SPRING 2015

COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE

THE LOIS HOLE

HOSPITAL
FOR WOMEN

CELEBRATES
5 YEARS OF
EXCELLENCE

BEDSIDE
STRENGTH
Maternal-fetal specialist
DR. RADHA CHARI is one
of three research
chairs improving
care for Alberta
women

AGILE
ARMS

Meet some sponsors
of HOPE on page 6

FERTILE
GROUND

A happy couple
bridges the
gap to make
a family

The da Vinci robot
extends the reach of
women’s surgery

SPRUNG A LEAK?
You’re not alone in
urinary incontinence.
Help is here!

UNWELCOME
INHERITANCE
Women can weigh
their options in the
presence of breast
cancer predictors
PM#40020055

PLUS

MEN IN
G THE
MATERD
N
a study AL MIND:
scre
anxiety ens for
a
depressiond
n

ART IN THE AISLES: The hospital as a gallery

These moments.
101 Riel Drive, St. Albert • holesonline.com

Contents

50

HOPE

Features
12 Rule of Thirds

Three academic chairs take
research from the lab bench
to the bedside

18 Patients First

WCHRI supports research
excellence in women’s and
children’s health

20 Healing Arts

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women
knows that art is medicine

26 Royalty and Rubber
Galoshes

Meet the first lady behind the
name of the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women

32 Women’s Advocate

Philanthropist Dale Sheard: the
driving force of the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women

36 A Home for School

Take a closer look at a leader among
teaching facilities

40 The Real Deal

Noelle talks, sweats and bleeds –
and delivers an education

44 High Tech, High Touch

Serving a diverse demographic
with state-of-the-art technology
and genuine caring

50 Unwelcome Inheritance

The Allard Hereditary Breast and
Ovarian Cancer Clinic navigates
genetic markers for families

54 Maternal Minds

A new study screens for anxiety
and depression during and after
pregnancy

4

Hope • Spring 2015

20
58 Hope for the Future 

One couple’s tragic loss bound
them to the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women

60 The Cutting Edge

A new surgical robot allows
surgeons to create better care
options for patients
5 Years of Caring

26
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Spring 2015

Departments
7

76

Out Front:

News and numbers

48 Top Tips

A gynecologist shares wisdom

57 Strike a Cord

Why umbilical cord donation
matters to you

64 Under One Roof

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women
is a one-stop resource for care

40

68 What to Expect

“My journey to creating a family
took many turns.”

72 A Life of Spirit

Creating meaning in times of
illness includes the spiritual side

76 Flood Relief

Help is here for incontinence

44

78 In Good Company

Styled by Jessica Clark, Radha is wearing Theory, courtesy
Holt Renfrew and shoes courtesy Gravity Pope

Meet a generous corporate giver
and community supporter

80 Will Power

64

Planned giving makes sense
beyond just making you feel good

82 No Small Matter

The impact of the modest donation
is enormous to women’s health

12
ON THE COVER

68
www.loisholehospital.com

32
5 Years of Caring

Dr. Radha Chari is the model of professional excellence.
She is the women’s health zone clinical department head
at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, and chair and
associate professor in the department of obstetrics
and gynecology at the University of Alberta.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PEDERSEN

Spring 2015 • Hope

5

Welcome
Volume 01 • Issue 1 • Spring 2015
Publisher

Ruth Kelly

Executive Editors

Sharlene Rutherford
Elise Cerny

Director of Custom Content

Mifi Purvis

Associate Editor

Shelley Williamson

Production Manager

Betty Feniak Smith

Production Technicians

Brent Felzien
Brandon Hoover

Circulation Manager

Karen Reilly

Vice-President Sales

Anita McGillis

Advertising Representative

Kathy Kelley

Sales Assistant

Julia Ehli

Art Director

Charles Burke

Associate Art Director

Andrea deBoer

Graphic Designer

Ben Rude

Contributing Writers
Caroline Barlott, Colleen Biondi, Lyndsie Bourgon,
Sydnee Bryant, Lisa Caterall, Caitlin Crawshaw,
Martin Dover, Mike Hingston, Jen Janzen, Robbie
Jeffrey, Lani Lupul, Sam Macdonald, Lindsey Norris,
Cory Schachtel, Seamus Smyth, Shelley Williamson
Contributing Illustrators and Photographers
Buffy Goodman, Cooper + O’Hara, Jessica FernFacette, Anthony Houle, Heff O’Reilley, Pedersen,
Darryl Propp, Kelly Redinger, Cindy Revell
HOPE is published by Venture Publishing Inc.
for Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.
Venture Publishing Inc.
10259-105 Street,
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 1E3
Tel.: (780) 990-0839 Fax: (780) 425-4921
admin@venturepublishing.ca
www.venturepublishing.ca
Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
10240 Kingsway Ave. NW,
Edmonton, Alberta T5H 2V9
Tel.: (780) 735-5458
www.loisholehospital.com
The opinions conveyed by contributors to HOPE magazine
may not be indicative of the views of Venture Publishing
Inc. or Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation. While
every effort is made to ensure accuracy, neither Venture
Publishing Inc. nor Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
assume any responsibility or liability for errors or omissions.
Canadian Publications Mail Product Agreement
#40020055
Copyright © 2015 by Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.
No part of this publication should be reproduced without
express permission of Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.
Printed in Canada by Transcontinental LGM Graphics
HOPE is printed on Forest Stewardship Council ®
certified paper

6

Hope • Spring 2015

Lois’s Legacy
THE LOIS HOLE HOSPITAL FOR
Women is now five years old. And there’s no
question that the woman for whom it is
named would be immensely proud. For
Lois, that sense of pride first began the day
she gave the Royal Alexandra Hospital
Foundation her emotional approval that,
yes, she would be delighted to have the
hospital carry her name.
As we continue on with our mission of
building the best women’s hospital in
Canada here in Alberta, we think about this
iconic Albertan often. The staff and physicians think about her, too. We can’t help
but wonder what she would say about this
hospital, had she lived to see it completed.
We think she would be very pleased by
the interior design, the selection of art
within, and there’s no question she would
have delighted in the abundance of natural
light that cascades through the halls and
waiting rooms on each and every floor.
The rooftop healing garden would have
been a favourite spot for her, and the cantilevered staircase, encased in glass and offering magnificent views, would have taken
her breath away. But we think what would
impress Lois the most – and really, really
touch her heart – is the support that Albertans have shown for “her hospital” through
their kind and generous donations.
Lois was known for her practical hand,
her kind heart, and her generous spirit. She
also had an enduring search for knowledge.
She was a proud Albertan. And her early
years as a farm girl informed her ability to
make a little go a long, long way.
She would be so impressed by the people
who care enough about this hospital to
want it to succeed. And in doing so, they
enable the people who work here to go
above and beyond for patients and families.
It’s fitting that during the fifth anniversary
of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, we
capture and collect this community spirit by
showcasing how patient care is reaching
new and exciting heights.

5 Years of Caring

Amazing things happen at this hospital;
donors from every corner of Alberta have
made it so. In that sense, Lois Hole is still very
much here. She’s the generous spirit in every
donor. She shines in every caregiver. And she
lives in every woman who, as a patient at the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women, finds that special kind of hope – that real, uplifting hope –
that things will turn out OK.
Thank you for supporting Alberta’s own
Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

THANKS! Hope magazine is here to drive
donorship, to thank donors and report to
them, to engage with community served by
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, and to
celebrate five years of better health care for
Albertan women. Special thanks to some
important sponsors of this publication:
• Cavarzan Inc.
• Shoppers Drug Mart
• Hole’s Greenhouses & Gardens
• Syncrude Canada
• Alberta Blue Cross
Sincerely,
Andrew Otway, President and CEO
Sharlene Rutherford, Vice President
Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Out Front

7,000
the new record
high number of
births at the Lois
Hole Hospital for
Women, 2014

Thanks for Helping
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women is proud to serve the community,
proud to be part of the fabric of life in Alberta and proudest to be created
by Albertans. Donations large and small, given by private or corporate
donors once or on an ongoing basis, foster and attract excellence in care
to our home. Donations care for Western Canadian women: our sisters,
mothers, aunts, and daughters and infants, from the tiniest preemies
to the women at the end of their lives. Support means everything to us
and allows us to create the level of care that is setting new standards
and catching the world’s notice.

HOPE NOTES
Official opening day of
the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women:

April 8, 2010

On the Menu

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women offers a variety
of subspecialized services and programs

• Gynecologic Oncology: This is the largest gynecological services
centre in Alberta. The colposcopy clinic provides diagnoses and
treatment to more than 2,500 patients every year. The gynecology
inpatient unit has 33 inpatient beds and 13 day surgery beds.
• Maternal-Fetal Medicine: A subspecialty of obstetrics, it provides
care for pregnant women with concerns regarding their health or
the health of their unborn babies. A national leader, the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women offers specialized care for high-risk pregnancies and multiple births.
• Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility: This clinic works to
increase the chances for couples who are trying to conceive, helping more than 800 every year. Specialized prenatal classes support
women expecting multiples.
• Urogynecology: This program is a national leader in the treatment
of incontinence, developing and offering the latest surgical treatments and therapies for women suffering from urinary or fecal
incontinence problems.

www.loisholehospital.com

• Women and Children’s Health Research Institute: WCHRI
comprises some 350 leading researchers, clinician-scientists,
academics, health-care professionals and service providers from
various academic and community settings. Funding partners
support groundbreaking multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary
research through grant competitions, ongoing research funding,
professional development and expert resources.

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

7

Out Front

13

Don’t Pause for Menopause
If you have been exercising for years,
chances are you won’t stop when menopause arrives. But the fatigue and
meandering aches and pains might put a
wrinkle in your routine. If this happens,
you can switch gears and try a new regimen until you get used to the new normal.
But now, more than ever, you need to stay
active. If you have not been, then now is
the time to get active.
An exercise regimen, even of as little as
a half-hour of moderate activity a day will
benefit you in many ways. Most of us can
work two 15-minute brisk walks into the
schedule.
• Stay light on your feet. This time of life
often brings weight gain. Inactivity now
will exacerbate the tendency to lose
muscle, and gain fat around the belly.
• Protect the twins. Keeping the excess

weight off will help you reduce your risk
of breast cancer.
• Bone up. Impact exercise such as walking,
running, light-impact aerobics, stairs, or
biking on hills keeps your bones stronger
longer and slows bone loss, reducing the
chance of osteoporosis.
• Work out the wobbles. Menopause makes
you clumsy. Incorporating some balance
and stability into your routine can help
reduce this effect and keep you upright
and smiling.
• Heart your heart. Even with little or no
weight loss, an exercise regimen will
improve your heart health and decrease
your odds of acquiring diabetes.
• Turn that frown upside down. Menopause
increases your risk of suffering from
depression. Lucky for you, exercise
decreases it. No Rx necessary.

Each OR room is equipped with

state-of-the-art
features specific to women’s
health procedures

8

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

the number
of labour and
delivery rooms,
including two
with infant
resuscitation
areas to provide
the most
advanced care

The Smallest Thank-Yous
Donors bought two new breast pumps and
related software and materials last summer
for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
to enable mothers of premature babies to
initiate and maintain breast milk production –
a boon for the health of baby and mother. The
pumps’ purchase was thanks to a $4,700 gift
from the St. Albert Community Foundation.
The NICU is located at the Royal Alexandra
Hospital and supports babies born at the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women who need
specialized care or surgery due to conditions
that are often exacerbated by low birth
weight. At 69 beds, this is one of the biggest
NICUs in the country.

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Lois Hole Hospital for Women’s valued
partner Shoppers Drug Mart had heart,
and a good deal of foresight, when
it gave a $7,000 gift to the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women and CK Hui Heart
Centre. The facilities used the donation
in December 2014 to buy a specialized heart monitor for use on women in
labour who have
the complicating factor of an
existing heart
condition.
Called the
IntelliVue MP2,
doctors wanted

the monitor as it lets women in labour
move more freely while still watching
their hearts closely. This movement
may shorten labour and definitely
helps with pain.
“The Lois Hole Hospital for Women
is the centre for high-risk labour and
delivery and when this involves cardiac
concerns, there is often high collaboration with the CK Hui Heart Centre, also
located in the Robbins Pavilion,” says
Janie Tyrrell, interim executive director
at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
Tyrrell says the technology is light and
easy to wear, and can sound the alarm if a
woman’s heart readings change suddenly.

Slow and Steady
A new study has found that female athletes
run at a more even pace than men, when
training and competing in marathons. The
study, from the journal Medicine & Science
in Sports & Exercise, followed runners in 14
marathons around the world, and found
that women consistently pace themselves
better than men. What this means is still up
for debate. It could reflect a
difference in physiology,
but it could also point
to psychological
differences in risk taking
and competitiveness.
Since even pacing
plays a key role in
distance running, the
researchers note that
this places women at
an advantage. Women’s
marathon times have been
improving in relation to
men’s, which – while still
improving – have levelled
off significantly since 1985.

www.loisholehospital.com

the number
of operating
rooms
dedicated
to women
for complex
inpatient, day
surgery and
caesarean
section births
5 Years of Caring

Breast Check:
a How-to
Don’t wait for your yearly mammogram
– check your own breasts every month.
The best time is usually a week after
your period starts. If you’ve stopped
menstruating, do your examination on
the same day every month. If you’re
breast feeding, do your exam after your
baby nurses. Here’s how it works:
1. Lie flat on your back, naked above
the waist.
2. Use your left hand to check your
right breast and your right hand to
check your left breast.
3. Press the flat pads of your three
middle fingers on your breast.
Start at your nipples, and work your
way out in a spiral.
4. At each finger placement, first press
lightly in a circular motion, to check
tissue close to the skin. The press
a little harder to feel deeper tissue.
Finally, press firmly to feel tissue
close to your breastbone and ribs.
5. Note any lumps, thickness or
changes.
6. If you feel a lump but aren’t sure,
check the same spot on your other
breast. It the same thing is there, too,
it’s probably fine.
7. You can also check your breasts
standing up, with one arm raised
over your head.
See your doctor if you find:
• A new lump, painful or not.
• Places that feel thicker than usual.
• Sticky or bloody discharge from
your nipples.
• Changes in the skin of your breasts
or nipples, puckering or dimpling.
• An unusual increase in the size of
one breast.
• One breast looks lower than it
used to.

Spring 2015 • Hope

Source: myhealthalberta.ca

Listen to the Heart

9

Out Front
80,000
the number of
outpatient
visits per year

Tackling Cancer
May marks the seventh-annual Edmonton
Eskimos Women’s Dinner in support of ovarian cancer research at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women.
A group of past and present Edmonton
Eskimos and club employees conceived of the
dinner as a tribute to the memory of 21-year
Eskimos employee Pam Monastyrskyj, who
died of ovarian cancer. Funds the group
raised were the genesis of the Edmonton
Eskimos Women’s Ovarian Cancer Research
Endowment Fund – set up to provide longterm, sustainable funding for researchers at

the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
“When we think of outstanding community
support for the Lois Hole Hospital for Women
and the cancer research and surgeries that
take place here, there is no better example
than this one,” says Sharlene Rutherford,
vice-president of the Royal Alexandra Hospital
Foundation. “The Eskimos created a wonderful evening that not only showcases our
football team, it fundraises for ovarian cancer
research right here in our city.” Looking
forward to the next annual dinner? Call
488-ESKS or visit esks.com to get involved.

HPV and Me
HPV is short for human papilloma virus. It is
a family of sexually transmitted viruses that
70 per cent of sexually active adults will get
in their lifetime. Your body will often clear the
virus and it will not usually show any symptoms or require any treatment. But some
strains of HPV can cause abnormal changes
to cells lining the cervix in some women.
These changes will lead to genital warts and
cervical cancer in some women. (HPV is also
a cause of some other types of cancer in
men and women.)
Women can protect themselves from
most cervical cancers with a vaccine against
HPV given before they become sexually active. Girls and more recently boys in
Alberta are able to get this three-dose vaccine free of charge in schools. It prevents the
strains of HPV that are behind 70 per cent of
cervical cancer cases.
It’s still important to get regular pap tests
throughout your life, as it’s the only way to
identify changes leading to cervical cancer.
The HPV shot doesn’t protect against all
cervical cancer.
To find out more about screening for
cervical cancer, Albertan women can visit
screeningforlife.ca.

