ted-kennedy.jpgWhen Susan Ashbourne, a nurse at UHN, ran into the late Sen. Edward Kennedy in 2002 at a Cosmology conference at Sen. Edward Kennedy Boston's MIT, the pair engaged in a conversation about a paper she had presented earlier in the day. At the time, Ashbourne was studying at Berkeley and working as a nurse in California, she told the senator.

Intrigued by this, and recognizing her Canadian accent, the senator further inquired about her background. Ashbourne revealed that she was originally from Canada, had studied at University of Toronto, and previously worked as a nurse in the Respiratory Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital. The unit provided care to patients requiring critical care, including ventilation, and had the distinction of having the first oxygen lung-membrane survivor (now known as ECMO), as
well as performing the world's first lung transplant.

As it turned out, the two had met briefly years earlier, when the senator had visited the hospital during a trip to Toronto in the late 1970s. When Ashbourne mentioned this, the senator's face lit up. He took Ashbourne's hands into his, held them tightly, and said: "A great hospital, just a great hospital—an inspiration to us all. I still think of that hospital."

Later that day, the senator dined with a group of astronomers and physicists, along with Ashbourne herself. As the luncheon ended, Kennedy walked over to Ashbourne, hugged her, and repeated how inspirational TGH—along with Canada's health care system in general—was.

"I really enjoyed meeting him," says Ashbourne, who now works in the cardiovascular investigation unit (cath lab) at TGH. "His laughter and personality filled the room."

One of Kennedy's lifelong goals was to establish universal health care—a topic that is at the forefront of the current U.S. political debate.

Kennedy died last month at age 77 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.​​

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