1991 was one of the toughest years of my life. My husband, Arny, and I were in our early 40s, raising two teenage boys and I was teaching at St. Lawrence College. Suddenly, in mid-April, my husband was admitted through the Kingston General Hospital (KGH) Emergency Department to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for serious breathing difficulties.
He was placed in an induced coma whereupon an interaction of medications caused all the muscle tissue in his body to dissolve. When he awoke several weeks later, he literally could not move a muscle. However, despite many health challenges along the way and the many months of therapy, Arny was able to regenerate his muscles and rebuild his strength.
Thanks to the caring of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other support staff, Arny was discharged on December 31, after almost nine months. During that time the only specialists he hadn’t seen were OB-GYN and Gerontology!
About a week after his release, Arny was back in hospital where we learned difficult details about the one muscle that had been irreparably damaged—Arny’s heart. He would require a heart transplant in the next three to five years. However, we knew he was not a good candidate for the surgery, so this wasn’t an option. “The next five years could be the best five years,” I said. In the end, we got twelve.
The experience of Arny’s illness and hospitalization forever changed our perspective on life. For the first time, it bonded us to health care as a serious philanthropic cause. You may have had a similar experience that has inspired you to be a loyal supporter of our hospitals as well.
When I tell people that we all desire and deserve excellent health care I speak from my deeply personal experience. And I speak not only as a patient and donor but as a volunteer Board member of the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF). Every one of us has the opportunity to give back in some way, regardless of means.
On one of my many visits to our hospitals in those years, I saw the Evergreen Tree and was impressed by the list of members of the Evergreen Society—people who had named the UHKF in their wills, and agreed to be recognized publicly.
My first reaction was “We need to be on that list!” I wanted people to see our names to inspire them and think; “If they can do it, so can I.”
Money was tight then. Major gifts weren’t feasible but a legacy gift was. I knew that even a small but symbolic percentage of our estate wouldn’t be a life-changing amount for our sons but could be a decisive amount for the hospital. And all the more decisive, too, given strength-in-numbers.
Our hospitals can offer the care available to us today because thousands of citizens contributed millions of dollars over many years. Where would we be today without those loyal donors who have played a pivotal role in giving our hospitals that all-important boost toward the next big goal.
Today, the next step in the journey to achieving better health for our community is building a much-needed patient tower at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s (KHSC) KGH site. Among other areas, it will have a new Emergency Department built to meet the demands of today’s patients. It will also have new clinical laboratories in one much more efficient space, no longer spread out across six different floors.
This is a very long-term project, perhaps eight years or more. I hope to celebrate when the ribbon for the new tower is cut. But even if I’m not there, I know that my current gifts combined with my legacy gifts will help to give this community what it desires and deserves: 21st century care in 21st century buildings. I am investing in healthcare for the future and in KHSC’s redevelopment specifically.
The time is now.