10

Hope • Spring 2015

A national leader

in the care of high-risk pregnancy,
labour and deliveries
5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Clickable
HOPE NOTES
All human wisdom
is summed up in two
words: wait and hope.
- Alexandre Dumas

PHOTO COURTESY: THE EDMONTON ESKIMOS

Seeds of Hope
Dr. Dawn Kingston, assistant professor at
the University of Alberta, is teaming up
with Dr. Peggy Sagle for a rare look into
the mental health of women – and men –
undergoing fertility treatment.
The study, out of the Regional Fertility
and Women’s Endocrinology Clinic at the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women, seeks to
understand how many women and men
undergoing fertility treatment experience anxiety, depression and stress – and
for those who do, how severe and long
lasting their symptoms are. It will also
look at what type of help they would
prefer to have to deal with anxiety,
depression or stress, and who is most at
risk for developing these while in fertility
treatment.
Kingston says it is the first study of its
kind to include a look at how men deal
with the trials and tribulations of fertility
treatment, and her findings will be used
to “develop and test some psychological
therapies that would be effective for this
group.” She also says that any research
into how women struggle during fertility
treatment has been limited, at best.
Kingston hopes the study’s findings
will be threefold: to help identify women
and men who have symptoms; identify
women and men at risk of developing
anxiety, depression or stress; and finally
learn what types of psychological care
would be appropriate for the group.

www.loisholehospital.com

Cancer Support
Women looking for support following
their treatment of gynecological cancer
will be able to net access to like-minded
survivors online, thanks to a study
now open in Alberta, led by Dr. John
Robinson, a psychosocial oncologist at
the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, and Dr.
Erika Weibe, department of radiation
oncology at the Cross Cancer Institute in
Edmonton.
Participants will be part of a
12-week online professionally moderated group, that’s designed to provide a
safe space for women to learn about the

Run for Women
Lois Hole Hospital for Women recognizes
the connection between mind, body and
spirit in women’s health. On Saturday, May
30, 2015, strong supporter Shoppers Drug
Mart is sponsoring the Run for Women at
Edmonton’s Laurier Park in support of women’s mental health. Funds from the run will
support the reproductive mental health pro-

5 Years of Caring

after-effects of treatment and explore the
impact of gynecological cancer on their
body images, sexuality and intimate
relationships.
To be eligible, participants must live
in Alberta, be 18 years of age or older,
have undergone surgery, radiotherapy,
or chemotherapy for any kind of gynecological cancer within the past five years,
be disease-free for three months and not
be currently in treatment.
Those interested in participating can
email yvonne.brandelli@albertahealthservices.ca or call (toll-free) 1-888-998-8148.

gram at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
Statistics say that one in three women will
suffer from some type of mental illness in her
life. The Lois Hole Hospital for Women and
Shoppers Drug Mart invite participants to
work toward better care and cure for these
women. Find out more or register for the run
at runforwomen.ca

Spring 2015 • Hope

11

THE EXPERTS ARE HERE: (L-R) Drs. Radha Chari, Sue Ross and
Lynne Postovit have created an environment of excellence.

12

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Rule
of
THIRDS

Three academic chairs at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women work collaboratively
and tirelessly to take research from the lab
bench to where it matters – the bedside
BY LYNDSIE BOURGON • PHOTOGRAPHY BY COOPER + O’HARA

T

HE LOIS HOLE HOSPITAL FOR WOMEN – AND ITS CLINICS, PATIENT

rooms and hallways – are where many of Alberta’s women experience the most
difficult moments of their lives. But this is also a place of hope and change,
where developments and commitments in research are improving maternal and women’s health in direct ways. Of these developments, none is more significant than the
addition of three research chairs, led by three remarkable women who bring a revelatory
focus to women’s health and set new best practices in the field, garnering national
attention at the same time they are increasing the depth of local care.
Committed to advancing findings in women’s health, these researchers are Dr. Sue
Ross, Dr. Lynne-Marie Postovit and Dr. Radha Chari. All three have been working to
bring about change in women’s medicine and how it is delivered to patients.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

13

“THE GOAL IS TO CONSIDER PATIENT

SUE ROSS
Grew up in: Cheshire and Helensburgh, in Western Scotland
Studied at: Heriot Watt University, Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology, the
University of Aberdeen and the University of Glasgow
Spends her free time: Gardening, backcountry skiing and white-water canoeing.
Speaks fluent pika (pikas are rock rabbits that live high in the Rocky Mountains)

14

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

experience,” says Dr. Ross, chatting over
tea at the kitchen table in her weekend
home. All around her is a mess from a
remodelling project that Ross is hoping to
see the end of soon, but for now, it’s a work
in progress. At work, it’s the tangible
effects of research on the lives of women
that matters most to Ross. “To me it doesn’t
matter if you provide perfect clinical
treatment, the research doesn’t matter if it
doesn’t help women to feel better in some
way, shape or form.”
Dr. Ross made her way to Alberta and the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women via her
upbringing and education in Scotland
where she originally trained as a pharmacist. After earning her PhD in health services research, studying how patients
access health care and how they respond to
treatment, she began doing clinical trials in
surgery and family medicine. Since moving
to Canada in 1999, her research has focused
on obstetrics and gynecology. She now
spends the majority of her working time in
Edmonton, with three or four days a month
in Calgary, maintaining research projects in
both cities. “My goal is to lead Alberta- and
Canada-wide research,” says Ross, adding
that the Cavarzan Chair in Mature Women’s
Health Research at the Lois Hole “has been
the most fantastic experience I could have
imagined in many ways.” She was awarded
the chair in 2012, and until then she had
been balancing her time between research
and teaching responsibilities. Her position
at the hospital means she is able to focus on
research and writing full time.
Ross’s research aims to ensure that clinical treatments are safe and effective for
problems that commonly affect mature
women, such as pelvic floor disorders
(including leaking urine and feces) and pelvic organ prolapse (where the uterus or
other pelvic organs bulge into the vagina),
and problems associated with menopause.
These disorders cause women significant
distress and adversely affect quality of life.
Ross’s goal is to help women and their doctors to make the best treatment decisions.
Ross has led clinical trials, testing the
efficacy and safety of new treatments for
pelvic floor disorders, but her work is now
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

taking a different approach “I want to look
at the prevalence, cost and impact of pelvic
floor disorders in Canada,” she says. “There
are some vague numbers, but you cannot
get an idea of how widespread pelvic floor
disorders really are, and people feel stigmatized if their symptoms are severe.” This is
also a work in progress for Ross. Recently,
she and her multidisciplinary research team
were given access to national data from
family physician clinics across the country
in regards to this research. “When you
work at a hospital, you get the impression
that it’s a really big deal, but of course the
people who come in are only the tip of the
iceberg,” she says. The study helps target
treatments and provides estimates of
increase to the clinical workload as the
population ages and the number of women
with these disorders increases.
Ross and her team have been working with
the multidisciplinary menopause clinics in
Edmonton to introduce a quality of life measurement, adding this to existing symptom
measurements. The added questionnaire will
provide insight into if and how much menopause impacts a woman’s quality of life. The
measurement builds on the team’s other
research to explore the best types of treatment for women with difficult menopause.
Dr. Ross currently has a number of papers
in development with various other
researchers and scholars across Canada, and
she is designing studies and guiding them
through to funding, research and publication. “It’s the writing that takes the time,”
she says, noting that she’s interested in
learning more about communicating her
work with the public. She says her time at
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women has been
eye-opening. “I get to work with lots of
interesting people and learn new things
every day,” she says. She makes sure that
researchers ask questions that generate
novel and useful answers. “It’s important
that I’m present at the hospital interacting
every day with clinicians and patients.”
While it might seem that Ross is
stretched thin between projects, it’s this
all-encompassing work ethic that makes
her work stand out. “Sticking to your passions against all the odds can really pay off,”
she says.
www.loisholehospital.com

RADHA CHARI
Grew up in: Swift Current, Saskatchewan
Studied at: The University of Saskatchewan, with internships and residencies at the
University of Western Ontario, University of Alberta and the University of Tennessee
Spends her free time: Hanging out with her husband Ravi and her two sons, Keshav and
Nik.Drives her family crazy by setting clocks and watches 20-30 minutes ahead so that
she’s not running late

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

15

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSIONS IS A

LYNNE POSTOVIT
Grew up in: Whitby, Ontario
Studied at: Queen’s University
Spends her free time: Running, rowing and cooking. Likes to play music loudly in her car
and sing along to whatever’s on the radio

16

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

sentiment that everyone at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women can get behind. The
foundation’s research chairs all conduct
their work from the hospital, and they are
all dedicated to women’s health, and
bringing to the forefront a field that has
been traditionally underfunded. Part of
how they stick to their guns is through a
commitment to community, and working
together to create an atmosphere that
embraces multidisciplinary solutions.
“When we’re asking big questions, the only
way we’ll get answers is by working as a
team and bringing all of our expertise into
the fold,” says Dr. Lynne-Marie Postovit.
Dr. Postovit has done groundbreaking
research in the field of tumour progression,
and has been the Sawin-Baldwin Chair in
Ovarian Cancer at the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women since taking up the post in 2013.
She also holds positions at the University of
Alberta, the Cancer Institute of Northern
Alberta and is the Alberta Innovates-Health
Solutions Translational Health Chair in Cancer. Postovit has a PhD in anatomy and cell
biology, and has spent her time considering
how the environment surrounding a
tumour might promote its progression.
“We’re trying to understand what causes
that, so that we can get in there and prevent
it,” she says. As her career progressed she
moved her lab from London, Ontario to
Edmonton, and started looking at how the
stem cell system and cancer cells share similarities. “The focus of our entire program is
understanding how an environment can
push cancer progression,” she says.
Postovit’s work focuses on ovarian and
metastatic breast cancers because often
they are the hardest to treat successfully.
In her ovarian cancer research, Postovit is
hunting for a way to diagnose the disease
earlier – most ovarian cancers go undetected until they are diagnosed in stage three or
four, and at that point they have a low cure
rate. “So we need a way to be able to detect
this earlier, at stage one, for example. One of
the things we’re doing is trying to find biomarkers for ovarian cancer,” she says, noting that it’s a team of researchers working
together on this work. “We’re doing this by
looking at patient samples and using highThe Lois Hole Hospital for Women

end techniques to try to discover what these
cells might be secreting into their microenvironment so we might detect it as an
early marker.” She also notes that, for now,
there will always be women who have their
cancers detected too late. “We’re trying to
find targets that might prevent recurrence,”
she says.
It’s the teamwork that Dr. Postovit finds
most imperative. “When you’re asking
large questions, the only way to get
answers is by working as a team
and bringing our expertise into the
fold,” she says. “This ranges from
understanding the progression of
the disease to surgically removing it
to analyzing it and designing clinical trials.”
She is motivated by her patients,
and she enjoys interacting with
them through her findings. “It’s a reminder of how much needs to be done,” she
says. “I want the work we’re doing to make
a difference. That might mean finding a
eureka moment, or it might mean slowly
improving outcomes.”

me, it’s a real growing opportunity, also
working with neonatologists and pediatricians in Edmonton and Calgary,” she says.
Collaboration is key to Dr. Chari’s work.
She recently began working with researchers from the University of Alberta’s physical
education and recreation faculty, considering the effects of exercise on fetal growth.
“This is beyond the faculty of medicine,
which I am finding exciting,” she says. As a
vice-president for the Society of Obstetrics

ent areas of interest, which I think is a really
great thing,” says Dr. Chari. “Obstetrics and
gynecology is vast and covers a broad area.
It’s becoming more important that we link
our research to clinical practice.” She
believes that when everyone works together, from basic scientists to clinicians, the
findings are stronger and more relevant than
research that exists in isolation.
The goal is to apply their knowledge to
patient care, improving the work that happens at the hospital. “There are
things that are going to be relevant
to clinical practice,” says Chari.
Working that knowledge into practice is her goal. “It’s connecting
across a continuum, taking
research to the bedside.”
The support that an institution
like the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women can give to researchers like Drs.
Ross, Chari and Postovit is invaluable. “We
hope that we can be one of the leading centres nationally, and even internationally,”
Postovit says. All three researchers are
deepening the expertise of the institution
and the field. Postovit says she was excited
to come to a community that demonstrates
leadership in valuing women’s health.
They want to make a difference. “We’re
representing early discovery all the way
through to translation,” says Postovit. “We
come up with a lot of great ideas and leads,
but eventually we need to be able to help
the patients.”

“When you’re asking large
questions, the only way to get
answers is by working as a team and
bringing our expertise into the fold.”

SLOWLY IMPROVING OUTCOMES
seems to be the case. And because it’s the
kind of work that takes a long-haul commitment, all of the researchers associated
with the Lois Hole Hospital for Women
need to be incredibly self-motivated, each
of them wearing so many hats (or occupying so many positions) that it can be hard to
keep them straight.
Dr. Radha Chari has taken on so many
projects that she keeps them in a bullet
point list. She is the women’s health zone
clinical department head at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women, and chair and associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of
Alberta. Her work stretches across northern
Alberta and into the Northwest Territories,
and she has numerous research projects
underway.
A maternal-fetal medicine specialist for
two decades, high-risk pregnancies are Dr.
Chari’s realm, and she has worked to develop consultation programs in northern and
central Alberta with cardiology, urology
and neurology experts in pediatrics. “To
www.loisholehospital.com

and Gynecology of Canada, Chari is helping
to revamp the process the society follows
when it comes to implementing guidelines
for its ob-gyn members. She sees this as a
way to contribute directly to women’s
health, as it targets not only ob-gyns but
also family physicians, midwives, nurses
and administrators. “I have always had a
real interest in women’s health, and am
hoping to contribute to it,” she says. “I
want to make a difference in improving
how we do things.”
It’s this quest for new knowledge that
she hopes to apply directly to advancements in patient care. Chari was involved in
applying new technology to determine fetal
prognosis, and was part of a team that
developed MRI reference ranges to help
predict newborn lung function. She has also
been the lead researcher on a national trial
looking at the management of preterm
pre-labour rupture of the membranes
(PPROM) in patients between 32 and 37
weeks’ gestation, and its impact on neonatal outcome. She currently works with
basic scientists in pediatrics to evaluate
perinatal management and pediatric
health outcomes.
Working together at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women will give the research chairs an
opportunity to strengthen their research and
collaborate at the regional and provincial
level. “We’re all different, we all have differ5 Years of Caring

HOPE NOTES
There is no medicine like
hope, no incentive so
great, and no tonic so
powerful as expectation
of something better
tomorrow.
- Orison Marden 

Spring 2015 • Hope

17

Women and Children First
WCHRI supports research excellence in a
field that has been neglected in the past
WOMEN AND CHILDREN HAVE LONG
been overlooked and underfunded when it
comes to health research. That fact is behind
the 2006 genesis of WCHRI.
Short for the Women and Children’s Health
Research Institute, insiders pronounce the
acronym Wick-ree, and there are a number
of funders behind it, namely the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, the University of
Alberta and Alberta Health Services.
WCHRI is the only combined research
institute in Canada focusing on women’s
(including maternal and perinatal) and children’s health. With a web of research and
care professionals at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women, the Stollery and the University of
Alberta Hospital, it boasts 350 members
devoted to women’s and children’s health
concerns, ranging from chronic pediatric illnesses to mature women’s health.

Women’s worth
in health care exists
apart from the realm of
maternal health
Its director, Dr. Sandy Davidge (also a
professor in the departments of ob-gyn and
physiology, and a tier-one Canada Research
Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health)
says WCHRI represents just the tip of the
iceberg of the potential depth and breadth of
women’s health, especially at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women. “With a researchoriented hospital – which is what we’re
striving for – women get the best care.
We’re at the forefront of knowledge and the

18

Hope • Spring 2015

forefront of clinicians working hand-inhand with scientists for the best available
medicines and procedures,” says Davidge,
who’s also the Canada Research Chair in
Maternal and Perinatal Cardiovascular Health.
“Research saves lives and gives hope, and we
want to do that for our women and children.”
In addition to three endowed chairs in
women’s health, WCHRI supports research
excellence through grants, ranging from
graduate work to summer studentships.
WCHRI also supports the recruitment and
retention of the best and the brightest
minds in research.
And it translates to better health care for
Alberta women. “Through our research and
our programs, we have been able to look at
better ways to improve the health of
women in the community,” Davidge
explains. “We have three endowed chairs in
the areas of mature women’s health, women’s health focusing on maternal, and ovarian cancer. We need to see the research
behind women’s health to understand the
best way to treat or prevent disease.”
Recent initiatives to receive WCHRI support include Davidge’s own study looking at
the link between babies who have complicated births and who later in life experience
obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Acknowledging this potential connection
may help prevent chronic diseases down the
road. But that’s just one of myriad WCHRI
studies focusing on pregnancy. “One of the
things we’ve been working on in general is
looking at healthy pregnancies and health
outcomes,” Davidge notes. “To lead to better
therapies, we are looking at how the body
adapts to pregnancy and what can go wrong
in conditions such as preeclampsia.” Other
research includes Drs. John Mackey and Ing
5 Years of Caring

AT WORK: Dr. Sandy Davidge is the director of
Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.
Swie Goping’s work towards personalizing
chemotherapy for breast cancer patients.
More than just a health consortium,
WCHRI is a medium designed to bring bench
work to the bedside and the community and
back, says Davidge. “If you are sick, where
do you want to go? You want to go to a
research-intensive hospital for up-to-date,
current care. Because we have WCHRI, we
are able to make sure we focus on the health
needs of women.”
Women’s worth in health care exists apart
from the realm of maternal health, so recent
WCHRI research encompasses all aspects of
women’s health. “We actually do research in
all women’s health issues, whether that is
mental health, mature women’s health
issues, or urogynecological issues,” says
Davidge. “We are the only women’s health
research institute of its kind. We’ve been able
to cover the spectrum because of the vision
and the partnership.”
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

THE

LOIS HOLE HOSPITAL FOR WOMEN

and so much more

By understanding and meeting the
unique health needs of women, we also
support newborns, families and
communities.

