Personal Story - Passing of Beloved Nurse Inspires Donations for Patient Comfort

Mary McDonald (pictured) always focused on her family first, but her second passion was her career as a nurse. She dedicated 37 years to caring for others. In August of 2018, life dramatically changed when Mary was suddenly diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer. 

“Mary grabbed me, but she couldn’t talk,” recalls her husband Mike. “It passed, but we went to the emergency department and within an hour we were told she had an aggressive brain tumour. It literally happened that fast with no signs or symptoms beforehand. It was devastating.”

Mary was operated on the next day by world renowned neurosurgeon Dr. D. J. Cook at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC). The successful surgery gave Mary quality of life and, most importantly, time — a total of two and a half years. During this time, Mary underwent an intensive treatment plan.

“I’m so thankful for that time,” says Mike. “A lot of people with this form of cancer don’t live as long as Mary did. She was able to stay active and involved with the kids, we were able to travel, and we got to say all of the things we needed to say to each other. We were so lucky to have had Dr. Cook, his team and everyone who helped — the nurses, the radiologists, the oncologists, the rehab team at Providence Care Hospital — they’re all so talented.”

With ever-changing symptoms and issues, being able to access this incredible care locally made life so much easier for the whole family.

“It was everything that I hoped health care could be,” says Mike. “Having this world class service in Kingston was absolutely the best thing for our family. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been to travel out of the region to get care.”

By September 2020, the tumour had grown back and Mary’s symptoms had become more complicated. Mary walked into the Palliative Care Unit at Providence Care Hospital in January and passed away on February 2nd.

“She was very brave,” says an emotional Mike. “The Palliative Care Unit was a great place and I just have so much respect for the staff. They were amazing and knew exactly how to handle things.”

Donations in Mary’s name through UHKF will support Providence Care Hospital’s Patient Comfort Fund.

“We are thrilled to receive these donations in Mary’s memory,” says Janet Hunter, Director of Volunteer Services at Providence Care Hospital. “Our Patient Comfort Fund enables us to support patients and clients who are not financially able to purchase items, such as assistive devices, wheelchairs, walkers and clothing. We also use this fund to assist with the final wishes of patients. It’s often extremely helpful and very moving for patients and families to receive these gifts which can make life a lot easier during very difficult times.”

“I just want to thank everyone for their support, it’s been incredible” says Mike. “I’m so proud of the funds that have been raised and the help they will give to patients and their families. I know Mary would be proud too.”