Staff at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre gathered for an emotional and heartwarming goodbye for a patient who had recovered from COVID-19 and was recently discharged to Toronto Rehab to continue the next stage of her cancer care. (Video: UHN)

It was a special farewell on an inpatient unit at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM).

The first patient to test positive for COVID-19 at PM was recently discharged to Toronto Rehab. Despite the challenge of having both cancer and COVID-19, she successfully recovered from the virus to move on to the next phase of her cancer care.   

"There was an extraordinary response from her care team," says Dr. Mary Elliott, a psychiatrist in the cancer centre's Psychosocial Oncology Department, who has been helping support the well-being of staff in this new era of care. "Their first question was how they could continue to provide the most compassionate care from behind layers of PPE."  

Despite any reservations they had, the team provided her with such excellent care that she didn't want to leave the unit.

They gathered to bid farewell and the emotional and heartwarming goodbye was captured on video. 

Toronto General MSICU staffers 'pay it forward' for food bank

Pam and Sue in masks
Pam Wood (L) and Sue Wegenast, registered nurses on the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital, teamed up with their colleagues to raise $5,620 for Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank. (Photo: UHN)

During the pandemic, members of the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit (MSICU) at Toronto General Hospital have been caring for the most critically ill COVID-19 patients.

But team members still found the time to also help vulnerable people in the broader community – raising $5,620 in donations from across the unit for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

The fundraiser was the idea of Sue Wegenast and Pam Wood, registered nurses (RNs) on MSICU.

"We are all so grateful for the overwhelming support that we've received from the community and within UHN," Pam says, referring to such things as subsidized parking, food and drinks from local businesses and many spirit-lifting messages from members of the general public.

"We felt that we needed to give back to less fortunate people during the pandemic."

Pam and Sue asked their colleagues – nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, physicians, speech-language pathologists, the Nurse Manager, the patient care coordinator, nurse educators, social workers, the Spiritual Care practitioner, Environmental Services staff, ward clerks, hospital assistants and others – to "pay it forward" if they could, by making a donation.

Pam and Sue hope that other units across UHN can do the same.

"As COVID-19 continues, we need to make sure we are doing all we can," Sue says.

Stitch4Corona initiative helps community members in need

Two guys smiling
Krembil Brain Institute PhD students Chaim Katz (L) and Kramay Patel, seen here in a 2019 photo, founded Stitch4Corona, which is dedicated to providing hand-made cotton face masks to organizations in need of PPE. (Photo: Courtesy Chaim Katz)

It was during a car ride with his father that Kramay Patel, an MD/PhD student in Dr. Taufik Valiante's lab at Krembil Brain Institute, first came up with the idea to create a movement to help counter the problem of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), by teaching community members with the means and the desire to help, how to make do it yourself (DIY) face masks for those in need.

"I thought, wouldn't it be nice if we gave all of these people, who are self-quarantining themselves at home, something meaningful to do?" says Kramay. "What if we could also create a reliable, local source of face masks that can protect the most vulnerable population in case our commercial supplies dwindle?"

After enlisting the help of fellow Krembil PhD student Chaim Katz, they founded Stitch4Corona, dedicated to providing hand-made cotton face masks to organizations in dire need of PPE, such as walk-in clinics, respite centres, food banks and shelters, and inspiring people to get involved in the campaign.

"Our goal is to not only provide DIY masks for those in dire situations, but also help engage, unite and collaborate with the community to better fight this," says Kramay. "Our lab mates, supervisor, friends, family, everyone that has some spare time and is willing to help, has been pitching in."

The crowd-sourced campaign has raised more than $2,500 and has already donated more than 4,000 masks. All proceeds go toward materials for making more masks; anything left over will be donated to a PPE drive. And what started as a grassroots initiative has steadily grown, with new offers from industry to provide funds and materials, in order to ramp up production of the masks. 

"A common element for me in research and life revolves around the concept of 'tikkun olam,' Hebrew for 'making the world a better place,'" says Chaim. "Being involved in an initiative like this has demonstrated an overwhelming commitment and support of the community, where, when people come together and collaborate, we can meet any challenge head on."

"For me, Stitch4Corona was all about making sure that I did everything I possibly could to help fight this pandemic," adds Kramay. "Situations such as the one we are in now only come around once in a lifetime. 

"Witnessing our community come together to fight a common enemy has been really inspiring."

Seven-year-old delivers package to her healthcare heroes

4 nurses showing bracelets
Systemic therapy nurses, (L to R) Sanaz Chagpar, Ekaterina Evtropova, Samantha Fleming and Stanley Cho, proudly wear their “HERO” bracelets (shown at right) courtesy Helena, 7. (Photo: UHN)

This kid knows a hero when she sees one.

Last week, 7-year-old Helena dropped off 24 care packages for staff in the Systemic Therapy Unit at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Included in each package, along with cookies and a tea bag, was a colourful hand-made bracelet emblazoned with the word "HERO."

In the accompanying note, Helena wrote: "I made these bracelet for you as a reminder that kids like me look up to you. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, maybe even at UHN!"

TTC and GO Transit employees say thanks

TTC and GO Transit employees
The TTC and GO Transit were then latest group to honour frontline healthcare workers by parading down University Ave. (Photos: UHN)

With decorated buses and employees in uniform marching, the TTC and GO Transit honoured frontline healthcare workers by parading down University Ave.

The idea was developed by employees from the transit agencies who enlisted their families to create the decorations.

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