Our thanks to those who do more for
patients and families at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women: our dedicated staff,
physicians, volunteers and donors of the
Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.

celebrating 5 years of care & innovation

20

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Lois Hole Hospital for Women has
placed an importance on its art
collection from the beginning
BY LISA CATTERALL • PHOTOGRAPHY BY DARRYL PROPP

P

HOTOGRAPHS, PAINTINGS, SCULPTURES AND DECORATIVE TEXTILES

sound like items likelier to adorn an art gallery than a hospital. Patients and families
don’t often expect to find unique pieces of artwork in every hallway, much less in every
waiting room or at the foot of every patient bed.
In an August 18, 2014 article she wrote for the Wall Street Journal online, Laura Landro details
the efforts of many American hospitals to incorporate art into hallways as a way to boost patient
care, citing studies to support the claim that art can encourage healing by reducing stress and
anxiety levels. Nature-inspired artwork, she says, can create a warm environment that allows
patients, families and staff to feel secure. With more than 700 pieces of art, the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women has created this kind of environment, one in which patients, families
and staff can thrive.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

21

The hospital’s art collection is valued at
more than $1 million and features a range of
Canadian artists. The majority of these artists come from Alberta, with the remainder
coming from the surrounding provinces and
territories that patients call home.
Local art consultant Susan Pointe was a
part of the hospital’s development from its
early stages. She honed her expertise in the
healing power of art and its ability to
strengthen a community through years of
working with local artists and hospitals.
When she began work on the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women, she looked to other
facilities well-known for their art collections, such as Oslo’s Rikshospitalet, home to
Norway’s largest collection of public art outside of its museums, as sources of inspiration. She wanted to create a similar public
venue for art in Alberta, reflecting on the
province’s talent and beauty.

HOPE NOTES
Hope is the thing with
feathers that perches in
the soul - and sings the
tune without words and
never stops - at all.
- Emily Dickinson

“This project was evidence of a flourishing
creative spirit. It was original, local artwork.
And if it wasn’t local, it was from other
regions from where we drew patients,”
Pointe says. “It was evidence of the thriving
creative community that was around this
facility.”
When plans for the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women began more than a decade ago, very
little was known about the final outcome
and what role, if any, art would play in the
space. So before Pointe could begin curating
the collection, architects and designers had
to build the facilities with art in mind. Lead
interior designer Michelle Sigurdson of Dialog Design (then Cohos Evamy) first became

22

Hope • Spring 2015

involved with the project in 2002, and spent
the next several years working to save spaces for the collection Pointe was developing.
“We had to keep all of the devices off of
certain walls,” Sigurdson says. “To keep
those walls preserved without anything on
them is a feat in itself.”
“A tremendous amount of credit is owed
to the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
for the tenacity to hang on to the budget for
original art on a project of this size,” adds
Pointe.
Each day, as patients, families and staff
move throughout the hospital, they experience a range of emotions. From the happiness of a new life to the anxiety of the
5 Years of Caring

unknown, hospital walls are witness to the
complete gamut of human emotion and
interaction. The belief behind the hospital’s
design was that nature could provide an
outlet for people to better cope and heal.
“The art becomes another window to look
out,” Sigurdson says. She and Pointe both
stress that nature, light and humour were all
very important elements in the art selection
process for the hospital, as these elements
encourage healing and well-being.
The hospital focuses on wellness as a
whole, rather than treating environment
and health as separate aspects of well-being.
While the hospital is not the first of its kind
in North America, it is the first in the provThe Lois Hole Hospital for Women

ince to place an emphasis on including art
throughout all aspects of the design. Art
installations are featured both inside the
hospital and out, with pieces that can be
viewed from a number of different angles.
One of the most prominent pieces, a steel
bird’s nest precariously perched on a beam
outside the Robbins Pavilion, was designed to
create a hopeful focal point from the long
corridors on every floor of the hospital.
“It looks so different from every level. It’s
for people that are going to be there more
than once,” Sigurdson says. “You see somewww.loisholehospital.com

thing different every time you’re there.”
Each floor, waiting room and unit of the
hospital features a different artist and style.
In addition to providing places of reflection
and beauty, the intent was to create a series
of landmarks for visitors, patients and families. The result is a delightful roadmap. People can take the stairwell near a giant beaded bracelet or turn left at a three-part painting that looks like a window into a summer
scene. They might orient themselves to take
the hallway with the bright painted poppy
at the end.
5 Years of Caring

“We put fewer signs up for way finding
because the art is memorable,” Sigurdson
says.
When the project began, Pointe set out
curating the work from the roster of artists
she had come to know through her work as
an art consultant. She put out a call for submissions and worked to find pieces that
would fit with the hospital’s needs. Once
they received the submissions, a committee
of designers vetted the pieces. Staff and
foundation members wanted to ensure that
the art would fit well with the hospital’s
Spring 2015 • Hope

23

needs and would remain on permanent display on the facility’s walls.
“There were artists that spoke to a very
diverse committee, and everybody had
their favourites,” Sigurdson says. “Having
that diversity in the committee really spoke
to how things change after you live with
them after a while.”
Pointe’s choices for the pieces in the collection were governed by wit, humour,
whimsy and lightheartedness.
Many of the artists took these criteria into
consideration when submitting pieces to
the committee. Artists like St. Albert’s
Akemi Matsubuchi were excited with the
opportunity to participate in a project of
this scale.
“It was a big project to be involved in,
and a great one,” Matsubuchi says. She
had previously worked as a photographer
with Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens,
and was happy to have her work placed on

24

Hope • Spring 2015

permanent display in the hospital’s postpartum ward.
In order to ensure the group of artists featured was as diverse as the patient base
itself, the committee turned to aboriginal
artist Sharon Rose Kootenay to curate the
hospital’s collection of aboriginal women’s
artwork. She gathered the collection from a
wide range of artists and crafters, encouraging them to submit their best work. An

5 Years of Caring

artist herself, Kootenay and her husband
Camille contributed two pieces to the hospital’s collection.
“It was a watershed moment for a lot of
people in their careers. Speaking on behalf
of the artists, it was a privilege for everybody to be involved,” Kootenay says.
In the end, it has been the work of the
foundation, designers, consultants, artists
and the greater community that has shaped

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

True Originals

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women
counts among its collection a
number of pieces that Sharon
Rose Kootenay curated and
recommended. The committee
responsible for selecting the
hospital’s art wanted pieces that
represented the entire patient base,
including aboriginal women from
the city and far-flung communities.
This included artwork from:
• The Aboriginal Women’s Art
Collection, featuring the work of
15 aboriginal artists, ranging in
age from 13 to mid-90s
• Communities encompassing
Plains Cree, Woodland Cree,
Dene, Métis, Aseniwuche
Winewak, Blackfoot, Nakoda and
Inuit art from around the
Northwest Territories, Alberta,
Saskatchewan and Manitoba
• A range of art mediums and
methods. They include beadwork,
quill work, paintings, fabric,
drawings, leatherwork and birch
bark biting.

the Lois Hole Hospital for Women to its
present state. The interactions of these stories have woven a web around the hospital –
a masterpiece in itself.
“I think stories are so important, and how
we tell our stories – and how our buildings,
our art, our interiors tell stories – is how
people connect,” says Sigurdson. “It’s so
much more than the built environment –
it’s got to have a story.”
Ultimately, the art collection in the hospital is now a small part of the stories of the
thousands of women, children and families
passing through the halls each day.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

25

BLOOM: Renowned as much for her garden savvy as her compassion
and dedication to the community, Lois Hole left a legacy.

26

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Meet the lady behind the name of the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women and find
out how she managed to unite
and delight Albertans
BY LANI LUPUL • ILLUSTRATION BY RAYMOND REID

S

HE MET THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND ONCE AND SHE WAS ROYALTY

herself, kind of. People called Lois Hole the Queen of Hugs. A woman who carried
multiple titles in her lifetime, Lois was like none other. A wife, a mother, professional gardener, author, businesswoman, farmer, chancellor, and in her final years, Lieutenant
Governor of Alberta, Lois brought grace and warmth to each role. That grace and warmth
now live on in the legacy of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
Born in rural Buchanan, Saskatchewan on January 30, 1929, Lois Elsa Veregin was twin to
brother Ray, and older sister to brother Lorne. Their father was a cattle buyer and their
mother a housewife with an avid interest in gardening. Lois grew up with a feverish interest
in music, books and learning, and had a natural gift for speaking. At one Sunday morning
church service in her early teens, the minister was delayed and the congregation sat fidgeting in their seats as they waited. Lois took note of the crowd’s need for leadership and rose
to the pulpit. She shared a little about Jesus, and a little about some other things and,
though she wasn’t particularly religious, it put her fellow parishioners at ease until the
minister arrived. There was just something about young Lois, even from an early age,
that set people at ease.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

27

It was a time when Saskatchewan had no
universal health care. Lois’s aunt, her
mother’s twin sister, nearly died of a burst
appendix, and she never forgot that
moment and how important it is to have
health care for all. “I would say that is one
of the most formative moments in her life,”
says her son Jim. “It stuck with her until the
day she died.”
When she was a teenager, Lois’s family
moved to Edmonton for better opportunities
in the cattle business. Lois continued her
education and worked towards her Grade 10
level in piano from the Royal Conservatory of
Music. But it was when she met Ted Hole in
her early 20s that the future Mrs. Lois Hole
began to blossom.

ONI HENDIP: Dr. Luptat Vulputpat lamet prat landis
henit nulputp atincil luptat. Ud exes duplo catavat.

HOPE NOTES
Hope is being able to
see that there is light
despite all of the
darkness.
- Desmond Tutu

In her book, I’ll Never Marry a Farmer, Lois
credited her parents for giving her the good
sense to know when the right man came
along.
“Ted turned out to be a pretty handsome
guy – I thought he looked like Charlton
Heston,” she wrote. “He spoke with such
passion that I found myself being caught up
in the romantic notion of marrying a handsome farmer – despite my childhood vow.”
Ted and Lois married in 1952 and bought
185 acres east of St. Albert. Ted had an insatiable love for the earth, and trained in agriculture at the University of Alberta but had
little practical knowledge of how to run a
farm. They had some lean and educational
first few years. They tried everything from
pigs, chickens, turkeys and cattle, with
mixed success. They were not afraid to try

28

Hope • Spring 2015

and fail, and were unembarrassed when
things didn’t work.
Not bound by convention or stressed by
any ideas of how things had to be done, Ted
and Lois were able to experiment and navigate farm life. As their family grew, so did
their garden. Bill and Jim were born in 1955
and 1956, and became young students under
the tutelage of their parents. From learning
to debate with visitors around the kitchen
table to mastering how to grow colorful
marigolds, the Holes cultivated open minds
in their family.
The future changed for the Holes when one
hot summer day some passersby noticed their
cucumbers. The visitors offered to purchase
some of their garden produce, and Ted and
Lois realized they might just have something
good going.
“She was always prepared to take on new
challenges,” Jim says. “She and Dad said they
didn’t know a lot about this business of
growing vegetables, so they didn’t have any
preconceived ideas, and that gave them a lot
5 Years of Caring

of freedom to try new things.”
The Holes decided to start a market garden
at their farm, selling produce under the trees
by the garden. Incorporated in 1979 as Hole’s
Greenhouses & Gardens Ltd., the market
garden eventually took over their barn.
Experimentation was always part of the
business and family life at the Hole house.
But so was fun. Lois could transform herself
from a farmer into a citified woman when
she and Ted set out to the opera or a movie.
“She didn’t worry about material stuff,”
Jim says, “but when she did get dressed up,
she looked like a million bucks.”
Lois served several terms as trustee on the
Sturgeon School Division. Her natural way
with the public caught politicians’ eyes
more than once, but despite their urgings
Lois was never interested in running for
office.
In 1991, as urban development expanded
to their property fence line, the Holes decided it was time to leave farming and focus on
the greenhouse and garden centre business
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

in St. Albert – Hole’s Greenhouse – that has
since grown into one of the largest retail
greenhouse operations in Western Canada.
Albertans know it today as the Enjoy Centre,
which opened in 2011.
With her vast knowledge of gardening,
Lois became a contributor to CBC radio, the
Globe and Mail, the Edmonton Sun and the
Edmonton Journal. She began to write, and
published her first book, Northern Vegetable
Gardening (later rereleased as Lois Hole’s
Vegetable Favourites) in 1993. It was soon
followed by five more books in the Favourites
series. This series now has sold more than a
million copies and continues to be among
the top-selling gardening books in Canada.
“Lois Hole” became a household name.
With her warmth in her public speeches, she
made people feel like they were in her living
room as she weaved in stories of family and
gardening. In 1998, Lois widened her influence again, becoming Chancellor at the
University of Alberta.
That role would eventually open the door
to her final post, as lieutenant-governor in
February 2000; she was the second woman
in Alberta’s history to carry this honour.
“She respected that position to the highest
degree,” Jim says. “She was the Queen’s
representative.” The Government of Alberta
was rebuilding in the aftermath of economic
uncertainties of the 1990s. Lois saw it as an
opportunity to lend her voice to change and
add some humour, understanding
that she was there to represent the
Crown.
“She was first and foremost a
people person,” Jim says. “She had
an incredible ability to relate to anyone. I have yet to see anybody that
could match that.” She got as many
hugs as she gave.
Even as lieutenant-governor, Lois made it
a priority to get home to the farm and join
her boys at lunchtime. With three family
houses on the property, the extended family
would gather around Lois’s kitchen table – a
mealtime that was always precious to her.
“She was still worried, in the back of her
mind, that we wouldn’t feed ourselves,” Jim
says with a laugh.
Unfortunately, during her term in office,
Ted died of prostate cancer in 2003. Lois her-

self was diagnosed with abdominal cancer,
and began treatment that same year. Any
opportunity she had, Lois still spoke of her
passion for education and health care. “Both

Kereliuk wanted to help Lois to learn the
value of saying a gracious “no” occasionally.
Once, when Kereliuk was running to meet
Lois at the greenhouse for some important
business, she found Lois still clad in
her green galoshes and her heavy
work coat, looking like one of the
workers. As Lois and Kereliuk
walked by a payphone, the customer using it recognized Lois and
hailed her, asking if she’d speak to
the woman’s sister – a big fan – on
the phone. Lois obliged happily, speaking to
the stranger at length while Kereliuk waited.
Even with declining health, it was Lois’s
way with people – her listening ear and
how that left them feeling heard – that
made Kereliuk realize she was the one
who’d been taught.
“Rather than me teaching her the importance of saying no,” Kereliuk says, “she
taught me the importance of saying yes. She
was extremely kind, compassionate and
caring. She was also an extremely strong

“Rather than me teaching her the
importance of saying no,” recalls
Sandy Kereliuk, “she taught me the
importance of saying yes.”

www.loisholehospital.com

mom and dad were optimistic through their
illnesses,” Jim says. “Mom just never seemed
to get down.”
Sandy Kereliuk was Lois’s private secretary for many years, including the last year
of her life as lieutenant-governor, and the
two developed a strong bond. “Those passions came out in most everything she did,”
Kereliuk says.
When Kereliuk first began working with
Lois, she noticed the way she never said no
to anyone and – with her busy schedule –
5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

29

woman, even when she was going through
the illness and death of her husband. There
were only two times I ever saw tears in
her eyes.”
One of those times was when Dale Sheard
and Grant Ericksen, board members from
the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation,
along with foundation President and CEO
Andrew Otway arrived at the office of the
lieutenant governor to ask if Lois would
allow a new women’s hospital to be named
in her honour.

HOPE NOTES
We must accept finite
disappointment,
but never lose
infinite hope.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We knew of Lois Hole’s reputation and
we knew if we could apply that preeminent
image to the new women’s hospital it would
be hugely meaningful. We also knew it
would galvanize community support for the
hospital,” says Dale Sheard. “Mrs. Hole
knew this too, and she was happy and honoured that her name would help garner support.” Lois was visibly moved, and she shed
some tears.
“If any hospital had asked me to do this it
would’ve been an honour,” Lois told the
group. “But the Royal Alex has always been
my family’s hospital and it’s where my husband went, and where I’ve been treated. I’m
just so thrilled to do this. I can’t wait to tell
my boys about this!”
The formal announcement of the hospital
naming was made in November, 2004 and
was attended by dignitaries and media. By
this time, Lois, who had been ill with cancer
as lieutenant-governor, was now hospitalized at the Royal Alex. Despite being gravely
ill, Lois insisted on attending and, after a

30

Hope • Spring 2015

FARM TEAM: Ted and Lois Hole weren’t afraid of new ideas
and took failed ideas as lessons on the road to success.

visit from hair and makeup, she took her
place on the stage in a wheelchair. Lois mustered the strength to stand and take the
podium to deliver her address. She was radi-

the housekeeper to the CEO of the hospital.
It made no difference to Lois where you
went in life or what kind of person you
were.” Burgess reports that Lois maintained
her Queen of Hugs title
effortlessly while she was
in hospital, doling out her
warm embraces to those
who needed to get or give
one. “I definitely felt honoured that I had come into
her life at that time when
ant and her emotional speech centred on
she needed the support.”
one word: Hope.
As she lay in her hospital bed at the Royal
“So my hope is that when people come to Alex in those final days, Lois looked out her
this new hospital and see my name, they’re window towards the future site of the Lois
going to have a little extra hope – that real,
Hole Hospital for Women. As friends and
uplifting hope – that things will turn out
family came, she would say, “Did you
OK.” It was her last public appearance, and know they’re going to build a hospital
two months later, Lois died in hospital on
out there and put my name on it? Can
January 6, 2005.
you believe that?”
Today, her words of hope inspire patients
Whether it was her bright marigolds and
and staff every day.
juicy tomatoes, her husband and sons, the
Isabelle Burgess, a nurse who cared for
guests who ate and debated around her
Lois during her time in hospital says, “She
kitchen table, or every parent she eased with
was an exceptional, one-of-a-kind lady.
her personal campaign for education, Lois
She treated everybody exactly the same from Hole was invested in life to the very end.

