Monday, August 22, 2011
Watch this week's video on YouTube
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve done it. As a former reporter, and a busy mother of two, there always seemed to be a reason to be on my phone in the car. Setting up interviews, booking appointments and the list goes on and on. So many reasons to be instantly available, and yet, the only one that really matters doesn’t support the theory at all: staying alive.
Ontario’s ban on using electronic devices while driving was a wake up call to the facts: that using a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel drunk and dramatically reduces reaction time. It’s like that old game of drawing imaginary circles on your stomach while patting your head and jumping up and down on one foot. Juggle too many balls, and inevitably, one (or more) will drop.
Case in point, Constable Keith Ingram cites a London-based study that found on a daily basis, two pedestrians there either end up in the trauma unit or die because they were using their cell phones. Two a day! They walk into mailboxes, street poles or moving traffic because they are distracted. “If we can’t walk while using a cell phone we certainly can’t drive while using a cell phone,” he says. “At some point we have to say, how important are these calls to us? Are they worth dying for?”
My vote is a definite “no”, and have changed my ways since the provincial legislation was introduced. My phone now stays in my purse until I turn off the ignition. Funny thing is, all my work is still getting done and all those appointments are still being booked. Go figure, life goes on! Andmaking sure I’m part of it is really the point.
Learn about Sunnybrook’s RBC First Office for Injury Prevention.
Visit sunnybrook.ca/labourday and tweet with the hashtag #SafeLabourDayChoices to spread awareness about injury prevention this long weekend.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Watch this week's video on YouTube
The morning I spent at Kate Robson’s home was about as normal as you can get. Showered and ready by 7 AM when I arrived, she made her way to the kitchen to wash up blueberries to add to the cereal and oatmeal of her two young daughters, Maggie and Grace. The banter was sweet, sprinkled with reminders to please sit nicely while you eat, while the girls giggled over knock-knock jokes. Kate’s husband darted in and out of the room, grabbing toast and preparing for the day himself. As I filmed quietly in the corner of room, it was hard to imagine how a family scene so serene could have had such a dramatic beginning.
Maggie, now 6, was born a preemie at just 25 weeks. Grace, now 3, was also born premature at 33 weeks. Kate remembers well how touch and go those times were, and how emotionally draining it was to live, quite literally, on the edge two times over. One particularly bad day, Kate emotionally recalled how unclear Maggie’s survival would be. “I met a mom whose baby had been through a very similar story, but a few weeks before, and her baby was now doing really well. In that moment, she changed my life. She made me feel that it was OK to hope.”
Hope prevailed, and Kate and her husband felt compelled to pay it forward. They both started volunteering with Sunnybrook in 2006. Four years later, she would read a unique posting that tweaked her interest for obvious reasons: “Calling all moms and dads! Sunnybrook is searching for the perfect parent to join its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).” With a Masters in adult education under her belt, and her strong connection to the NICU, Kate was a natural fit. Call her Sunnybrook’s first official professional parent.
“Being in the NICU, it’s hard to imagine that life can look different. And I think it’s really important for parents to imagine that the future can look quite bright,” Kate told me. “Your baby is not going to be an NICU baby forever, you will leave this place and there will be joy in your life. But it’s hard to imagine that unless you have someone to talk to.”
And talk she does, to dozens of parents and families each week, offering advice, support and connections at a time when isolation can overwhelm. First-time mom Farzana Rahmaty, whose daughter was born at just under 2 pounds, called Kate her light through the fog. “She definitely holds your hand and helps guide you.” Kate also produces a newsletter, organizes events for parents who often spend months in the NICU, and delivers a special gift package. “When a baby comes early, parents can often feel the experience has been stolen from them. You often don’t do prenatal classes and a baby shower is fraught with anxiety. For a lot of our families, this is the first baby gift they get.”
But the best part of the gift, in my opinion, is the message Kate offers with it: “You’re a parent, you have a baby, so celebrate.”
For more information on Sunnybrook’s NICU, click here.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Watch this week's video on YouTube
Freiderich Duerr spent the bulk of his career surrounded by laughter. He worked as the hairdresser for The Royal Canadian Air Farce for years, and from his friendly demeanor, it’s no stretch to see him as part of the comedic landscape. An avid entertainer himself (albeit on the homefront) Freiderich was always hosting parties and serving up favorite cocktails. But when he received the news that he had prostate cancer, all the joy came to a screeching halt.
Like anyone in his shoes, Freiderich carefully considered his options, eventually opting for radiation therapy at Sunnybrook. Radiation can be an effective and relatively non-invasive way to treat men, and candidates are typically older and not fit for surgery. But it is time consuming. Freiderich’s treatment was once daily, Monday to Friday, for eight weeks. As one oncologist explained, the fatigue many men experience with radiation may have a lot to do with having to face their cancer so physically day in and day out. Radiation works on the principle of energy damaging the DNA of cancer cells, and is done daily to achieve that goal while allowing healthy cells to repair in the meantime.
A few weeks ago, I followed Freiderich through one of his treatments, which took about ten minutes top to bottom. After changing into a hospital gown, he was positioned on the treatment table while the machine was loaded with the proper coordinates. Then, a series of beams zapped the areas needing treatment. All done, until the next day anyway. Despite the daily grind, Freiderich told me he was “very pleased” with his treatment, and even more so with the people helping him through it. He had even started cooking his favorite dishes for Sunnybrook staff. I little bit of joy was seeping back.
Having just completed his course of treatment last week, Freiderich is now hoping to focus back on the fun parts of his life again. Gardening, cooking and time with friends. What better way to celebrate getting to the end of long hard road? Wishing you all the best Freiderich!
For more information on all types of radiation therapy, check out my full patient education video on radiation therapy.