physician, St. Peter’s Hospital

What do you wish you had more time for in your job?
The joke on our palliative care consultation team is that we never have time for ice cream!   Oftentimes there seems to be limited time to invest in effective collaboration:  communicating with colleagues; engaging in shared decision-making; providing one another with mutual support.  The best collaborative efforts require clinicians to intentionally spend time working with one another.

Finding a CURE: engaging students to improve research

Increasing research capacity without compromising care

Building a culture where research is intertwined with daily clinical activities requires improvements in efficiency as well as innovation. Research activities cannot compromise clinical care or limit the number of patients a team can support. In search of a productive marriage between the two, Mandy Rickard, a pediatric nurse practitioner and researcher in Pediatric Urology at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH), sought out a creative solution to support her team’s growing workload.

“It was hard to maintain our research activity. We needed to find a better system.”

“We were working so hard to increase the amount of research we were doing as our patient volumes also continued to increase,” Rickard recalls. “We were collecting data from patients in our clinics, then inputting it in the evenings. It was hard to maintain our research activity. We needed to find a better system.”

Patient volumes in the Pediatric Urology service at MCH have increased steadily over the last number of years and it now cares for roughly 7000 patients each year. Led by Dr. Luis Braga, director of the McMaster Pediatric Surgery Research Collaborative, the group’s research output has also expanded. Both demands outpaced the capacity of the small team. Reducing patient volumes was, for obvious reasons, not an acceptable solution, but the prospect of cutting back on research projects was also not ideal. The clinical research conducted by this team has a direct impact on patient care and allows them to provide better assessment, management and surveillance of pediatric urology conditions.

Tapping into young talent

Rickard looked to a volunteer model used at Sick Kids hospital in Toronto to support their research. She and her team created a partnership with McMaster University, and developed the Clinical Urology Research Enterprise (CURE) Program. Students from the university help to collect and input data, a simple but time-consuming process. They are able to gain valuable practical experience, and the clinical team can focus its attention on providing exceptional patient care, while moving research projects forward.

“I have learned a tremendous amount on the various processes involved in clinical research,” notes Deion D’Souza, a CURE volunteer who has been involved in the program for two years. “It has equipped me with transferable skills and clinical knowledge that I could not have gained anywhere else.”

“We’re also helping to build a new generation of health research experts, and that’s important.”

A win-win situation

“It’s a win-win,” says Rickard. “We’re really making a name for ourselves. As a group, we’ve doubled the number of research abstracts we’ve submitted to conferences. The student volunteers gain important experience, and patient care improves as well.”

With funding from HHS Research Administration and the Department of Pediatric Surgery, the CURE Program was recently able to establish an office space with equipment and computers for volunteers.

“This partnership is improving current research, and will benefit research as a whole in the future,” says Katie Porter, director of research administration at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). “The CURE Program is engaging our community, enhancing our research productivity, and impacting the lives of our patients. We’re also helping to build a new generation of health research experts, and that’s important.”