“We knew of Lois Hole’s reputation,”
says Dale Sheard. “We also knew it
would galvanize community support
for the hospital.”

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Dad was wrong.
Money does grow on trees.
Thanks to Shoppers Drug Mart’s Tree of Life campaign,
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women has benefited by nearly a
half million dollars. To those stores who selected us as their charity
of choice, and to all the women who popped in for lipstick and
put down a donation too, we thank you. Your generosity has helped
us advance care for hundreds of thousands of women since we
opened our doors just five short years ago.

We’ve only just begun.

DRIVING FORCE: It was Dale Sheard who first pitched
a “hospital within a hospital” idea to the foundation.

32

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Women’s
Advocate
Edmonton philanthropist Dale Sheard
played a major role in the creation of
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women
BY CAITLIN CRAWSHAW • PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANTHONY HOULE

W

HEN DALE SHEARD WAS IN HER EARLY 20s, SHE LOST A GOOD

friend to cancer. An apparently healthy young woman, her friend had few
symptoms until being diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. “It was called
the silent killer – and it still is,” she says. “By the time you find out you have it, it’s often
too late to beat it.”
Sheard was living in Toronto with her husband and children. The couple’s IT business
was doing well and life was good. But seeing her close friend cut down in the prime of
youth shook Sheard to the core – and it made her realize the importance of women’s
health care for the first time.
When she moved to Edmonton with her family in 1986, Sheard thought it a shame that
there wasn’t a women’s hospital in the city. But over the next few years, she watched with
interest as women’s health care evolved. It began in the mid-1990s, when women’s
health-care services in Edmonton became centralized at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Then, a few years later, Sheard received a brochure in the mail from the Royal Alexandra
Hospital Foundation requesting donations to renovate a new women’s area for the hospital. She immediately picked up the phone and became a donor.
When the renovations were finished in 1999, Sheard was invited to come for a tour, led
by Andrew Otway, CEO and president of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation. “We
had some interesting conversations that day about women’s health,” says Sheard, who
left feeling inspired by the work that the foundation was doing. So when she was asked to
join the foundation’s board of directors two years later, she was thrilled. Having sold her

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

33

PHOTO: DARRYL PROPP

WALL OF FAME: Sheard mobilized a team that drove
the donorship that helped make the hospital happen.

company in 1995, Sheard finally had the
time to roll up her sleeves and make a difference in women’s health.
But she wanted to do it right. “I thought,
‘If I’m going to sit on the board and provide
advice, I want to have the education to do
that,’ ” she says. To that end, she
enrolled in the MBA program at
Royal Roads University, focusing
on public relations and strategic
communications. For her thesis
project, she chose to do a study
on the Royal Alexandra Hospital
Foundation. “I really got to know
the organization very well. I
studied the financials, history, the size of
the donations,” she says. “I studied its
public profile.”
Her study revealed that Edmontonians had
limited knowledge of what the hospital did.
Few people knew the Royal Alexandra Hospital was a teaching and research hospital,

nor that it was a centre for a number of specialized health services, including women’s
health, ophthalmology and mental health.
“There were so many great things about the
Royal Alex the public didn’t know,” she says.
In her thesis, Sheard argued that each of the

“Why can’t this be a women’s hospital?” She
approached the board’s public relations committee, of which she was a member, and
pitched the idea of a hospital within a hospital.
“That’s when the idea of a women’s hospital
was really born,” says Sharlene Rutherford,
vice-president of the Royal Alexandra
Hospital Foundation. The board loved the
idea and created a new committee to
fundraise for and promote the new hospital, with Sheard at the helm. She
chaired the capital fundraising campaign,
called “A campaign about caring,” and
helped raise more than $20 million.
“Dale led a team of very talented
volunteer fundraisers and staff to set the
stage for success for our women’s hospital
and bring a new focus to women’s health,”
says Rutherford.
Sheard credits the A-team of wellknown Edmontonians, Grant Ericksen,
Bunny Ferguson, Debby Carlson, Maureen

Few people knew the Royal
Alexandra Hospital was a teaching
and research hospital, nor that it
was a centre for women’s health.

34

Hope • Spring 2015

hospital’s specializations needed to be promoted individually to the public – including
women’s health.
So when the province approved the construction of a new tower at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in 2002, with five floors dedicated to women’s health, Sheard wondered,
5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

McCaw, Lynn Mandel, and Joe Thompson,
who made the fundraising campaign a
major success.
“It was a dream team – no question about
it,” says Sheard.
Sheard was also part of the Royal Alexandra
Hospital Foundation’s public relations
committee that carefully considered a list of
stellar Albertans for whom the committee
might name the hospital. Lois Hole was the
name the committee found to be preeminent.
At the time, the garden centre maven and
community leader was serving as lieutenant governor, and it took months to get
a meeting to ask her permission to use her
name. When it finally happened, “she was
just speechless and her eyes welled up in
tears,” says Sheard.
At the time, few people knew that the
lieutenant governor was gravely ill with
cancer; sadly, she died in January 2005 –
long before the April 2010 grand opening of
www.loisholehospital.com

the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. But only
months before her death, and on the advice
of her two sons who knew their mother’s
situation was worsening, the foundation
held a formal naming ceremony. Lois – who
was being cared for at the Royal Alexandra
Hospital – left her hospital bed to speak
about the initiative. Sheard was moved by
her delight in being able to see the future
site from the window of her hospital room:
“It was gratifying for me to know that she
knew she would be leaving this legacy. ”
Although Sheard is reluctant to talk
about her achievements, she’s creating
quite a legacy for herself, too, says
Rutherford: “For a woman who’s done as
much as she has, she’s quite content to
remain under the radar. But she’s a
powerful voice in our community.” In
addition to her leadership, Sheard has
contributed financial resources, too. After
donating to the Royal Alexandra Hospital
for decades, she became a founder-level
donor (contributors of $1 million or more)
of the women’s hospital. Most recently,
Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
named Sheard a patron.
In fact, her contributions
established a research position at the hospital (The
Cavarzan Chair in Mature
Women’s Health Research
at the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women). Named for
Sheard’s private investment
firm, the chair focuses on
mature women’s health issues that the
public rarely has the opportunity to support, such as urinary incontinence or uterine prolapse. These are health issues that are
just not as appealing to donors as, say, prenatal health research, “but you have to
support women beyond their childbearing
years,” Sheard says.
After all, the hospital has always been
about supporting women in all stages of
life. It’s part of a holistic philosophy in
which the hospital cares for women’s
minds, bodies and spirits. That’s why
Sheard and others involved in the project
raised funds for research, new programs,
and enhancements to the hospital both
large and small, from a rooftop healing

HOPE NOTES
When we are no longer
able to change a situation,
we are challenged to
change ourselves.
- Viktor E. Frankl

garden to beautiful art throughout and even
hairdryers and makeup mirrors in every
patient room. “We wanted it to be a place of
comfort,” she says.
Nearly every aspect of the hospital – from
its vision to its outward appearance – has
been influenced directly or indirectly by
Sheard. It’s why former Royal Alexandra
Hospital board member and chair Anne
McLellan calls her “the heart and soul of the

Nearly every aspect of the
hospital – from its vision to its
outward appearance – has been
influenced directly or indirectly
by Dale Sheard.

5 Years of Caring

Lois Hole Hospital for Women.” As a longtime politician, McLellan has worked with
countless community leaders and says the
best ones are like Sheard – eager to see a
project succeed, but patient enough to lay
the groundwork needed for success: “Her
commitment to the hospital was so strong
and never wavered.”

YOUR BEST INVESTMENT

We’ve only just begun!
Donate to the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women at
loisholehospital.com
Spring 2015 • Hope

35

PHOTO: JESSICA FERN-FACETTE

36

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Higher
Learning

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women embraces
its place as a leader among teaching facilities

BY MICHAEL HINGSTON

W

HEN YOU PICTURE A

learning environment, chances are you don’t see scenes of
comfort. For many, the word “studying”
conjures memories of uncomfortable
chairs, rigid rows of wooden desks, and
harsh fluorescent lighting. And even in a
hospital setting, this assumption often
isn’t far from the truth: the rooms can be
cramped, the equipment out-of-date,
the space generally not built with
education in mind.
Things are different at Edmonton’s
Lois Hole Hospital for Women. Here, education and the teaching process play primary roles in everything that happens
under its roof. Even a utilitarian space, such
as a stairwell, has the power to brighten a
student’s day – literally.
“One of the things I love is this staircase
on the north side of the building,” Sara
Ilnitsky says. She’s a third-year medical
resident, and among the first wave to have

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

done the entirety of their residencies at the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women. “It’s all windows, the whole staircase. When you’ve
been on call for 24 hours, and you’re up at
5 a.m., if you have a chance to take the stairs
between floors, you can see the sunrise.”
In fact, this staircase has become so well
known for its restorative powers that residents from all around the hospital make a
point of using it at some point during the
day. “It has a huge effect on your mood, and
your learning day overall.”
Creating a space that’s conducive for
learning has been a top priority at the Lois
Hole Hospital for Women since day one.
With more than 70,000 patient visits and
over 6,000 deliveries each year, it’s an ideal
training ground for the next generation of
physicians, nurses and other medical staff
in Edmonton. That’s why there are approximately 65 students on site at any given
time, learning disciplines ranging from
medicine and nursing to psychology,

Spring 2015 • Hope

37

PHOTO: DARRYL PROPP

HOPE NOTES
Man is a creature of
hope and invention,
both of which belie the
idea that things cannot
be changed.
- Tom Clancy

38

Hope • Spring 2015

physiotherapy, and emergency medical
services – all in an environment that’s dedicated to women’s health.
The bulk of those learners are medical
residents and students, and
many of them come from
the University of Alberta’s
department of obstetrics
and gynecology, whose
clinical department has
operated in the hospital
since it opened in 2010.
(Before that, it was based in the main Royal
Alexandra Hospital site.) Much of the
department’s faculty and administrative
leadership, too, are based at the hospital,
and that proximity leads to more hands-on
experience for the students themselves.

“Easily two-thirds to three-quarters of
the residency time is here, just because we
have the tertiary care services and all the
subspecialty rotations,” says Dr. Radha
Chari, an associate professor and chair of
maternal-fetal medicine at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women and head of the department of obstetrics and gynecology.
Chari has worked in maternal-fetal medicine for the past 20 years, and she agrees
with Ilnitsky that the quality of life at the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women – for students
and patients alike – begins with the design
of the space itself.
“The building is beautiful,” Chari says.
“You don’t get the same feeling that you
would compared to the old hospital. The
layout, the amount of natural light exposure, the way that the building has been
designed – it’s really good for patients, and
it’s also really good for staff. Even when you
wait in waiting rooms, you’re exposed to a
lot of sunlight and a lot more space. It’s a
huge difference.”
The shapes of the rooms themselves have
also been modernized. Chari says that in
maternal-fetal medicine, patients are now
able to watch their own ultrasounds as
they’re happening, which wasn’t previously possible. There’s more space for a partner
or family members to be present. “It leans
more towards patient-centred care than we
were able to provide at the old hospital.”
There’s also more room for the residents
to move around. The resident lounge at the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women, for instance,
has plenty of windows and a kitchenette,
while the resident library includes classroom space and a bay of computers for

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women is
an ideal training ground for the next
generation of physicians, nurses
and other medical staff.

5 Years of Caring

research at the back. “It’s lovely,” Ilnitsky
says. “I have not been to a program anywhere else in the country that has that kind
of resident space for learning.”
Another key to a modern learning environment is the range of facilities on hand.
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

The hospital has several specialized clinics
in which students can gain experience,
including fertility, urogynecology, gynecologic oncology, and maternal-fetal medicine, which is a national leader in the
treatment of high-risk pregnancies.
The hospital’s Robbins Learning Centre
contains a 181-seat auditorium and three
classrooms, each equipped with highdefinition videoconferencing technology
(see sidebar).
Even more exciting is the state-of-theart simulation centre, which allows residents to practice all of the steps of a labour
and delivery – with all of their attendant
complications – on advanced mannequins
that are designed to mirror the actual
responses of both the mother and infant.
Other settings for the program include simulating premature births, even twins. The
centre, which opened in November 2014, is
the first of its kind in Canada. (See a story
about the sim centre on page 40.)
“Historically, the way people have
learned is basically going onto the wards
directly. This is a step before that,” says
Chari. “This allows for people to get some
confidence going through those steps in a
structured, protected situation.”
Likewise, students can learn a lot from
observing skilled surgeons at work, as they
operate using the hospital’s dedicated da
Vinci surgical robot. (For more on da Vinci,
see page 60.)
Of course, the most important factor in
any educational setting is who’s doing the
teaching. And here the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women more than measures up.
“The nurses that we work with are phenomenal,” says Ilnitsky. “All the other staff
are really great to work with as well. They’re
great teachers. They’re available. They’re
supportive.” Even, she adds, at the end of a
14-hour shift. “It’s hard work. But it’s
always a joy to go to work.”

YOUR BEST INVESTMENT

We’ve only just begun!
Donate to the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women at
loisholehospital.com
www.loisholehospital.com

The Robbins
Learning Centre
When the Robbins Learning Centre
opened to the public in February
2012, then-health minister Fred Horne
announced that the high-tech training
centre would “enhance health-care
teaching” in a way that would “benefit
patients across the province.”
In fact, that’s an understatement.
With its 181-seat auditorium and three
classroom spaces, each equipped with
audio-visual technology that allows them
to digitally connect to other facilities, the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women, which
is housed in the same building as the
Robbins Learning Centre, now has an
instant connection not just to the rest of
the province, but also the country and
even the continent.
“We’ve never had anything of that
size on the Royal Alex campus at all,”
says Dr. Radha Chari, chair of maternalfetal medicine at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women and head of the department
of obstetrics and gynecology. She adds
that the Robbins Centre isn’t strictly
reserved for the women’s hospital, either.
“Anybody who works on our site can
book the area and use it. That’s been
really helpful.”
The goal of the centre is, ultimately,
to share what happens at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women with other health-

5 Years of Caring

care facilities. Presentations and lectures
can be delivered around the continent
instantly. Chari already broadcasts her
rounds across Western Canada, when
the topic is of wider interest to other
hospitals, as well as operating suites and
classrooms. There are even opportunities
for the public to get involved: the centre
hosts the Royal Alexandra Foundation’s
public-lecture series Speaking of Health,
where physicians speak about various
health issues in a way that’s accessible to
the general public.
The centre benefits students within
the hospital, too – especially those who
remember the old meeting spaces. “We
used to go to a tiny little classroom in the
old women’s building for the rounds,”
says Sara Ilnitsky, a third-year medical
resident. “Having them in the Robbins
auditorium has made a big different to
attendance, and to our ability to learn –
it’s just a better set up for our uses.”
With its cutting-edge technology,
the Robbins Learning Centre has the
potential to improve not just the way
hospitals communicate with one another,
but also the way residents and even the
general public learn how the health-care
system works. The president and CEO of
the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation,
Andrew Otway, put it best when he
described the centre, at its opening, as
the “place where learning and health care
intersect.”

Spring 2015 • Hope

39

GENTLY NOW: The simulation centre allows students
to practice before they attend a delivery.

40

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Noelle talks, sweats, cries, responds
to medication and can even hemorrhage –
all while she delivers an education
BY ROBBIE JEFFREY • PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA FERN-FACETTE

I

’M HAVING CONTRACTIONS!”

shouts Noelle. “Please help me!”
Seven medical students huddle
around the hospital bed, eagerly watching
the nurse do her best to comfort the loud
mother-to-be. “You’re going to have a
baby!” the nurse tells her, placing a hand on
her shoulder.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!” Noelle snaps.
The nurse gestures to one of the students,
Krystyn Popowycz, to put on gloves and a
scrub top, and she drapes a gown across
Noelle’s abdomen. This is the student’s first
time in a delivery room, and while Popowycz
knows what she’s doing, her movements are
a little tentative, her approach cautious.
“I really have to go to the bathroom,”
says Noelle.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Suddenly, Noelle’s cervix starts to dilate.
“The baby is coming!” she yells. Popowycz
readies herself, and the nurse tells her to
get closer.
“You’ll only know how to do this when
you actually do it yourself,” the nurse says.
Popowycz prepares to cradle the baby as its
head emerges. Noelle wails like a banshee.
Then Noelle goes quiet, as if her whole
body is shutting down.

