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Jean Hill has been volunteering with Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre since 1976. (Photo: Jean Hill)
UHNews: State name and UHN work title
Jean: Jean Hill, Volunteer at the Lyndhurst Centre, Spinal Cord Program of Toronto Rehab
UHNews: How long have you been volunteering with UHN and why did you decide to volunteer here?
Jean: I began volunteering with the Lyndhurst Centre in 1976. The hospital was just called Toronto Lyndhurst then. My husband, Dennis, started volunteering in 1975 and inspired me to do the same. We have lived in our little house in Leaside since 1965 and wanted to give back to the community. We wanted to give back to the Centre and appreciated all the hard work they did with the patients.
Lyndhurst hospital was mainly for Spinal Cord injury patients, much like it is now, although the patients stayed as inpatients much longer then. We would really get to know them well. I first started off pushing the library cart around the units, offering the patients something to read. I would sit and chat with them as well. My roles as a volunteer have changed throughout the years.
Hill was inspired by her husband, Dennis, to start volunteering at Lyndhurst. Dennis has volunteered since 1975.(Photo: Jean Hill)
UHNews: What does a typical day look like?
Jean: At the moment, they are doing some renovations here at Lyndhurst, so they've given me a vacation for a few weeks (laughs). But my role here as a volunteer is to work in the Occupational Therapy department as the Sewing volunteer. I have a corner here all set up for me with my machine and all the equipment I need to work. Usually, I am here for a three hour shift and am at my machine the entire time. I make assistive devices to help the patients be more independent. Such things as something called the U-Cuff where patients can hang their cutlery or toothbrushes. I make deflective mitts, so that they can use during their rehab therapies in the gym. I also do alterations for their clothing. If I can adjust a gentleman's pants to allow them to use them with more ease, I am happy to do it.
UHNews: What has been your most memorable moment while volunteering?
Jean: Back in the day, we used to put on theme nights for the patients. We would dress up and play the part. Some of my favourite themes were the Hawaiian Luau and the British Pub Night. It was all very social and interactive. We would also host dinners in the gymnasium where volunteers would prepare the meals and serve as we played the latest records, and both patients and staff would use the stage to put on shows. I have this great memory of a few male patients dressing up as ballerinas and putting on a rendition of Swan Lake wheeling around in their wheelchairs.
Another great memory is when we would take the patients out to shopping plazas and have dinner with them there. Since we knew the patients so well, we would assist with feeding them and would push them around on their wheelchairs while window shopping. My husband and I also donate Symphony tickets every winter to the patients. It is our gift to them. There are five concerts they usually put on, and we will donate a ticket to the patient, and a volunteer or family member to accompany them, and even provide the transportation for it. I have many great memories from that.
UHNews: What's your favourite part of the job?
Jean: Doing whatever I can to help the patients. I really enjoy seeing them happy and pleased with my work and what I have been able to do for them. Giving back to the community and the patients has always been something I have loved to do, and I will continue to do for as long as I can.