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Kind. Someone who pays attention to detail. A lover of foods, with a big sweet tooth.
That is how colleagues describe UHN respiratory therapist John Rudyk, who goes by "J.R.," – and how they will remember him following his retirement in July after 40 years.
Working at both Toronto General (TGH) and Toronto Western (TWH) hospitals, J.R. was a loyal and steady presence, working primarily the night shift, over the last 20 years, with a day/night mix for the first 20 years.
"I consider myself a lucky person because I enjoy my job," says J.R., whose last day was July 4. "Considering what we deal with, it can be difficult emotionally, but I like helping people."
Choosing between becoming a flight attendant or a respiratory therapist, he decided to pursue the latter, as he believed health care offered a more fulfilling future, both personally, and for patients.
After receiving his bachelor of science in microbiology with a minor in physical anthropology from the University of Toronto in 1981, J.R. attended the Toronto Institute of Medical Technology, a precursor to the Michener Institute of Education at UHN.
Shadowing a staff member, J.R. had the opportunity to rotate through many of the downtown hospitals including Mount Sinai, Sick Kids, St. Michael's and Women's College. In 1983, he began his career at TGH and started to also work at TWH when they merged a few years later, eventually becoming UHN.
During his career, J.R. worked with colleagues to deliver key and exceptional care to many patients. Among his milestones was being part of the first successful lung transplant in North America at TGH in 1983, and also the 3000th lung transplant at UHN, which was completed earlier this year.
Working in the Intensive Care Unit, J.R. and respiratory therapy colleagues assist with maintaining and managing patient airways and all aspects of ventilation. This includes post-operative care, when required.
The respiratory therapist also works with physician and nursing colleagues in different areas across the hospital, including the operating room, the Emergency Department, the hyperbaric chamber and other wards.
"We are very involved with each and every patient, ensuring their cannulas (small tubes inserted into the body) are changed and weaning them off their trach (tube to help breathing) when appropriate," says J.R.
Through years of service, John has assisted in every capacity possible. That includes the intubation of patients, setting up home oxygen, inter- and intra-hospital transport, and scans.
"More than anything, he was known for his kind heart," says Nazmin Kherani, a charge respiratory therapist at UHN. "He really showed that towards his colleagues in the department."
Having worked together for 20 years, Nazmin and J.R. became friends. Nazmin started on the night shift, working with J.R. for nine years.
"Throughout those shifts together, I got to know a lot about J.R.," Nazim says. "His habits, food choices, his sense of humour, things like that.
"He would always think and put everybody first, which is how we formed a strong bond."
When Nazmin got sick, he was hospitalized for some time. Even though he was at a different hospital, J.R. regularly came to visit, bringing Nazmin treats, magazines and checking in on how he was doing.
Nazmin recalls when Christmas rolled around, J.R. was known for giving gifts to everyone in their department. He would purchase socks, ties and other things, and have friends select their own items.
"This was his way of showing and giving his love to everybody and he made it a tradition," Nazmin says.
Upon retirement, J.R. plans to fish, golf, and travel with his wife, Maria. The couple met when they were studying respiratory therapy. They have raised a beautiful family together.
J.R. was always there for his sons' games and competitions, even if it meant going straight to an arena versus a warm bed after a grueling night shift.
He has enjoyed spending 40 years contributing to the care of patients and being part of a team.
"There are ups and downs in every job, but again, I consider myself very lucky, because I got to work with such amazing people, both when I was a student and a staff member," J.R. says. "There hasn't ever been a day where I didn't want to go in to work."