WHEN YOU WALK INTO ROOM
GS212 in the Lois Hole Hospital for Women in
Edmonton – “a hospital within a hospital” at
the Royal Alexandra Hospital – turn right,
and you’ll see a piece of paper stuck to the
wall with Scotch tape. “Fiction contract:
Participants make a sincere effort to immerse

Spring 2015 • Hope

41

themselves in the simulation, in spite of any
gaps in realism,” it reads. “In turn the Simulation Team will strive to eliminate those
gaps in realism by thorough participation
and delivery of simulation.”
GS212 is the hospital’s newly built simulation lab, where students, physicians and
nurses participate in recreations of medical
events. The star actors – of which Noelle is
one – are robotic mannequins, or “simulators,” and the lot of them cost the hospital
$650,000. They are expensive, but the hospital was able to keep the investment to a
relatively low $1.2 million, (raised through
community support) using existing space in
the building rather than renovating. Now,
the hospital boasts Canada’s premier simulation centre tailored for women’s health.
No one will mistake these simulators for
real patients, though with her characteristic
shouts and snowflake-pattern pyjamas,
Noelle certainly has a personality. But these
simulators are not overpriced dolls; they are
technological marvels. Noelle blinks, she has
a pulse, she has measurable blood pressure,
she accepts a feeding tube, her chest rises and
falls as she breathes and she can go into
shock. She can faithfully replicate disease
states. She has blood reservoirs in her side and
can be hooked up to an IV, and perhaps most
impressively, state-of-the-art drug recognition software means she responds to drugs
just as a real-life patient would. And all of the
equipment connected to Noelle is identical to
what you’d find on the hospital floor.
Noelle also gives birth to a simulator
baby. (The dual-simulator birth is the
lab’s most talked-about attraction.) Her
stomach opens up to reveal what looks
like a mechanical spool, which slowly
pushes out the infant. The students
today are getting used to the procedural
aspects of childbirth – putting on
gowns and gloves, saying the right
things to the mother, and using the proper
equipment.
Andrew Otway, president and CEO of the
Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, says
the idea for the simulation lab was proposed
by the hospital in 2011, as part of a two-stage
approach. “Initially, there was the concept
of the education centre,” he says. “As a
foundation, our board was really supportive

of the educational component of the simulators.” The hospital houses renowned teaching facilities.
“Then the idea grew to providing a permanent home for the simulators, one that
enhances educational capacity, providing
the technology to record and debrief on the

asset,” he says. Traditionally, the aviation
industry and the military have been leaders
in simulation technology. Otway wants to
make women’s health a contender.
The simulation lab’s benefits are many.
Students get first-time exposure to common
procedures, while doctors and nurses run
through situations they
might otherwise experience
just once or twice in their
career. “Exposure to these
scenarios in a controlled setting allows you to develop
reflexes for what you’ll be
doing when you encounter
that situation,” says Dr. Venu
Jain, an associate professor in obstetrics and
gynecology at the University of Alberta and a
staff physician in the maternal fetal medicine
clinic at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
“Almost any scenario you can think of can
be simulated – whether obstetrical, gynecological or more general.”
Dr. Jain says that prior to the centre’s
opening in 2014, the simulation programs

“Simulation is about trying to recreate
not only the medical parts,” says
Dr. Venu Jain, “but communication
and interaction as well.”

42

Hope • Spring 2015

process as well.”
The foundation believed that there’d be an
uptake in use – with everyone from nursing
students to staff physicians – if the lab were a
permanent fixture. And while the lab is relatively new, Otway has received encouraging
feedback from almost everyone involved.
“Even for very experienced practitioners in
women’s health, this is seen as a valuable
5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Rhonda VanThournout

Dr. Venu Jain

were spread throughout different locations
in the hospital. The facility needed a centralized and streamlined simulation site, “where
all different aspects of simulation are available and it’s dedicated specifically to women’s health care.” Today the centre comprises three rooms under one banner. There’s a
prep room filled with torsos, bottles of
Altered FX blood and stretchers on which
spare full-body mannequins lie; a control
room, from which someone can speak
through a microphone and control an array
of variables; and the main lab room, where a
group of students watched Krystyn
Popowycz deliver Noelle’s baby.
“The difficult part is learning new techniques and procedures to keep patients
safe,” says Popowycz, after prodding
Noelle’s uterus and dabbing the placenta for
blood. Proving the nurse’s point, she adds,
“It’s valuable to practise your steps – you can
read steps one through 30, but until you
actually do it, it’s not the same.”
After the students leave, Rhonda VanThournout opens a keypad-entry door to the
www.loisholehospital.com

control room, which hides behind the lab’s
one-way mirror. The room looks like a makeshift radio studio, complete with monitors
and a mixing board for several microphones.
VanThournout, a nurse at the hospital who
has been overseeing the “birth,” explains the
behind-the-scenes adjustments that make
each session different from the last. “I can
actually have someone with a script controlling her voice and actions,” she says of
Noelle. “She can be as real as we want her to
be. We can even make her turn blue.”
The lab is outfitted with three video
cameras that redirect to the control room,
where VanThournout records them for
review. She can add actors into the fray to
mimic the mother’s partner or parent. She
can even direct the sessions to focus on a specific objective: Today, for example, she had
the students learn a normal vaginal delivery.
Tomorrow, she could customize a session to
focus on teamwork or professionalism. And
she can command an overhead microphone –
the “voice of God,”as she says – to give
advice.
5 Years of Caring

But lest anyone feel overwhelmed, everyone is briefed before they begin so they know
how much control VanThournout has over
the session. “We’re putting experienced professionals through a high-stress situation,
which can be uneasy for people,” she says.
“Part of the brief is to make them feel safe.”
It gets to the heart of the simulation lab’s
purpose: a productive suspension of disbelief
that aims to educate. “Essentially, simulation
is about trying to recreate not only the medical parts but the communication and interaction parts as well, whether it’s low-tech or
high-tech” says Dr. Jain.
The fiction contract that is taped to the
door can seem redundant – Noelle is fooling
no one – but at the same time, student participants become engrossed despite the
“gaps in realism.” It is a reminder of the
cognitive dissonance that’s crucial to learning these kinds of skills, the kind of belief
and disbelief that makes you think, if only
for the briefest of moments, that once the
lights are turned off and the door is closed,
Noelle still blinks.
Spring 2015 • Hope

43

High Tech
High Touch
BY CAROLINE BARLOTT • PHOTOGRAPHY BY BUFFY GOODMAN

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women
serves a diverse demographic with
state-of-the-art technology in an
atmosphere of genuine caring

S

EVERAL LARGE APOTHOCARY JARS IN

various colours are lined up in the lower level courtyard
at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women outside a bank of
windows lining an airy corridor. But look closer and the real
purpose of the art installation becomes apparent. The spaces
between the jars look like the silhouettes of women, demonstrating an attention to detail that’s found throughout the hospital, celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.

44

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

ALL FOR ONE: Nurse manager Nomagugu Moyo
understands that as varied as the circumstances of her
patients are, their desire to improve their lives is universal.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

45

The 33,450-square-metre facility on the
Royal Alexandra Hospital campus was built
with the details in mind – in terms of technological advances and the latest in medical
services that help women from all cultures
and backgrounds. State-of-the-art equipment is in place for women facing high risk
pregnancies, gynecological surgeries, fertility problems, cancer treatments and many
other medical situations.
“We are located in the heart of downtown
Edmonton and are fortunate to serve a population of women with varying cultural and
socioeconomic backgrounds, ” says Nomagugu Moyo, nurse manager at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women. “The women may be
faced with financial difficulties, challenging
family dynamics, childcare concerns, or are
facing homelessness. They may be new to
the country trying to learn a new language
and struggling to figure out how things
work here. ”

HOPE NOTES
People will forget what
you said, people will
forget what you did, but
people will never forget
how you made them feel.
- Maya Angelou

But regardless of the situation, Moyo says,
the women have similar needs and desires –
and the hospital strives to not only meet
their immediate medical situations, but to
improve their lives overall. If a woman
comes to the centre for a specific medical
concern, but she is also struggling with
issues related to immigration, for example,
staff at the hospital find resources to help.
Moyo says that the hospital also reaches
out to the community. Last year, she went to
the Africa Centre to provide health information, and simply to ensure that the women
she met at the centre are aware of the ser-

46

Hope • Spring 2015

vices offered. Moyo comes from
Zimbabwe herself, and says she understands the challenge of moving to a different
country and immersing into a new culture.
Visiting a hospital can be especially stressful for those unable to articulate their needs
clearly due to language challenges. But the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women has technology to help – a three-way phone service
allows non-English speakers to speak with
an interpreter, who then relays the information to a nurse and vice versa. Meanwhile,
on-site interpreters in many languages are
also available, along with a resource centre
that has a variety of materials – including the
Canada Food Guide, books and journal articles
of interest to patients – in many different
languages. Aboriginal culture liaisons can
perform ceremonies of all kinds, and provide
social and emotional support. And the hospital works with several other groups in
Edmonton, so that it can connect patients
with the resources that they need even after
leaving the hospital.
But, Moyo says, the most important way
that the hospital helps its patients is
through its caring, family-like atmosphere.
Kelsey Thiemer agrees; she’s a former
patient who, due to complications that had
already caused three late miscarriages, was
in the hospital for three months prior to giving birth to her son. “The nurses were absolutely amazing. Some of them felt like sisters; some of them felt like best friends,”
says Thiemer. “One of them felt like the best
aunt in the world.”
The hospital itself is set up in a way that’s
conducive to connection and comfort.
There’s colourful artwork hanging on many
walls, floor-to-ceiling windows providing
natural light in many areas, and even the
hallways sound different from those at most
hospitals. The halls are quiet, without any of
the jarring and barely intelligible overhead
announcements common in older hospitals.
Like most hospitals, patients can call for a
nurse by pressing buttons on the side of
their bed, or even speak directly to them.
But unlike many hospitals, the call goes
directly to a mobile phone carried by the
specific bedside nurse, creating a more personal model of care that extends to the
5 Years of Caring

“We are located in
the heart of
downtown Edmonton
and are fortunate to
serve a population of
women with
varying cultural
and socioeconomic
backgrounds,”
says Moyo.

CARE FOR ALL: Moyo ensures that patients have
the resources in place to best deal with their
situation during and after care at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women.

nurses’ alcoves, located right outside of
patient’s rooms, rather than in a centralized
location. The hospital aims to provide a new
model of care that is more personal and tailored to the needs of each patient.
“We are patient- and family-centred in
everything we do. And we’ve made great
advances not only in the technology and
clinical part of hospital care, but in the
manner in which we deliver the care,” says
Janie Tyrrell, interim executive director of
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
For Thiemer, that care made her threemonth stay away from her husband and two
older children more comfortable than one
would expect. Thiemer is from Whitecourt,
but because the town does not have the speThe Lois Hole Hospital for Women

The Details

cialized services she needed, she came to the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women. While there
were many difficult moments, she says, the
nurses created the opportunity for genuine
connection, including movie nights and
heart-felt conversations that she still misses.
“I remember the spiritual care staff arranged
tea parties and I went to one just before my
baby was born,” Thiemer says.
As she neared her due date, Thiemer was
feeling frustrated and decided she was near
enough to term – 35 weeks – that she wanted to go home early – a-two hour drive with
no specialized hospital at the other end –
but one of the nurses convinced her to stay,
at least until she was a week farther along
and the baby was safer. The following night,
www.loisholehospital.com

Thiemer had her baby. “As far as I’m concerned, she saved my baby’s life,” Thiemer
says. “She sat me down and made sure I
didn’t do something rash.”
During her stay, Thiemer received counselling through mental health services, which
provided her with treatment to help prevent
postpartum depression, something she had
suffered in the past and didn’t want to face
again. It was a helpful experience, one that
continues to benefit her.
“I think for women, whether they’re
having a baby or coming in for gynecological services or oncology – the reoccurring
theme is how positive the staff are,” says
Moyo. “We want to give people a sense that
there is hope for a better day.”
5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women
demonstrates its high tech, high touch
care in lots of ways, large and small.
• Interactive Bedside Terminals:
Each hospital room has a bedside
unit that’s basically a multipurpose laptop, stored above the
bed, and can be swung down to
the patient’s level. The units can be
used as any laptop can – as a way
to watch movies, surf the Internet,
talk on the phone or listen to music.
• QUIET, PLEASE: Gone are the days
of overhead call bells. Instead, nurses
are equipped with cell phones and
when patients require assistance,
they can connect immediately
and privately to their nurse. The
system is more direct, efficient, and
promotes a quiet environment, more
conducive to healing.
• CuddleCot System: The cooling
bassinet allows bereaved families
of infants who have died a longer
chance to grieve and say goodbye
to their loved one.
• Hairdryers: Details for personal
grooming include hair dryers and
makeup mirrors.
• Pictures for Pain: On the wall
opposite every bed in the hospital,
there is an original piece of artwork,
easy for the patient to cast an eye
to. The paintings serve to lift the
mood, and offer a focal point that
can help women cope with pain.
• Labour and Delivery: Other health
facilities require patients to move
into a new room for delivery. The
Lois Hole Hospital for Women sets
up a family in a single room, where
they will stay for labour, delivery
and recovery.

YOUR BEST INVESTMENT

We’ve only just begun!
Donate to the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women at
loisholehospital.com
Spring 2015 • Hope

47

Health Tips

A Gynecological Guide
An expert at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women
sees women at all ages and in all stages

DR. ERIN BADER HAS BEEN WORKING AS AN OB-GYN (OBSTETRICIAN-

gynecologist) at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women since before it officially
opened five years ago. As such, she’s a specialist in women’s health at one
of Canada’s leading research hospitals. The women she sees have usually
been referred to her by a primary care physician. “It’s not like on TV,” she
explains. “You don’t call and book an appointment with an ob-gyn. Your
doctor refers you.”
Bader says that doctors refer patients for a variety of reasons, depending
on the patient’s presentation and on their own repertoire and comfort level
with women’s medicine. Bader sees woman at all stages of life for a variety
of conditions.

STARTING OUT
While it’s rare for Bader to see a child in her
practice, there are conditions that bring
pediatric patients her way. “A lack of estrogen can cause the labia to stick together,”
she says. And she sees young patients who
have skin conditions that can affect the genital area, causing redness and itching.

48

Hope • Spring 2015

“Sometimes we see girls with precocious
puberty, meaning they have started puberty
too early,” she says. These patients are often
treated by an endocrinologist who uses
medication to put the brakes on the puberty
process until the child is older.
Sometimes the opposite happens, and
Bader will meet an older teenager in her
practice who has not yet started
menstruating. “Generally, if a girl has not
started menstruating by age 16, we should
investigate,” she says. Bader’s team will
order tests in addition to those the teen’s
family doctor may have already carried
out. Depending on the reason behind the
absence, Bader might again enlist an
endocrinologist.
To protect a woman’s gynecological
health, Bader advises families to take advantage of the free HPV shot available for girls
(and now boys) in Alberta in Grade 5. It protects again the strains of human papilloma
virus that are behind 70 per cent of cervical
cancers. “A woman will still need regular pap
tests, though,” she says, “starting at age 21 or
three years after her first sexual intercourse,
whichever comes later.”
5 Years of Caring

THE MIDDLE YEARS
Often Bader will see women in their 20s and
30s who want to get pregnant, but haven’t
been able to. By the time Bader sees them,
most women will have had at least some
fertility testing completed by their family
doctor. Tests include evaluating hormone
levels at particular times during a woman’s
cycle to give doctors insight into how the
ovaries are working, so women should take
particular care to chart their cycles. Other
tests include ultrasounds to examine the
ovaries and uterus.
Bader might order a hysterosalpingogram,
a test in which fluid is flushed through the
uterus into the fallopian tubes to see if they
are open. Sometimes they are blocked by
scar tissue. Causes of scarring include a past
STD or an inflammatory condition called
endometriosis, a disorder of the uterine
lining, which is frequently behind women’s
fertility challenges.
“And I also see fibroids in women in their
20s, 30s and 40s,” says Bader. “These are
benign muscle tumours of the uterus.”
Women are sometimes referred to Bader
because they have menstrual irregularities.
“They might have an absence, or sudden
change to the pattern of their periods, or
a marked heaviness to the flow. Also,
disorders of the vulva, vaginal pain,
itchiness and rashes are beyond the scope
of many family practitioners and these
conditions will often engender a referral to
Bader. These problems are not limited to
the middle years and can happen at any
time in a woman’s life.
Bader advises women who have any of
these symptoms to see their doctor.
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

who have pre-existing conditions such as
heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. She also sees women who have lost
pregnancies in the past due to (for example)
a condition such as incompetent cervix that
can cause them to deliver too early. The Lois
Hole Hospital for Women is a national leader
in complicated and high-risk pregnancies,
and Bader and her colleagues offer specialized inpatient and outpatient care for
high-risk pregnancies and multiple births.

