CHEO Turns 40

Before my son was born, I had never given a second thought to having a children’s hospital in our community. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) was barely on my radar screen, and my only connection to it was through the media should it be mention on the radio, or in the news. I didn’t think much of those sick kids. It was sad, but it wasn’t my reality – it wasn’t something I thought much of other than to catch the CHEO Telethon from time to time.

After my son was born, CHEO still didn’t really register for me. My friends were young and just starting their own families and no one had any real experience with taking their child to the hospital. But as a new mom, I became more aware and more in tune with illnesses that might affect young children. I understood the need to protect him from illness and injury, and the stories I heard about ‘other peoples children’ battling diseases like Cancer and Cystic Fibrosis, or being treated for injuries caused by the typical childhood accident, were now more important to me and carried a different weight of parental concern, and now those brief glimpses of the Telethon were more important to me and I started to donate.

I am lucky to have a very healthy 10 year old boy, who has rarely needed to visit CHEO. We’ve had to wander through the doors of the Emergency Department for a suspected broken leg (age 2), pneumonia (age 2.5), and a concussion (age 9), and I’ve lamented the long wait late at night in the ED and then been grateful of the nurses and doctors who took such care and attention with him.

But I never really tuned-in to what it meant to have CHEO in our community until Kate was born.

Kate is my now 6 year old daughter who we thought was born healthy, but who has been diagnosed with an ultra-rare form of mitochondrial disease called SIFD. Her story is incredibly unique and at the same time is very similar to many CHEO stories. Endless visits to the Emergency Department, frequent admissions to CHEOs in-patient units that parents ‘in the know’ refer to as 4 East, 4 West, 4 North, 5 East, and endless tests and procedures. When our medical odyssey with Kate began, the importance of CHEO became front and centre to our lives.

What CHEO has to offer our community and our children could never be replicated in an adult setting. When you enter the doors of CHEO, particularly if you become a frequent user, you feel a sense of family and community. You recognize that these are medical professionals who understand children and unique approaches needed to ensure they are cared for the way they need to be. Child life specialists, physicians trained to work uniquely with diseases that affect children, nurses who understand that the littlest patients need and deserve more patience and understanding, a fabulous clown who can cheer your child or help them through a procedure like no other professional can – these are just some of the things that make CHEO special.

CHEO guides itself along a principal of “patient and family centred care”, which means the hospital sees patients and families as an integral part of the hospital culture. CHEO works with families to ensure that values, customs, cultures, beliefs and preferences are part of the decision-making that surround a child’s care. Families are seen as integral to the team and respected as ‘experts’ on their child and in providing essential information about their child’s health. It is a shared approach that is unique to a paediatric setting, and it makes an incredible difference in caring for a sick or injured child.

CHEO is celebrating it’s 40th year as a hospital. 40 years ago, a few moms in our community recognized the importance of having a hospital for our kids in our own community. I am grateful to them for the incredible challenge they took on and the pillar in our community that CHEO has become.

If you are reading this, and you know our family, you are likely someone who has used CHEO, or know someone who has. You already know how wonderful CHEO is and how important it is to our community. What I hope you do is share that message with others. Tell them your CHEO story.

This year, the CHEO Telethon is June 7 & 8 on CTV. I remember in years past watching parts of the Telethon as I went about my day, curious about the stories that were being told. I never thought our child would be one of those stories, but in 2012 she was. Sharing our CHEO story was our way of giving back.

This year I am honoured to be a ‘co-host’ for the CHEO Telethon and will get to share my experiences as the Co-Chair of our Family Advisory Committee and talk about the fantastic Champlain Coordination of Complex Care Program that has been an amazing support to Kate and our family.

CHEO Telethon 2014

CHEO Telethon 2014

CHEO Telethon Co-Host

CHEO Telethon Co-Host

Though it might still fly under the radar for you. If you have a child in your life, I am sure you feel an extra comfort in knowing that CHEO is there. You never know when or how CHEO will touch your life.

I hope you tune into the CHEO Telethon this year (June 7 & 8). Listen to the stories. Donate what you can. Take a moment to appreciate.





The CHEO Telethon raised over $7 million dollars this year! Incredible generosity and wonderful for our the CHEO patients and families.


Coordinating of Complex Care

This blog post deserves a long and well written story. Unfortunately today is not the time for it. I don’t have the head space, nor the desire to sit at the keyboard (*gasp*), but I don’t want the opportunity to pass without sharing this recent news story on complex care coordination here in Ontario.

Coordination of Complex Care has many different titles and is supported in many different ways (or not at all) across the provinces and within Canada.  Comprehensive Care and Supported Care, are also titles used to describe the type of programs.


These programs support children with complex and rare medical conditions. These children need support in the hospital to coordinate the large number of specialists involved in their care, coordinate their medically complex conditions, and also provide support in the community (nursing, community care access centre, therapies, OT, medical equipment). These are children with more than 5 different medical conditions, several specialists involved in their case, and technology dependant. They are children who are surviving challenging diseases and conditions identified in infancy and living longer thanks to advances in medicine.

When we hear ‘complex care’ or ‘care coordination’ we often think of the elderly population and the pediatric community is often forgotten or at best – overlooked. Although very small in number (less than 1% of children), children with medical complexity account for one-third of child health spending in Ontario (Dr.Eyal Cohen, Sick Kids)

These children are frequently hospitalized, and 25% experience readmission 30 days after discharge. They are high risk of medical error because of their medical complexity and gaps in care, communication and medical oversight.

Parents are left to step into the formidable role being left to them by the health care system. Overnight, parents of medically fragile, medically complex children become nurses, therapists, medical coordinators, and care coordinators. More than half of these families have a parent stay home and leave their career in order to care for their child. Financial problems, marital stress, sibling issues, poor health, and physical and mental stress overwhelm these families.

So the question is, What can be done?

I remember when we were having our most difficult moments with Kate’s health – and we had no one coordinating her care. We were crying out to anyone who would listen about the need for someone to be “in charge” of Kate’s case. Who could we turn to when things were not going well with Kate on a number of fronts? Her family doctor was simply over his head and had no idea how or where to get the ball rolling to help Kate.  Because of the siloed structure of our health care system, our pediatrician did not have access to Kate while she was in hospital, nor could he directly advocate for her with her myriad of specialists. There was a need to create a coordinated interdisciplinary team approach for Kate – and no mechanism for which to do it.

We were fortunate to be ‘in the right place at the right time’ as CHEO was just piloting their Coordination of Complex Care Program in March 2010. Kate was the first child admitted to the program. She continues to be part of the program 3 years on.

Here is part of that story: