Still Deeply Grateful to Sick Kids Hospital
Each year, when planning for Consac, we try to do something to inject a little fun and excitement into the show. This year, someone floated the idea of hosting a Live Auction and donating proceeds to a Canadian charity… and the idea was instant a hit. We started brainstorming a list of charities to support. Someone (I wish I could take credit) suggested supporting Sick Kids Foundation… and I suddenly had to choke back the tears.
Sick Kids is a wonderful place. I have first hand experience.
I still remember it like it was yesterday: A rare, beautiful Sunday morning in February. A warm spell had turned the snow sticky and heavy. The sun was shining. I was one day away from starting my new career at ND Graphics.
My family and I had a hectic day planned: Running around Aurora, Ontario, in preparation for my daughter Kimberlee’s 3rd birthday the following Sunday. My son, Willem, then just 17 months old, was as excited as his sister about the celebrations ahead. In those days, stores in Aurora didn’t open until 10am on Sundays. With time to kill on such a gorgeous day, we decided to divert to “Bandshell Park” for a quick swing and slide in the playground.
We had the park to ourselves. It was quiet. Peaceful.
I peeled off with Kim to take her to the swings, her fave, while my wife Tracee took Will over to the corkscrew slide. No more than a few seconds later, I heard a loud “CLINK!” from across the park, and my wife screamed “Oh my God!”.
Both sounds will stay with me forever.
Young Will, going down the corkscrew slide with his mother, flew out of her arms and face-first into a support post some 3 feet below. That was the “CLINK!”. He was unconscious before he hit the ground. The scream and anguish from my wife was gut-wrenching.
Wrapped in his snowsuit and boots, Will was limp, like a little ragdoll – out cold – with a large contusion, over his left eye. There was no doubt we needed to get him to the hospital NOW. Running red lights, we made it to the nearest ER at Newmarket Ontario’s Southlake Regional Health Center, in, shall we say, record time. Unfortunately, there were no pediatric or head injury specialists available on a Sunday. We were dispatched to Toronto Sick Kids’ Hospital immediately.
Enter Sick Sick Kids
Upon arrival and assessment at Sick Kids, Will was fast-tracked right away. It’s something nightmarish and overwhelming to see your 17 month old slipped into a cervical collar and strapped down to a backboard – all while having to fill out paperwork and be interviewed by the police, who need to verify that the incident was indeed an accident. Understandable, but stressful.
Will was admitted mid-afternoon, and we were shown to a room up on the 6th floor, awaiting a CAT scan later than evening. By now, the swelling and bruising around Will’s left eye was tremendous. It looked like he had a croquet ball under his skin.
It’s now 11pm. We’re waiting for a CATscan
Not relaxed, but coping, we are sent downstairs for a CATscan. Will is bumped from his slot for another emergency—a beautiful 9 month old boy, orphaned in a car accident 2 hours away. He’s okay thankfully, and finally it’s Will’s turn. Will is anaesthetised. There’s just no way a 17 month old can lay in that CATscan tube for 30 minutes without moving. Into recovery, we meet a 9 year old boy in the bed next to us, down from the Sault Ste Marie area, his arm mangled in a snowmobile accident earlier that day—his first snowmobile ride.
Back upstairs around 2am, back into our room.
Thankfully, it’s like a small hotel room. There’s a crib for Will, and a couch that folds into a bed for Mom and Dad. The washroom has a shower, and we have our own TV with VCR for entertainment, but now it’s time to grab some sleep if we can get our hearts to slow down enough.
Later on Monday, we got the news.
Will suffered fractured eye orbit (that was apparent), six linear fractures down the side of his skull, past the ear, and a slight basilar fracture near the spine. A year later in 2001, almost to the day, NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Sr. would die of a Basilar skull fracture on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
Tracee stayed with Will the entire week he was at Sick Kids. She had great fun following “Wild Man Will” around as he had been named by the 6th floor nurses. Can you imagine trying to keep up to a 17 month old with an IV trolley and two tubes going into him? Will was a going concern, visiting many on the floor, including the 9-month old boy brought in the same Sunday evening. We met a family from Oshawa that my parents knew, their 13 year old son dealing with a brain tumor wrapped around his spinal column. Kids were not 100%, but many were up and about, playing in the play centre overlooking the central atrium, trying their best to still be kids.
A new routine
I went home Monday night, ready to start my new job on the Tuesday, one day late. I was up early Tuesday, drove down to Sick Kids, visited till 7:30am or so, then drove up to ND. At 5:00pm, I was on my way back to Sick Kids, staying till 9pm or so, then home to my daughter and my mother, who had moved in to help us through the crisis. And that became my routine for the week.
I was lucky. Many don’t live less than an hour away, and essentially move to Toronto for the duration. Ronald McDonald House is right across the street from Sick Kids, but is reserved for long-term care families. Most of the hospital rooms have accommodations for a parent to stay with the child depending on the age, and each room is private. Many parents and families wind up staying in nearby hotels, getting good rates from the hotel as a courtesy.
Fast forward to today.
Today, Will is a strapping young teenager – a defenseman for the East Gwillimbury Eagles. He’s a good kid, who loves helping other kids around school, both in his class, and in younger grades. He makes us proud every day. Eventually he wants to get a doctorate in History, specifically 20th Century warfare, and be on staff at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
Fortunately, there were no lasting ill effects resulting from Will’s injuries. And I cannot fully describe how grateful his family is for that.
Unless you’ve been through a similar sort of experience, it’s almost impossible to grasp everything you might be taking for granted. Sick Kids goes well above and beyond the “normal” quality of care we expect from our health system. And they can only do that with support from a much wider community.
So, in closing:
- If you dropped a few bucks into our collection box at ConSAC, Thank You.
- If you bought something from the ND Auction at ConSAC, Thank You.
- And, if you support Sick Kids Hospital on an ongoing basis, Thank You again.
Through your generosity, ND Graphics presented a cheque for $20,595 to Sick Kids Foundation. As I said, Sick Kids is a wonderful place. I hope you and your family never, ever have to find out how wonderful.
If you missed the Live Auction at Consac 2011, but still wish to contribute, visit: www.sickkidsfoundation.com/donate