EXPECTANT TIMES
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women delivers
more than 6,000 babies each year and about
half of Bader’s practice is spent on the
obstetrics part of her title. “Pregnancy is one
of the most common reasons I get a referral,”
says Bader. Some of the pregnancies she sees
are routine, and many involve high risk
pregnancies and premature deliveries.
As an obstetician, Bader sees pregnant
women with higher medical needs and
concerns for their own health and/or that of
their baby. For example, she’ll see mothers

LATER YEARS
Menopause is ubiquitous, but impacts
women differently. Some pass through this
milestone with few symptoms. “For other
women, it’s debilitating,” Bader says. There
are hot flashes, mood changes, vaginal dryness and, for some, profound sleep disturbance. How she treats these women
depends on their symptoms, age and risk
factors, but treatment may include hormones, sleep aids or other medication.
Bader often sees women for urinary
incontinence, or prolapse. While these
conditions can occur earlier in life, they
become more common and symptoms
increase as women age. “The number one
cause for prolapse is childbirth,” Bader says.
Prolapse involves a pelvic organ bulging
through the vaginal wall. “It can feel like
something is falling out of the vagina,”
Bader explains. “Or women can feel a
sensation or pressure and pain with
intercourse.” Bader and her colleagues can
treat prolapse or incontinence surgically or
with the aid of a device called a pessary,
which women wear internally to support
pelvic organs. “Treatment depends on
severity, and on the age of the patient,”
Bader says. “Physiotherapy helps, and so
does estrogen therapy.”

When is it urgent?
Many women worry about gynecological
cancer. While women of any age can get
it, it becomes likelier with age. Regular pap
smears monitor the cervix for changes
that are a precursor to cancer. Other
cancers are harder to spot. Bader says
there are some symptoms that should
send you to your doctor right way, rather
than waiting to see if they resolve. Most
women with these symptoms do not have
cancer, but they should be investigated.

www.loisholehospital.com

1.Vaginal bleeding after menopause.
This can be a symptom of a cancer of
the uterine lining; don’t ignore it.

2.Abdominal bloating. A sudden
expansion of the abdominal girth,
with or without pain, or a rapidly
increasing girth, is one of few signs
of ovarian cancer.

3.Heavy or ongoing bleeding.
In pre-menopausal women heavy
bleeding (including clots) that
requires a woman to change her
napkin or tampon every hour or
two, needs medical attention.

Health Link

Toll-free: 1-866-408-5465

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

49

ONI HENDIP: Dr. Luptat Vulputpat lamet prat landis
henit nulputp atincil luptat. Ud exes duplo catavat.

50

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

The Allard Hereditary Breast and Ovarian
Cancer Clinic helps families piece together
the mystery of potentially deadly
genetic markers
BY JEN JANZEN • ILLUSTRATION BY HEFF 0’REILLEY

E

LISA WARWICK-MARKOWSKI WAS 38 WEEKS PREGNANT WITH HER

second child when she found a lump in her breast. She wasn’t concerned about it,
and neither was her obstetrician – breasts go through many changes throughout
pregnancy, and most lumps aren’t a problem – but the doctor sent Elisa for bloodwork
and an ultrasound, just to be safe. These tests led to a biopsy.
A week later, on a cold Friday in January, her obstetrician called with bad news: the
lump was cancerous. The pathology report also indicated the cancer was triple-negative,
meaning the cancer cells didn’t contain the estrogen, progesterone or HER2 (human epidermal growth factor) receptors needed for the most common breast cancer therapies to
be effective. So instead of hormone-targeting medication, her treatment options were
limited to tumour removal followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
“They gave me the weekend to process the news,” Elisa recalls. Her labour was induced
on the Monday. Eight days later, she had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer in her breast.
Then, with a newborn and a three-year-old at home, she began her cancer treatments:
three months of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation over six weeks.
Those few months were a whirlwind of treatment for Elisa, but she didn’t go through it
alone: her mother, Elaine, was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer just a couple
of weeks before Elisa’s breast cancer discovery.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

51

“My mom and I had our chemotherapy
on the same days,” recalls Elisa.
The mother-daughter cancer discovery
prompted the pair to look back at their family history. At this point, they still didn’t
know it was hereditary. But based on the
rarity of mom Elaine’s cancer and the fact
that Elaine’s sister had had breast cancer in
her 40s, the mother-daughter pair were
referred for genetic testing.
Meanwhile, as Elisa’s sister Shauna
Warwick watched her mother and sister
cope with chemotherapy and waited for the
genetic testing results to come back, she
talked about the situation with her doctor,
who referred Shauna to the Allard Clinic.
“The red flags were there,” Shauna says.
“And my physician thought it was prudent
to send me to the high-risk clinic,” she says.

HOPE NOTES
Hope lies in dreams, in
imagination, and in the
courage of those who
dare to make dreams
into reality.
- Jonas Salk

The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer
(HBOC) Society says HBOC syndrome “is a
genetic predisposition to some types of cancer.” There are several known types of genetic mutations, but the most common are
known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. “All cancer is
the result of gene mutations,” says the website, adding that the causes of gene mutations
include aging, chemical exposure, hormones
or other factors. “The cancers estimated to be
hereditary are related to a genetic mutation
that exists in every cell of the body, and carriers, whether they’re male or female, have a
50-per-cent chance of passing the mutation
onto a child of either gender.
Funded by generous donors, including

52

Hope • Spring 2015

the Allard Foundation and the HBOC Society, the Allard Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Clinic, located in the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women, follows about 600
patients, just over half of whom have ovarian
and breast cancer in their families but have
not yet had genetic testing. The Allard Clinic
sees patients who have a suspected genetic
link and those who have a confirmation.
Dr. Valerie Capstick is a gynecologic
oncologist and one of the specialists at the
Allard Clinic. She says about five per cent of
breast cancers and 10 per cent of ovarian or
fallopian tube cancers are caused by hereditary factors (the HBOC Society says this
translates into about 1 in 400 women). With
a BRCA1 mutation, the risk of breast cancer
is in the range of 50 and 85 per cent, whereas the risk of ovarian cancer is generally
around 40 per cent. With BRCA2, Capstick
says the risks are slightly lower, “but still
significantly elevated.” Male carriers of
either mutation have an increased risk of
getting breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Some of the red flags for HBOC syndrome
are multiple people on the same side of the
family with breast and/or ovarian cancer,
developing breast cancer at 40 or younger,
and developing triple negative breast cancer
at 50 or younger.
5 Years of Caring

Shauna was the first woman in the family
to go to the Allard Clinic. She had her first
appointment before she had had any
genetic testing done for herself. “At that
point when you don’t know, your body
feels like a ticking time bomb,” she says.
“It does weird things to your head.”
A month after she visited the clinic,
Shauna also found a lump in her own
breast. She called the clinic on a Friday and
secured an appointment for the following
Monday. “They were fabulous – very reassuring,” Shauna says. She had an ultrasound on the spot and the results were
instantaneous: the lump wasn’t cancer. “If
I went through a physician, there would
have been a three- or four-week wait for an
ultrasound,” she adds.
Four months later, she found another
lump and was able to get a biopsy done at
the clinic. She had the results in a week.
“They know how much stress you’re
under,” Shauna says, “and they know their
stuff: how this kind of syndrome is different than a generic risk of breast cancer.
They know the risk and they treat you
accordingly.”
There are five women in the Warwick
family. Shauna and her sister Kathleen tested negative for the BRCA1 mutation, while
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Elisa, sister Christina and their mother all
tested positive.
The three BRCA1-positive Warwick
women go to the Allard Clinic every six
months (Shauna and Kathleen were
released from the clinic since their test was
negative), and their diagnostic tests alternate between a mammogram and an MRI.
Capstick says one of the strengths of the
Allard Clinic is that it brings together
experts in both breast and ovarian cancer to
provide dedicated focus in a part of medicine that isn’t universally understood. “It’s
a very specialized area,” Capstick says. To
capture the expertise under a single roof,
breast specialist Dr. Kelly Dabbs spends 20
per cent of her workweek at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women, creating the opportunity to learn together, further establishing
best practices.

Some women struggle with the choices,
worrying about what their partners will say
– particularly when it comes to breast
removal – but others approach it straightforwardly, either deciding on a total mastectomy or keeping their breasts and holding to a rigorous screening plan. “Counselling someone in this situation can take more
time than somebody who has ovarian cancer,” Capstick says. “It’s hugely complicated and nuanced, and then there’s the overlay of what happened in their families.”
Since breast cancer is typically more
treatable than ovarian cancer, many more
women opt for a salpingo-oophorectomy
(the medical term for fallopian tube and
ovary-removal surgery) and choose to
closely monitor their breast health.
Although ovary and tube removal obviously
comes with a side-effect of no longer being
able to have children, Capstick says most women start
considering the surgery by
the time they’re 35 years old,
so “they have lots of time” to
decide on their families.
The Allard Clinic also has a
Menopause Clinic, which Elisa was glad of
when she got her ovaries and fallopian tubes
removed last year. “I hit menopause cold
turkey,” she says. “That’s another struggle
you have to go through as a young woman.”
But, she adds that the hot flashes and night
sweats and continual need to observe her
bone health – menopause places Elisa at a
higher risk for developing osteoporosis – are
a small price to pay for knowing her cancer
risk has dropped dramatically.
Once an Allard Clinic patient has had
preventive surgeries and her cancer risk is
reduced to that of the general population,
she is discharged from the facility. Capstick
says about 10 per cent of the tube and ovary
surgeries reveal a small cancer, which is
removed and the patient then treated with
chemotherapy.
Since receiving her negative result for
BRCA1, Shauna is no longer an Allard Clinic
patient. Once Elisa undergoes the bilateral
(both sides) mastectomy she’s got planned
for later this year, she won’t be, either. All
follow-ups will be with Elisa’s family doctor. Mom Elaine, who is in remission from

Some women struggle, worrying
about what their partners will say
when it comes to breast removal.
“A lot of women in the past may have had
different messages about what their risks
are,” Capstick says. A gynecological oncologist for 25 years, she remembers when the
BRCA mutations were first discovered about
20 years ago. “We just seemed to see families it happened in often,” she says. “In my
time, I’ve seen the genes responsible discovered, I’ve seen increasing refinements in
what we recommend to people.” And Capstick, Dabbs and the team are at the avantguard of research and treatment.
Those recommendations often centre
around preventive surgery: mastectomies
and ovary/fallopian tube removal. The decisions made by the patient, though, are
deeply personal and often influenced by
their own family’s history. “We’re able to
give people a percentage chance of getting
cancer and everybody interprets that differently,” Capstick explains. “If you watched
your mom die of ovarian cancer it’s very
likely you’ll want your tubes and ovaries
gone. If there has been no ovarian cancer,
and lots of breast cancer, chances are you’ll
want your breasts gone.”
www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

ovarian cancer, will continue to attend the
clinic for regular breast cancer screenings.
Elisa says her last appointment at the
Allard Clinic will be a bittersweet day. “You
don’t want to go back again, but you know
you’re being looked after so closely. If
there’s anybody who’s going to look after
me in this area, it’s those doctors. I trust
them completely.”

Celebrate celebrity

In early 2013, gossip magazines
exploded with the news that Angelina
Jolie underwent a preventive double
mastectomy. A carrier of the BRCA1
mutation whose mother died at 56
of ovarian cancer and aunt died at
61 of breast cancer, Jolie’s choice
rocked the women’s health news
beat. Was she right to get the
surgery, or did Jolie just scare women
into wondering if they also needed
such drastic measures? Dr. Valerie
Capstick at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women says the fact that Jolie’s
decision is controversial in the first
place is proof the Allard Clinic is so
important.
“That’s the challenge we have
with family doctors,” Capstick says,
“They’re stunned that women would
go to those lengths.”
Capstick says the only question in
her mind when she found out about
Jolie’s surgery was why Jolie didn’t
have her tubes and ovaries removed,
as well. (Jolie has since had this
surgery, too). Her choices were not
at all ridiculous.” Plus, says Capstick,
plastic surgery has come a long way,
and many women are thrilled with
their breast reconstruction work.

Spring 2015 • Hope

53

54

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Maternal
Minds

A new study screens for signs of anxiety and
depression during pregnancy and beyond
BY SHELLEY WILLIAMSON

L

ANA BERRY KNOWS WHAT

paralyzing panic attacks and debilitating depression feel like.
After being diagnosed at age 16 with an
anxiety disorder she hit her depressive low
at 26. At her worst, she was unable to hold
onto jobs. “And I had panic attacks just sitting at a stop light in the car,” says Berry,
now 34. “The depression definitely came
from feeling stuck and the thinking I was
never going to get better.”
In her search for answers and a mental
health lifeline, she turned to anything she
could. “I tried everything including medication. I saw psychologists, psychiatrists; I even
ordered pills off the Internet that promised to
help. But the medication actually made me
worse. One day, I woke up and realized, for
me, it was going to be about making a decision to get up every day and to live a better
day and to do one thing today to make myself
better than I was yesterday.”
Soon Berry was doing better; she found
faith, remarried and even learned that she
was pregnant. For her the news of her first
child was a joyous experience but she also
knew there was a possibility of an exacerbation of the symptoms of depression.
www.loisholehospital.com

Though she had long felt better, and had
stopped taking medication years ago, the
pending responsibility of another life
stirred some concerns.
Despite her medical history of anxiety and
depression, she was surprised during her
checkups that conversations with her medical team seldom touched on how she was
doing emotionally. Then her doctor told her
about a pilot study at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women that included online prenatal
screening and a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) component for mental health. The
study, part of the reproductive mental health
program, would be the first of two prenatal
studies she would participate in led by
researcher Dr. Dawn Kingston.
“I was lucky because they were just starting the program when I was pregnant with
my daughter,” says Berry, who is now a mom
to two-year-old Kristen and eight-monthold Josh. “My girlfriends who’d had babies
before me, they were all surprised when I told
them about the study – because no one had
ever asked them or mentioned to them that
post-partum depression does happen and if it
does, these are your resources. It makes it a
little less scary.”
5 Years of Caring

DAWN KINGSTON IS AN ASSISTANT
professor at the University of Alberta and lead
researcher on two recent studies that she says
were prompted by an absence of routine prenatal screening for depression in Alberta. In
fact, she adds, no province offers routine
screening for prenatal depression or anxiety
in pregnant women.
“Historically in this group, the focus has
always been on post-partum depression,
but what we are learning is if a woman has
prenatal depression and high stress, she’s
much more prone to depression and anxiety in the post-partum period,” Kingston
says. “Our work is showing that, rather
than focusing on post-partum depression
alone, we should be thinking earlier about
the prenatal period.”
Kingston says Canada, and Alberta especially, could follow the example of Australia,
which has run an awareness campaign on the
importance of universal mental health
screening of pregnant women. “Now we
realize that, if a woman has depression in
pregnancy, there’s far more risk for her to
still have it when her child goes to preschool
at age four,” she says.
This research has helped her team
Spring 2015 • Hope

55

understand that some women prefer to
take responsibility for their mental health
care. “At least half of the women who have
a positive screening for mental health
issues don’t take a referral, don’t get external help,” she says. “In our work, we
understand that there is a group of women
who’d prefer to at least start with selfhelp. That is another reason why our work
focuses on internet-based help.”
To that end, Kingston and her team created a study that offered a pilot group of 150
women, including Berry, access to online
screening and CBT for their symptoms of
depression and anxiety during their pregnancy. The study recently received funding
for an additional 800 participants. The team
will recruit these women from prenatal
classes and primary care clinics during the

about their mental health as a part of their
care,” says Kingston. “Of the women who
were not asked by a prenatal caregiver about
their mental health, 99 per cent said they
wanted to be. We don’t even talk about mental health screening and pregnancy, but I
think the message is clear that women want
support to take care of their mental health.”
Kingston says stigma remains one of the
prime reasons women do not access prenatal
mental health care. “Women reported that
they don’t want to be seen as depressed or
anxious and therefore treated differently,” she
explains. “They don’t want to be seen as an
incompetent mother.” Family members
telling a pregnant woman she is “fine” can also
exacerbate a reluctance to seek help, Kingston
adds. “Who’s the first person women go to
when they are looking for advice? They ask
other women or their
families. We need to begin to
educate the broader public
about mental health and
pregnancy.”
Berry supports opening
the discussion about the
connection between
pregnancy and mental
health, and she lauds the benefits of screening
and treatment programs like Kingston’s.
“Sometimes you feel like a different person
when you’re pregnant; especially when you
get to the end of your pregnancy and you just
want the baby to come,” says Berry. “The
toughest transition is that you think that once
the baby comes it gets easier. The program is
really good, because it keeps you aware that
it’s not easy – but there are people who can
help you.”
There is still much work to be done,
according to Kingston. She would like to see
prenatal mental health screening become the
rule, not the exception. “We want all women
who are pregnant, and after they have their
babies, to have routine mental health assessments built in as part of prenatal care. It could
be with their family doctor, their obstetrician
or their midwife.” She says that efforts would
go a long way to helping the 80 per cent of
at-risk women whose problems go unaddressed. “We know that routine screening
increases the number of these women who
will get help.”

