Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Welcome to Holland, Bloorview

OK, today my blog is going to be uncharacteristically serious rather than the usual foolish (I originally typed "funny" and then realized that was a massive overstatement) blog post, because there was some news I thought was worth sharing. And that news reminded me of an essay I wanted to share for those of you who haven't seen it.  

Today was a big day at one of my favourite places in the world. If you know me at all, you probably know of my love for Bloorview Kids Rehab, Canada's largest pediatric rehabilitation centre for kids with disabilities. For those of you who have escaped my professions of love for Bloorview, either on Facebook, in person or at one of the "Laughs for Possibility" live comedy fundraisers I have organized and performed on, I'll give you a brief-ish outline of why I feel so strongly about the place.

My oldest son, Eric (5) started going to Bloorview for Occupational therapy through their Community Development Program (CDP) and to see a developmental pediatrician when he was 2, due to global developmental delay. He later began seeing a physiotherapist at Bloorview, went to the dentist there and attended the Bloorview Nursery School in Scarborough.

When Eric was 3, while on vacation in Prince Edward Island with his mother and brand new brother, Alex, he experienced a major stroke. After a month in hospital in the Maritimes, he was sent home to Toronto and was admitted as an inpatient to Bloorview's Brain Injury Rehab Team (BIRT) unit. After one month as an inpatient, he was followed by the BIRT Day Program in which he attended therapy at the hospital daily, from September to December of 2008.

After his recovery had progressed well enough that he could be discharged from the Day Program, Eric returned to the Bloorview Nursery School and to physio and O.T. through the CDP at Bloorview. Then, in May 2009, Eric suddenly experienced a second major stroke, followed by a third two weeks later. After a month at Sick Kids in Toronto, he found himself as an inpatient at Bloorview again, this time from June to October and in the Day Program until December. He started Junior Kindergarten in the resource program at the Bloorview School Authority. Upon discharge from the Day Program, he began being followed by the BIRT Outpatient program for physio, O.T. and speech therapy, and continues to be seen by this team today.

It is impossible to properly explain how much the people at Bloorview, over our nearly 4-year journey with them,  have impacted our family. Every single person we encounter in that amazing building and at the nursery school, is deeply dedicated to helping kids with disabilities move, as the Bloorview slogan says, "From Disability to Possibility." The wonderful doctors, nurses, therapists, therapy assistants, therapeutic clowns, teachers, volunteers, support staff, researchers and more at Bloorview go above and beyond on a daily basis to improve the lives of the unique children they serve.

Eric's first Bloorview therapist, an Occupational Therapist named Yvonne, made such an immediate and deep connection with this kid who, at age 2 had already begun to distrust adults in hospital-type environments, and helped him make significant developmental gains thanks to that connection, that I remember Jodi and I saying that she would forever go down as Eric's (and our) life-long hero.

We still feel that way about Yvonne, but what we didn't know at the time, is that as we continued to meet Bloorview staffers and volunteers, we would add literally dozens of names to our hero list. I'm not even going to attempt to name them all, but they know who they are. Every person we've dealt with at Bloorview, from the doctor who, hearing that Eric was having seizures one day during his time in the Day Program dropped everything in her busy schedule to sit with him for over an hour, watching him, comforting him (and me), to the Therapeutic Clowns who seemed to be able to read Eric's needs better than anyone else (including me) to the Nursery School teachers who set aside personal time to visit Eric during his hospital stays, to the ladies at the Tim Hortons coffee shop in the lobby who come out from behind the counter to give Eric and Alex a hug when they see them, and so on and so on, are heroes. I think their hiring policy begins with "all applicants, in order to be considered, must be able to perform miracles."

This week I've been thinking a lot about how much Bloorview means to us, since this is our second-last week at Bloorview. I know we will meet more heroes after we move to New Brunswick in a week-and-a-half, and will be closer to other heroes (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc), which is extremely exciting, but right now, the prospect of leaving Bloorview behind is often leaving me with a lump in my throat. In case I haven't made it clear, I love that place and the people in it and hate to imagine where we would be without having had them in our lives over the past few years.

So, I was interested to hear that effective today, Bloorview Kids Rehab is no more. Don't worry, all those heroes are still there, but the place changed its name today. After an incredible $20 Million donation from the Holland family, Bloorview Kids Rehab is now the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

That $20 Million donation is on top of the $6.2 million that the Hollands have already donated to Bloorview. Bill and Suzanne Holland are dedicated to helping Bloorview... I mean Holland Bloorview, help kids with special needs meet their potential. They are parents themselves, but not parents of a Bloorview patient, as you might assume of someone who is so passionate about such a place. Bill Holland says “When my family and I toured Bloorview, I couldn’t decide which I found more compelling- the children who were dealing with disability in so many different ways or the professionals who were so dedicated in their work with them. I’ve seen many healthcare organizations up close and this is one I’m pleased to support because it works.” (quote taken from the Holland Bloorview website)

So this is a family who has more financial means than most of us will ever dream of, who could choose to support any cause, and indeed have chosen to support several not-for-profit organizations. There are a lot of great charities out there, some of which probably have a more direct connection to their family. But they decided to put their weight behind this place that I love so much. When I think about how much their support will mean for kids with special needs in Toronto, across Ontario, and (thanks to the ground-breaking research undertaken at Bloorview) around the world, I realize that we have two new heroes to add to our list. We've never met the Hollands, but we certainly appreciate them all the same. They have given kids like Eric an amazing gift: the gift of Possiblity. And we want to thank them for that.

Did I say "brief-ish"???

If you're still reading after my long love letter to Bloorview, you might as well stick around and read a bit more, because I have a link I want to share with you. I recently had an e-mail discussion with my sister about how one of the most important things that we can offer a kid with any kind of special need is understanding. So, I also wanted to suggest you read an essay written in 1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley about the way in which many parents of kids with special needs come to an understanding about the fact that their child has a disability. I think it's pretty amazing (even if it's a little sappy, but isn't that what parenting is all about?) Don't worry, it's much shorter than this blog entry!

Here's a link to the essay, called Welcome to Holland:

I think it's pretty apropriate for today, considering the Bloorview name change.

Ok, that's my love letter to Holland Bloorview, and my link for you. I promise my next blog entry will be much sillier, and much shorter.



PS - if you want to read more about the Holland Bloorview name change, you can check out these links:

- here's a story from the Globe and Mail
- here a story from the National Post
- here's a piece from Holland Bloorview's just-released 2010 report to donors


Andrew McNair said...

Thanks Lloyd!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your beautiful and heartfelt tribute. Your family has been an inspiration to me and others who have had the privilege to work with Eric and your family. In truth, you, Jodi and Eric are my heros.

BLOOM - Parenting Kids With Disabilities said...

Lloyd -- this is a beautiful piece of writing and captures how I also feel about Bloorview and what a unique and remarkable place it is because of the people.

I did not know you were moving to New Brunswick??????

I'm happy for you but I'm really sad that we won't see you and the boys in the halls. Hope to see you before you go.

Viva. said...

Lloyd you and Eric inspire me!
Personally and professionally. As a first year nursing student, I hear too many stories that make me forget why I chose this profession. Truly, you and Eric remind me, and inspire me. Thank you.