Local stories showcase amazing work done by Haldimand War Memorial Hospital staff, need for continued support

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

DUNNVILLE—The hard work and unwavering support of the team at Dunnville’s Haldimand War Memorial Hospital (HWMH) is at the core of so many amazing stories of recovery, of lives saved, and of families pulling through challenging times in our community. Despite this, it can be easy to take their dependable presence in our lives for granted. 

During this holiday season, it is important to reflect on that vital work. The Press, working with Dunnville Healthcare and Hospital Foundation (DHHF), is proud to share two stories highlighting these astonishing efforts from our local healthcare professionals.

Jane and Darryl Stevens

For Darryl Stevens, September 3 started out like any other Labour Day weekend. Coming in around 5:30 p.m. after some yard work, he found his wife Jane sitting on the couch, looking unwell.

“She’s had a stroke before so that was the first thing I checked. I determined it wasn’t a stroke and I got on the phone and called 911,” recalled Darryl. “Very shortly the ambulance showed up and took her to the ER. This was around 6. They examined her and did a CT scan and determined that her spleen had ruptured, and she was bleeding internally.”

He continued, “They told me, ‘She’s very, very sick’, and then they told me, ‘She’s critical’. I don’t think I grasped how serious things were.”

HWMH staff physician Dr. Stavrou was on-hand, near the tail end of his day shift. He would end up staying until 9 p.m., well after the end of his shift, to ensure Jane was taken care of and that plans were in place to transport her via air ambulance to a hospital in St. Catharines, where she would go on to receive emergency surgery from a surgical team that was prepped and ready to go the minute she landed.

Darryl recalled his amazement at the work of the team taking care of his wife: “Because of the blood loss, they were giving her blood … (and) even the lab staff was bringing down blood. She ended up getting a total of 10 units of blood because of the loss from the spleen rupturing…. During this time there was a transition from day shift to night shift … (and) their turnover was like clockwork. It was excellent.”

“I could have been planning a celebration of life instead of a celebration of saving a life,” said Darryl on the successful combined efforts of the teams at HWMH, Ornge air ambulance service, and St. Catharines. “Had we not the equipment and the facilities, it would have been a different story.”

He expressed thanks to the community that supports HWMH through the fundraising efforts of DHHF, adding, “From what I understand, the government does not fund equipment. Maybe people don’t realize that.”

He concluded, “They didn’t just save Jane’s life. They saved the life of a wife, they saved the life of a mother, a grandmother, and a sister. Jane holds all those positions…. Had it not been for their quick actions and their thoroughness, she wouldn’t be here.”

Jane called the care she received excellent, adding, “Nobody knows when themselves or a family member or even a close friend could use that service.” She encouraged everyone to “do your part” in supporting the hospital to ensure that care continues.

For Penny Banks, Executive Director of DHHF, fundraising for HWMH is all in a day’s work. 

“I have the absolute pleasure of collaborating with foundation staff, volunteers, and board members to encourage philanthropy in our incredible little town,” she explained. “We strive to provide memorable events and share compelling donor stories that show how important our hospital is to our community. Our goal is to raise enough funds each year to cover the cost of the most important equipment needed to continue to care for all of us.”

  Holding the position since September 2020, Banks said DHHF takes time to thank every donor, whether they contribute $20 or $300,000: “I have been blessed to see the unbelievable commitment from this community. The pride we all share in our hospital is very contagious!”

  Banks shared her own story of how HWMH has helped her deal with a serious medical condition. 

“I began having back pain quite some time ago and assumed my back was getting sore with age. It would often subside, and I would go months or more without any pain,” she said. With time, however, she found the pain wasn’t subsiding but was getting worse. Throughout the pandemic, Banks said she felt guilty about wasting her family doctor’s time with what she considered ‘trivial’ issues, but eventually she found herself at the ER.  

After a few x-rays and a CT scan, it became apparent the issue was more serious than Banks could have guessed. 

“I learned that there is a disc protrusion, which is displacing the S1 nerve root. It’s when the spaces between the bones that make up your spinal cord (called your vertebrae) get narrow. This can put pressure on those bones and on the nerves that run from your spine to your arms and legs. It happens most often in your lower back or neck. There is also severe neural exit foraminal stenosis at the L5-S1 level caused by osteophyte encroachment, aka bone spurs.”

  She described her patient experience: “The nurses and the doctors have always been thorough with my care. They are kind and genuinely make you feel like they care. The kindness is important, especially given the circumstances they are under in our healthcare system with such a shortage of staff.”

She said the knowledge she gained about her condition was a game changer, adding, “I was able to pinpoint exactly what the triggers were that were causing the flare ups. The emergency doctor also suggested physiotherapy and an osteopath. The change, while not immediate, was incredible. I will always have to be conscious of how I move, but I feel like I am armed with knowledge that will help to keep me pain free more often than not.”

  She continued, “Life changing is the best way to describe the care. No, I don’t have cancer, I did not have a stroke, nor was I in a life-altering accident, but my quality of life was horrible, and it was affecting every aspect of my life – including my job as a fundraiser for this hospital!”

She expressed thanks for being able to continue on with her work: “I can walk in the Santa Claus Parade and hand out candy. I can meet with donors and decorate Smile Cookies! I am fully able to perform all of my work responsibilities so that DHHF continues to raise money for this type of equipment.”

  DHHF is in the midst of their largest fundraiser of the year, Trees of Hope. Their goal this year is to raise $167,000 from their community of donors, businesses, and friends.

  “The generosity still amazes me, and this is my third Trees of Hope campaign. I love sharing impactful donor stories and their outcomes and more importantly I love seeing the donors come through the door with sentiment cards filled out for the tree,” said Banks.

  Trees of Hope runs until December 31, 2022. This year’s funds will go towards the purchase of a new CT Scanner. The machines run between $1.5-2 million, with DHHF allotting three year’s fundraising efforts toward the goal, with the hopes of reaching it before the hospital’s current scanner reaches its end of life.

“No matter how big or small your gift is, it all adds up to a new CT Scanner,” concluded Banks.

  If you would like to donate, please visit dhhf.ca or call their office at 905-774-2529.