“Of the women who were asked,
97 per cent said they were very
comfortable being asked about
their mental health as a part of
their care,” says Kingston.
four-year trial, and an additional group of
participants will come from the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women’s high-risk antenatal
unit, beginning in April 2015. (Funders
include the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for
Women, Norlien Foundation, WCHRI and
Canadian Institutes of Health Research.)
She likens the tool of online screening and
therapy to those who prefer to work out at
home over a gym. “Many of our women
have young families and therapy can be
expensive with long wait times. This type of
online therapy can be effective for stress,
depression and anxiety. There are even people who use it who have quite severe symptoms that find it useful in conjunction with
medication,” she says.
In an effort to learn why more pregnant
women don’t seek help, Kingston polled
more than 500 Alberta women, who her
team recruited through doctors and prenatal
classes, as to whether prenatal caregivers
asked about their mental health. “Of the
women who were asked, 97 per cent said
they were very comfortable being asked

56

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

Mind your own mind
Dr. Dawn Kingston, an assistant
professor at the University of Alberta
working with the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women, wants to spread the
message that there is mental health
help available for women both during
and after pregnancy. She hopes to
offer the online cognitive behavioural
therapy program to pregnant women
who want it. In the meantime, she
has tips for maintaining a mentally
healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum period.
• Talk to your doctor. “The first step
if a woman is concerned about
her mental health is to tell her
doctor exactly what she is feeling,”
Kingston says. “Her doctor will help
find support.”
• Ask for help. “You don’t have to
be at the end of your rope to ask
for help,” Kingston says. Mild and
moderate depression or anxiety also
has an impact on mother and baby.
• Eat and sleep well and exercise.
“We are seeing a trend in lifestyle
medicine as a component of
depression and anxiety care,”
Kingston says. Lifestyle changes
help prevent and treat the
symptoms of depression.
• Respect your history. “It is
important for women who’ve had
a past diagnosis of depression or
anxiety – even if they were 16 years
old,” Kingston says. “These women
are more at risk of developing
prenatal and post-partum
depression. It’s time to take charge
of your mental health.”
• Treat yourself. “We need to
treat depression as a chronic
disease, so that lifestyle prevention
practices are truly rooted in our
lives,” Kingston says. Take steps to
introduce positive change in your
life: it’s not difficult, but scientific
evidence shows it’s critical.

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Program Files

BY MARTIN DOVER

Strike a Cord
A program to save umbilical cord blood from newborns at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women provides hope for stem cell transplant patients
A NEW PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE
Lois Hole Hospital for Women and Canadian
Blood Services has helped make Canada’s
National Public Cord Blood Bank a reality.
Started in 2014, it’s already saving lives and
has the potential to benefit thousands of
patients across in Alberta, across the country
and around the world.
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women has been
named as one of four hospitals in the country
to serve as a collection site and Edmonton is
one of two storage sites. As a woman’s hospital of national importance, the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women sees more than 6,000
births annually. “It makes us an obvious collection point,” says Cheryl Parkes, patient
care manager, obstetrics. She oversees
recruitment of cord blood donors, working
with Canadian Blood Services to recruit
expectant mothers and obtain their consent
to donate their child’s umbilical cord blood –
a rich source of blood stem cells. Canadian
Blood Services saves and stores it for potential
future use by patients who need it for medical treatments.
The Canadian Blood Services website says
recipients need blood stem cells to treat dozens of diseases, the most common of which
are types of leukemia. Blood stem cells used
for transplantation can come from bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cells collected
from the blood after special treatment, or
umbilical cord blood.
Cord blood comes from the umbilical cord
that anchors and nourishes the growing baby
in utero. “If this cord blood is not harvested at
birth, it gets discarded anyway,” Parkes says,
“So there is no risk to the baby or mother to
donate it.”
Cord blood is often preferable to bone marrow and peripheral blood that adults donate.
www.loisholehospital.com

A cord blood match can be shipped quickly in
an emergency. It can take months to find an
adult donor and harvest blood stem cells.
Complications such as latent viral infection
and graft-versus-host disease are less common, less severe and easier to treat when the
patient has received a cord blood donation
versus adult stem cell donation. “It’s easier to
match patients with cord blood than other
stem cell sources,” Parkes says, “because you
don’t need an exact match.”

Cord blood would
be discarded
otherwise,” Parkes
says, “So there is
no risk to the baby
or mother.
Dr. Graham Sher, CEO at Canadian Blood
Services, has said his organization is honoured to partner with the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women. “This partnership underscores
the collaborative effort our organizations
have taken to launch a national public cord
blood bank,” he said in a press release, “one
that offers more opportunities to find a
match and save more lives.”
Canada’s National Public Cord Blood Bank
improves the ability of Canadian Blood
Services to find matches for patients through
its stem cell network – OneMatch. This is
especially important to patients from diverse populations, particularly aboriginal,
African-Canadian and multi-ethnic. “These
patients can have difficulties finding a
matching donor,” says Parkes. “Cord blood is
5 Years of Caring

easier to match and, coming from a facility
like ours that serves an ethnically diverse
patient base is especially valuable. We are
thrilled be part of the national cord blood
bank initiative.”
Working with Canadian Blood Services,
Parkes was involved with the pilot program
in 2014, when mothers delivered babies at
the hospital and donated their cord blood to
the bank with signed consent. “Most mothers were quick to volunteer,” she says. “It
didn’t take much convincing.”
About half of Canadian patients who need
an unrelated blood stem cell transplant are
unable to find a match. Canada’s National
Public Cord Blood Bank provides additional
opportunities for finding a match, saving
more lives. A group of Edmontonians
including Dale Sheard and Anne McLellan,
were generous donors and organizers who
made the national Canadian Blood Services
project possible.

YOUR BEST INVESTMENT

We’ve only just begun!
Donate to the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women at
loisholehospital.com
Spring 2015 • Hope

57

Return
to HOPE

One couple’s tragic loss bound them to the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women, where they
found the resources to help them cope
BY BY SÉAMUS SMYTH

L

YNN SUTANKAYO EXPERIENCED actually hit the radiologist. The doctor had

a real-life nightmare. It was December, 2013, and she was 31 weeks
pregnant. She and her husband Billy Smale
were excited about the fast-approaching
due date of their first child.
Sutankayo had some pains in her abdomen, so she visited a medical centre to
ensure that nothing was wrong. Her pregnancy had been fairly smooth and neither
she nor Billy was worried. The doctor asked
if there had been any change to the baby’s
activity level. There hadn’t – the baby had
never been much of a kicker. The doctor
scheduled her for an ultrasound that followed a few days later.
When the day arrived, Sutankayo was
feeling good and neither she nor Smale were
worried. In fact, she left her husband to wait
in the car and tinker away at editing their
wedding video. So she was alone when the
radiologist delivered the news that would
penetrate a parent’s deepest worries.
“She told me, ‘There is no easy way to say
this, so I just will. Your baby has no heartbeat,’” explains Sutankayo. Her baby had
died in utero. Sutankayo recalls that she
swung her arms violently, lashing out – she

58

Hope • Spring 2015

already made arrangements for Sutankayo to
be admitted to the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women and printed out a map for her.
Sutankayo climbed in the car and broke
the news to Billy, and they set out for the
hospital, a long drive from residential Mill
Woods on the city’s southeast side to the
core of Edmonton. Smale was behind the
wheel, and the information gradually seeped
in on the journey downtown.
“Every time we hit a light, I started to cry.
I did that throughout the whole city,” Smale
explains. The bad news wasn’t over. Doctors
at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women told the
couple that because Sutankayo was so close
to due, she would have to deliver the baby
vaginally despite the fact that the child had
died. It would be better for her health and
recovery, they explained.
“It was the most horrifying thing they
could have said. We were in so much shock.
And yet, it ended up being a blessing,” says
Smale. What could have been a moment that
scarred the young couple ended up being a
crucial aspect of the healing process. It
allowed a beautiful birthing experience and a
few last moments to spend with their baby.
5 Years of Caring

CARE FOR PARENTS: Bereavement coordinator
Patti Walker shows a CuddleCot, made possible by
donors, that enables bereaved parents to stay a
little longer with their babies who have died.

Doctors induced Lynn Sutankayo’s labour
late that evening. The couple spent the long
night in a labour and delivery room, and did
not need to worry about moving from one
room to another.
Sutankayo found a way to escape by staring out the window and watching the
colours spill into each other as night shifted
into morning. She played meditational
music and drifted to her sacred place, surrounded by mountains and a lush forest, as
well as a capacious beach for her unborn
child, who they named Annie Raya when
she was born the next morning.
Once Sutankayo delivered Annie, the
team at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women
immediately went into action. They offered a
visit from the hospital Chaplin on duty, who
officiated at a naming ceremony. The hospital’s regional bereavement coordinator, Patti
Walker, arranged a visit from the organization Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a group of
professional photographers that donate their
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

FAMILY: Lynn Sutankayo and Billy Smale delivered
baby Hue, pictured here, at the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women in December. In 2013, they also delivered
Hue’s sister Annie there, who was stillborn.

time to take pictures of parents and their
baby who died.
Lynn says that Patti Walker played a significant role in her recovery through unlimited support and as a source of comfort.

20 weeks or more have passed, either in
utero, or during labour or birth. It’s rare in
Canada, with just four or five births in 1,000
ending this way. Reasons behind it can range
from illness or infection in the mother, injury to the baby in utero or
during birth, or genetic
illnesses in the baby.
Autopsy reports revealed
the cause of Annie’s death
was a rare metastatic
cancer that spread quickly, and was undetectable
at a 20-week ultrasound.
At the Lois Hole Hospital for Women,
Walker and her team aim to give each baby
the love and respect he or she deserves. “If
you were the mom, how would you want
the baby treated?” Walker asks. “There is
something beautiful about every baby.”
Walker gave the couple a resource package, and one of the most helpful things in it
was was a pamphlet to give families and

“You can’t just replace another baby,”
Lynn Sutankayo says. “You can’t
repeat a child.”
“It’s a very supportive environment,”
Walker explains of her role. “The values of
the hospital are to support families in the
circumstances that they’re in. You can’t
change the fact that families are at the hospital but maybe we can make a difference
during the time that they are here.”
Walker says the majority of pregnancy
losses are miscarriages that happen before 12
weeks. A stillbirth is when a baby dies after
www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

friends, Sutankayo says. The literature
would help people avoid saying things that
would cause the new (and newly-bereaved)
parents unintended pain. It was filled with
tips and advice on what to say and more
importantly, what not to say, to parents
dealing with such a traumatic loss.
“Don’t say, ‘Well at least God has another
angel.’ We don’t want God to have another
angel - we wanted to have one,” says Smale.
“You can’t just replace another baby. You
can’t repeat a child,” says Sutankayo.
Although Annie was never allowed a single
breath in the world, Lynn says she knew her
and loved her in an instant. “You could see
her features – you could see she had my lips
and Billy’s nose,” she says.
After a getaway to Indonesia, a source of
escape for the two, they decided that they
would not give up hope. Although both
admit to being cautious when they were discussing a second pregnancy, baby Hue was
born in December 2014. For Smale and
Sutankayo, it was an obvious decision to
deliver at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women
after the support they had received with
Annie.
“We had the utmost confidence with the
staff there and we just felt really good about
delivering there again,” says Lynn.
As a way of displaying their gratitude and
to help others contend with loss, at a memorial gathering they had to mark Annie’s
birthday, the couple collected teddy bears
for the Parent Care Support Society, a support group for parents who’ve suffered a
loss. A teddy bear, or Annie bear as Lynn and
Billy referred to it, was another tool that gave
energy and salvation to Lynn. “It was so
therapeutic. I wanted to hold Annie but we
didn’t have her to hold, so Patti gave us this
bear. We cuddle this bear to this day,” she
says of the gift.
Smale says now takes time to process the
essence of each moment in his life as a parent to Hue. Sutankayo is similarly reflective.
“I think Annie has made me a better person
and a better mom,” she says. “You get pregnant and you think you are going to have a
baby to take home, but it didn’t work that
way for us. We are now blessed to have a
healthy baby in our arms, as well as Annie in
our hearts.”
Spring 2015 • Hope

59

60

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

The

Cutting
EDGE

Surgical excellence at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women took a leap with the introduction
of a new member to the team
BY CORY SCHACHTEL • PHOTOGRAPHY BY EPIC PHOTOGRAPHY

L
THE FOURTH MUSKETEER: (L-R) Drs. Valerie Capstick,
Tiffany Wells and Helen Steed pictured with the newest
member of the team, the da Vinci robot.

www.loisholehospital.com

OIS HOLE HERSELF WAS A PASSIONATE SPOKESPERSON FOR

innovation and excellence, so it’s not surprising that the surgical care at the
eponymous hospital embodies these traits too. The hospital’s surgical team
enhances the reach of the clinics in fertility, high-risk pregnancies, urogynecology
and gynecologic oncology, providing the widest range of women’s health services in
the province. Doing so, it has established itself as a national centre of surgical excellence.
“We like to be innovative, driving the expansion of where medicine is going, and providing the best possible care,” Dr. Helen Steed says. She’s a Lois Hole Hospital for Women
gynecologic oncologist and surgeon, and lately she’s been working with a new surgical
partner: the da Vinci robot, a life- and time-saving machine that allows surgeons a versatility they didn’t have before.

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

61

Da Vinci is the first tool of its kind in Canada to be dedicated solely to women’s
health and its presence is a game-changer.
“In the past we shared a da Vinci robot with
the main OR at the Royal Alex and had
access to it about one day per week,” Steed
explains. “With our own dedicated robot
we’ve more than doubled the number of
surgeries that we can do.”
Rhonda Plamondon was one of the
first patients to benefit from da Vinci’s
precise work. She’s from Plamondon,
Alberta, a hamlet three hours northeast
of Edmonton (named after her husband’s
ancestor). Her doctor found some irregular
cells in a pap test in 2013 so he repeated
the test in 2014. It showed the same kind
of changed cells, so he sent Plamondon’s
tissue for a biopsy.

HOPE NOTES
Hope is like a road in
the country; there was
never a road, but when
many people walk
on it, the road comes
into existence.
- Lin Yutang

Plamondon followed up with Steed in
December 2014 at the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women. Steed delivered the worst news: it
was cervical cancer. Nobody expects cancer, but at 25, with a husband (Shawn) and
two kids under four, it was an especially
jarring diagnosis, made worse in that it followed quickly on a fatal experience for her
family.
A year before her diagnosis, Shawn
lost his father to bladder cancer. “We’re
a very close family,” she says. “And they
had all just lost their dad and husband,
so to tell them I had cervical cancer, it
was almost not believable. It was just … too
soon to rationalize. But any time I needed
to talk, or go for a walk, or help with the

62

Hope • Spring 2015

HANDS ON: The da Vinci’s robotic arms are able to rotate 360 degrees
to manoeuvre in ways the human arm and wrist could not manage.

kids – I couldn’t have asked for a better
support team.”
She couldn’t have asked for better medical care, either. Through tears, Plamondon
listened to Steed’s advice and immediately
chose to have surgery. It was then that
Steed offered her a new treatment option –
da Vinci. “She told me it was a new development, something for which the foundation had been fundraising for a year, and
they wanted to use it on me,” Plamondon
says. “She said the recovery time is faster,
and less painful, so of course I took it. To be
honest, I was just scared of going under.”
Plamondon could easily also have worried about a long-post surgical recovery
and the problems it would present to a
5 Years of Caring

busy mother of two young kids. But
instead of a lengthy hospital stay, she
and Shawn left the hospital the next day –
unheard of for such a procedure if it were
executed without the help of da Vinci.
Plamondon’s pain was less than she had
experienced after her caesarian section.
“I had little discomforts all over my stomach, but that was it,” she explains.
It was the longest she’d been away from
her children, who only knew that mommy
was going to the doctor to have some booboos in her stomach fixed. After the kids
had a sleepover at grandma’s house, and a
night at auntie’s, their mom and dad
returned to collect them. “When we first
saw them again,” Plamondon says, “it was
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Bedside
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women
provides the largest gynecological
services in Alberta with four gyne
operating rooms dedicated to
women’s health. The gynecology
oncology inpatient unit at the
hospital has 33 inpatient beds and
13 day surgery beds, providing
treatment to more than 2,500
patients each year.
Each room has a computer outside
the door where any nurse or doctor
can check on a patient’s progress,
rather than retreating to a centralized
computer at the front desk, and
having to pull a file each time.

like Christmas morning, we felt so hopeful
and excited.”
Plamondon’s surgery was one of the first
performed using the da Vinci after its arrival
in the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. Couple the new machine with the hospital’s
top-line operating rooms dedicated to its
patients only, and it means Steed will never
again have to postpone a procedure like
Plamondon’s.
The advancements made in oncological
surgery are nothing short of stunning. The
last few decades have seen surgeons making
smaller incisions, inserting cameras and
using new tools to minimize a patient’s pain
and hospital stay. But the arrival of the da
Vinci robot is the beginning of a new era.
www.loisholehospital.com

Steed, who is a frequent user of the da
Vinci along with her colleagues Dr. Valerie
Capstick and Dr. Tiffany Wells, says da
Vinci makes her a better surgeon, and it’s
easy to see why. For a surgeon, da Vinci
improves steadiness, visualization and
dexterity with its tools and 3D imaging.
Using it, surgeons can make a 360-degree
rotational movement that a human wrist
won’t allow when they are operating
without da Vinci.
Instead of a broad abdominal incision,
Steed makes five, eight-millimetre incisions in the abdomen, one for each of da
Vinci’s arms. Once it’s docked to the
patient, Steed unscrubs and walks across
the room, puts on the intuitive operating
5 Years of Caring

glove, looks through the goggles and executes surgical procedures with an exacting
precision.
Da Vinci also allows Steed to sit, a less
obvious benefit to doctor and patient.
“Clearly, the patient care is foremost, but
the ergonomics are phenomenal – no more
straining and turning, and the camera gets
as close as I want, from all angles. It makes
everything more precise, lessens fatigue
and increases the life span of a surgeon’s
career,” she says.
The $3.3-million base cost of the robot
was covered by community donor support
from across the province, led by campaign
chair Lynn Mandel, with the hospital covering the remaining $500,000 for staff and
maintenance. It’s another example of what
donors can do, coming together to support
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women and
ensuring patients like Plamondon from
across Western Canada survive and
return quickly to their lives.
In March, Plamondon was in Edmonton
again to see Steed at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women. Steed gave her a clean bill of
health and told her to visit twice a year for
two years and once a year for five more.
Plamondon found the news as delightful as
it was reassuring.
Spring 2015 • Hope

63

Facility Profile

SPECIALIZED TREATMENT: Amanda Skaggs’s
high blood pressure meant she needed special
care when she was expecting baby Landon.

