A Guardian Angel
June 06, 2023
Porters are instrumental to the function of our Operating Rooms (OR) at our Stratford General Hospital site along with being a cornerstone in the delivery of goods and vital supplies between units and departments. They also make sure patients are at the right place at the right time to get the treatment they need!
More than just a trip, the time our patients spend with a porter is invaluable. They often are one-to-one with a patient during what can be a scary and vulnerable time, helping to ease their fears, listen to their stories and help them in any way that they can.
Vicky has been a member of the HPHA team since 2019. She is the true definition of what it means to be a porter. She knows the hospital inside and out, but more importantly she knows how to make patients and families feel valued. This extends beyond the walls of the hospital as demonstrated this past Christmas. Vicky was scheduled to work on Christmas Eve, but due to the winter storm that wreaked havoc across the province, was unable to safely get to the hospital from her home in Mitchell.
"I had an overwhelming amount of guilt that I couldn’t get into work," said Vicky. "Trying to lend a helping hand where I could I called the local long-term care home, Ritz Villa, to offer support but they had enough local staff they thought they would be okay."
The same day Erin, Jake and their one-year old son Leo, had been discharged from London Children's hospital. Erin had brought Leo to the Stratford General Hospital Emergency Department on December 22 when he was experiencing a very high fever.
"Leo had become ill in early September and had constant fevers with reoccurring ear infections," said Erin. "We had seen multiple pediatricians and had many tests done with no results."
The pediatrician on-call that evening ran several tests, including a chest X-ray, and after several hours Erin was notified that a mass had been found on Leo's lung and that they were going to be transferring him to London by ambulance.
"When we arrived in London I met with several doctors who asked a number of questions, including one about the family history of childhood cancers. It was the first time anyone mentioned cancer. I was told to be brave and tough for Leo and cry behind closed doors and that's what I did."
After many tests, which Leo handled like a champ, Erin and Jake waited. Later on the afternoon of December 23 they got the results, it wasn't cancer. Leo had tested positive for both COVID-19 and RSV. As long as things went well, he was expected to be discharged the next day.
"We were so overwhelmed with joy to hear that it wasn't cancer."
After being discharged, Erin and Jake attempted to make it home, but after several hours had only made it as far as Mitchell. They sat in their truck in a car wash bay for some time, trying to keep warm but realized they couldn't stay overnight in their vehicle. They had heard from family that the community centre was taking in stranded motorists but didn't feel it was right taking Leo there with his diagnosis.
Vicky, back at home, was one not one to sit idly by. She saw on Facebook that there were approximately 30 people stranded at the community centre. She posted that she had four bedrooms available at her house. Half an hour later, she got a message that there was a young couple with a baby that they didn’t want to take to the community centre because they were sick with COVID-19 and RSV and would she help?
Vicky spoke with Erin and told her to come over immediately. Vicky and her husband Al, being grandparents of five, had every single supply that the young family could need.
"When we arrived at the house, I just collapsed in Vicky's arms with tears streaming down my face," said Erin. "I was so overwhelmed by Vicky and Al's kindness."
"I work with COVID-19 every day – I wasn't scared," said Vicky. "We masked up and got them settled in the basement."
The playpen was set up, pyjamas and shower supplies set out. Vicky and Al made a Christmas Eve dinner and even thought to check that Santa could still be able to find Leo in the morning!
The next morning, Erin, Jake and Leo awoke to Al making eggs, bacon, toast and fresh juice. After the roads opened, many thanks were given and Erin and her family were able to head home.
Fast forward to a few months later when Leo, after still being constantly sick, was scheduled for surgery at Stratford General Hospital to have his adenoids removed and tubes put in his ears.
"As any parent would know, your child going into surgery, no matter how minor, is scary," said Erin. After speaking with the ENT and Anesthesiologist a porter arrived to take Leo to the operating room. It was Vicky!
"I felt this overwhelming sense of calm seeing Vicky," explained Erin. "She said, I took care of you on Christmas Eve, we'll take care of Leo today."
The surgery went well and Vicky checked in on Leo during his time in the recovery room.
"I was rocking Leo and I felt someone rub my shoulder, of course it was Vicky checking to see how things went. When I was at my lowest, Vicky always seemed to be there. I believe people are put on this earth for a reason and Vicky is here to be a Guardian Angel for my family."
Erin shared this story virtually at a recent HPHA Board of Directors meeting at which Leo's grandmother was able to attend in-person to thank Vicky.
"There are no words to express my gratitude to Vicky. She opened her home to us and was there for us on the day of Leo's surgery. I only hope one day I can pay it forward by passing on that kindness and to raise my sons to do the same," added Erin. "Vicky will forever be in our thoughts when we think of those hard times because of how her light brought us through it."
L to R: Rebecca, Manager Surgical Inpatients, Porters & MDRD; Vicky, Porter; and Andrea, Leo's grandmother
L to R: Jake, Erin, Leo and Jack