64

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

BY SYDNEE BRYANT • PHOTOGRAPHY BY COOPER + O’HARA

Under One Roof
Gone are the days when complex women’s health needs meant
travelling around to various facilities for tests and appointments
AMANDA SKAGGS WAS IN THE FIRST TRIMESTER OF HER PREGNANCY WHEN
her general practitioner referred her to the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. The St. Albert
resident, who has high blood pressure, always knew that her condition could cause
additional problems while she was pregnant. But it wasn’t until her first visit to the Lois
Hole Hospital for Women that Skaggs, then eight weeks along, found out just how many
resources were available to her in one place.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

65

Considered a high-risk pregnancy, Skaggs
met with a doctor and nurse practitioner at
the hospital at the maternal-fetal medicine
clinic. “They looked at my history and
developed a game plan on how they were
going to treat me,” says Skaggs. She had regular appointments every six weeks early on
in her pregnancy, then at four-week intervals as she drew closer to her due date. At
each visit, the staff would monitor her blood
pressure and do blood work. “The staff were
amazing,” says Skaggs. “They were all
involved in my care. I can’t say enough positive things about them.”
Skaggs’s situation isn’t uncommon.
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women’s
maternal-fetal medicine outpatient
clinic handles approximately 16,000 visits
every year. Many of those patients are from
out of town. “Patients that are diagnosed
with high-risk pregnancies are often
referred here,” says Janie Tyrrell, interim
executive director at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women.

The interdisciplinary
clinics at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women
provide services to
women of all ages,
for a variety of
health and
wellness needs.
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women, which
opened in April 2010, is the tertiary hospital
for central and northern zones of Alberta, as
well as Canada’s northwest. The hospital
experiences more than 80,000 outpatient
visits every year. Depending on the services
needed, patients are referred to the hospital’s outpatient clinics by their family doctors or ob-gyns, and in some cases, they
self-refer.
“The Lois Hole Hospital for Women is
really unique in that it’s an integrated
obstetrics and gynecology program,”

66

Hope • Spring 2015

says Tyrrell. It offers a patient- and familycentred model with labour and delivery,
antepartum, post-partum, outpatient,
operating rooms and gynecology services –
all under one umbrella. In many situations,
patients are receiving many different services in one location, says Tyrrell. The team
consists of both obstetrical medicine providers and cardiac providers working
together with the patient to provide integrated and collaborative care in one place.
The hospital’s dedication to patient- and
family-centred care shows in every aspect.
The facility was designed to facilitate a
warm and welcoming atmosphere, delivering compassionate and sensitive care for
patients and their families. “The whole
design of the hospital is very much a natural and friendly environment,” says Tyrrell.
5 Years of Caring

“It’s fresh and bright, with large windows,
natural light and artwork everywhere you
look – it feels like a home atmosphere.”
There’s also a rooftop healing garden and
much visited chapel on site.
The interdisciplinary clinics at the Lois
Hole Hospital for Women provide services
to women of all ages, for a variety of health
and wellness needs, ranging from reproductive endocrinology and fertility to
obstetrical medicine, adolescent pregnancy, urogynecology and menopause. The
outpatient clinics, which also include a
hereditary breast and ovarian clinic, are
not “typical physician-and-nurse clinics,”
says Tyrrell. “They consist of a multitude
of providers working together to provide
care for patients and families.”
Since the hospital and its outpatient
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

I wasn’t sure if I would go through more
than one pregnancy,” she says. “If I
could do it the same way and have the
same team around me next time, for sure
I would consider trying again.”

We’ve Come a
Long Way, Baby

clinics are interdisciplinary, patients such
as Skaggs can access several resources in
one place. “On my first visit I met with a
dietician and she followed up with me several times after,” says Skaggs. She was also
diagnosed with hypothyroidism during her
time at the maternal-fetal clinic, and was
treated immediately. “It definitely eases
your mind – you have a whole team dedicated to you,” says Skaggs, who also took
part in a study on folic acid at the hospital
during her pregnancy.
Doctors at the Lois Hole Hospital for
Women monitored Skaggs closely throughout her pregnancy. Her blood pressure,
which actually decreased enough during
her pregnancy that she was able to go off
her medication, spiked when she was 36
weeks along. Her doctors put her back on
www.loisholehospital.com

blood pressure medication – she was at risk
for pre-eclampsia – and induced labour
when she was 39 weeks along. Skaggs had
an emergency C-section and gave birth to a
healthy, eight-pound baby boy on December 2, 2014.
Skaggs stayed at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women for five days after giving birth
to her son, Landon. She continued to
access the hospital’s many resources during
that time. A first-time mother, Skaggs
received extra breastfeeding support after
giving birth. She also continued to meet
with the nurse monitoring her for the folic
acid study.
A positive experience at the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women has convinced Skaggs
that her condition isn’t a hindrance to
pregnancy. “Before getting pregnant,
5 Years of Caring

A lot has changed in the past
two decades, particularly when it
comes to post-partum care, says
Janie Tyrrell, interim executive
director at the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women. A multidisciplinary,
hospital such as this one didn’t
exist in Edmonton 20 years ago.
“Moms and babies don’t
stay as long as they used to in
the hospital so they need lots
of connection points in the
community,” says Tyrrell. “We
also have women having babies
later in life, which can lead to more
complex pregnancies. There’s
also increased fertility options and
better technology – women who
have heart conditions who would
never have gotten pregnant can
now get pregnant.”
But pregnancy is not a woman’s
only health issue. Hospital care
is also much more focused on
patient needs and improving the
patient’s experience. Tyrrell points
to the hospital’s menopause and
incontinence clinics. “Women are
living longer and are not as willing
to accept those things – they
would rather have services that
provide a better quality of life.”

YOUR BEST INVESTMENT

We’ve only just begun!
Donate to the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women at
loisholehospital.com
Spring 2015 • Hope

67

First Person

HAPPY FAMILY: After years of discouragement, Megan Isbister and her
husband Marc conceived two girls, Abbey, left, and Sophie, through IVF.

68

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

BY MEGAN ISBISTER • PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY REDINGER

Expectant Times
A few years ago, I had no way of knowing
that my journey to creating a family would
take so many turns
IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL FALL DAY, AND
there I was attending yet another baby
shower, this one for a friend who already
had two boys and was about to have a third.
“A mistake,” she said. But all she had to
do was look at her husband and – bam –
she’s pregnant. Even though I was happy
for her, I couldn’t help feeling jealous.
Everyone around me and my husband Marc
was pregnant and having babies. For us,
each month came and went as a disappointment. Every baby shower guaranteed
that the topic of our non-existent babies
was going to come up.

The next year
was hard, and I was
constantly trying to
find projects to occupy
my time. Hopefully one
day I could cuddle a
baby of my own.
“No we are not pregnant yet, I’m sure it
will happen soon,” I heard myself saying.
What I really felt like saying was, “We
CAN’T get pregnant, so stop asking!”
My husband and I were married in October 2007 and we were anxious to start a
family. I was turning 30 and definitely felt
my biological clock ticking. From listening
to other couples and talking to doctors we
knew it could take up to a year before we
finally conceived. I did the math; we would
be having a baby by the time I was 31.
www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Months later, I still wasn’t pregnant and
I was getting discouraged. I went to see my
doctor, who ordered some blood work for
both of us. Marc got his sperm tested and
the results came back normal. My doctor
sent me for an ultrasound.

THIS IS TAKING A LONG TIME,
I thought, as the ultrasound tech conducted the test, scrutinizing what looked like
fuzzy grey blobs on a monitor. If this is routine, then I wouldn’t be here this long.
Something must be wrong.
Then the tech left the dimly-lit room and
said she’d be back in a minute. When she
returned, the doctor was with her.
This can’t be good, I thought. The doctor
told me that there were several cysts on my
ovaries, and some of them large masts.
“OK,” I said, “what does that mean?”
This is when I found out I had endometriosis. I really had no idea what it was or what
it meant for us having a baby. At my follow-up appointment I found out the only
solution was to have laparoscopic surgery
to scrape down the endometriosis. The
doctor told me there was only one infertility doctor in the city that did this procedure
and we’d have to wait to see him. I was
crushed. I had to wait a year before I was
even able to see a doctor, never mind getting pregnant.
The next year was hard, and I was constantly trying to find projects to occupy
my time and keep my mind off of the
thought that hopefully one day I could
cuddle a baby of my own. In July 2009 I got
in to see Dr. Tarek Motan at what would soon
Spring 2015 • Hope

69

be the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. From
doing some research and talking to other
people I thought I would have this surgery
and then be able to get pregnant naturally.
But Dr. Motan made it clear that, from the
pictures of my ultrasound, I had stage four
endometriosis – the most severe kind.
“Your chances of getting pregnant naturally are about as likely as winning the lottery,” he told us. He said the only hopes of
us conceiving would be through in vitro
fertilization (IVF). I was devastated. I went
home and cried, trying to make sense of the
possibility of us never having children.

We waited, and I
was optimistic, but
we weren’t so lucky.
The pregnancy test
came back negative.
I was so upset.
I had the surgery a couple of months
later. At my follow-up appointment, Dr.
Motan showed us the pictures from the
procedure. My ovaries were the size of tennis balls and pretty much touching each
other. The endometriosis was attacking my
ovaries, fallopian tubes, even my bowels.
Dr. Motan suggested he would put me on a
drug for four months to launch me into a
temporary menopause, to give my body a
break from the endometriosis, then we’d
begin the IVF process.
The additional months of waiting felt like
another setback, but the time finally came.
We started our first round of IVF, which
brought financial as well as emotional
stress. IVF is uninsured by Alberta Health
Care and, at the time, each fresh cycle of
IVF cost approximately $6,500 for the procedure. (Thankfully, both my husband and
I had benefits plans through work that covered the drugs I had to take prior to the IVF
procedure. These medications can cost as
much as $8,000.) For approximately 10
days before the retrieval of my eggs, I had to
give myself three injections in my abdomen
each day. I had frequent ultrasounds so the

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Hope • Spring 2015

FERTILE GROUND: The Isbisters will welcome their third child this
summer – something parents Megan and Marc never thought possible.

doctors could precisely time the retrieval of
the eggs. The embryologist told us that a
typical procedure retrieves approximately
eight or 10 eggs, about half of which are
viable. Viable fertilized eggs not used in an
IVF cycle can be frozen for future use.
The day we went in for the retrieval, I had
mixed emotions, nerves, excitement and
doubt. After the procedure we found out
the team was able to retrieve only three
eggs. I was devastated. How would it work
if only half of those were viable? The nurses
reassured me it’s about quality not quantity. We came back for the transfer three days
later and the team implanted two fertilized
eggs. They had to discard the third.
We went home and waited. Feelings of
excitement and fear ran through me, but
approximately 10 days later we were cele5 Years of Caring

brating. The longest three years of my life,
but I was finally pregnant and we could
finally look forward to a family. On November 7, 2010 we gave birth to a beautiful baby
girl, Abbey Lena Marie Isbister. We were so
happy to have our bundle of joy, but within
a few months I made another appointment
with Dr. Motan. I wanted to try again soon
in hopes of avoiding another surgery or
another punishing round of induced
menopause.
In March 2011, Dr. Motan sent me for an
ultrasound, and the results suggested that I
would have to have surgery once more
before thinking about having a second
child. But this time, he suggested I try taking the birth control pill first instead of the
drug to put me into menopause. He said the
statistics of a successful IVF pregnancy
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Defining a problem

afterwards is the same. So that’s what we
did. Everything went well, the team
retrieved and fertilized five eggs transferring two into me. The others weren’t viable.
We waited, and I was optimistic, but we
weren’t so lucky. The pregnancy test came
back negative. I was so upset, I felt like we
had just flushed $6,500 down the toilet. I
wanted to just jump right back into another
cycle of IVF, but Dr. Motan wanted do what
worked the first time: four months of
drug-induced menopause.
So, months later, we tried again. Another
fresh transfer, another stress on my body
and another $6,500. We were able to
retrieve eight eggs – finally some good
news. The team transferred two fertilized
eggs into me and they froze two. The result:
no pregnancy.
www.loisholehospital.com

I had a beautiful daughter at home, and
I tried to adjust my expectations: we might
only have one child. In July, 2012, we
decided that we would transfer the last two
fertilized eggs we had frozen and then close
the book on having more children.
The process to prep your body for a frozen
transfer is more grueling than a fresh
retrieval. I took a drug by nasal spray five
times a day for about four weeks. We went
in for the transfer at the beginning of
August. One of those frozen fertilized eggs
took, and we had a second daughter on
April 24, 2013: Sophie Gail Marie Isbister.
Our family was complete. We are blessed to
have two beautiful daughters and are completely thankful to Dr. Motan and his amazing team for giving us the family that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
5 Years of Caring

Endometriosis affects women
during their child-bearing years.
It means endometrial tissue that
normally lines the uterus is also
growing outside it. This does not
always cause symptoms. And it
usually isn’t dangerous. But it can
cause pain, abnormal menstrual
bleeding and infertility.
Doctors don’t know what
causes this disease, but they
know that the hormone estrogen
made by women’s bodies in their
childbearing years makes the
problem worse. That’s why one
treatment is putting a woman into
a temporary, artificial menopause.
The clumps of tissue that grow
outside the uterus are called
implants. They usually grow on
the ovaries, the fallopian tubes,
the outer wall of the uterus, the
intestines, or other organs in the
belly. In rare cases they spread to
areas beyond the belly. Symptoms
can affect women from their teens
through their late-40s, and usually
subside in menopause.
Source: myhealth.alberta.ca

IN OCTOBER, 2014, I CAME HOME
from work early feeling slightly nauseated.
I feel like I’m pregnant, I thought. There’s
no way! But I took a pregnancy test anyway. Negative. Thank goodness, I thought.
I was busy with two young children.
The next week came, but my expected
menstrual cycle did not. I took another test just
to be sure. I texted my husband a picture of the
positive test and wrote, “Looks like we won
the lottery.” It was unanticipated but definitely no mistake. I feel truly blessed and lucky,
five years ago I could only dream of having one
child and here we are, having a third.
Spring 2015 • Hope

71

Mind, Body, Spirit

72

Hope • Spring 2015

5 Years of Caring

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

BY MARTIN DOVER • PHOTOGRAPH BY DARRYL PROPP

A Life of Spirit
STELLA CORMIER STARTED WORK

as the Roman Catholic Chaplain at the
Royal Alexandra Hospital on September 1,
1993. She has a wealth of experience caring for the diverse spiritual needs of
patients there and at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. She calls the Robbins
Chapel “a very special place.”
At its base, the Robbins Chapel is a
non-denominational place of worship.
“This is a well-attended space,” says
Cormier. She had a hand in its inception,

www.loisholehospital.com

so she knows it was planned for a full
occupancy. “A family can fill this place for
a memorial service, or people can come in
by themselves. Staff come here, sometimes on a break, for a moment
of reflection.”
Cormier was part of the organizing
committee that had input into the planning of the chapel. “The Robbinses looked
at a number of chapels and provided their
input along with that of the committee,”
Cormier says. That input guided the

5 Years of Caring

Edmonton architectural design firm
DIALOG.
The Robbins Chapel is simple and elegant in its assembly. As you face the pulpit, there’s a textured, cream coloured
wall on the right, that draws the eye forward and invites contemplation. On the
left are three stained glass windows. The
first one is The Nativity, the second one is
called Let the Children Come to Me, and
the third is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The windows add tone and lighting

Spring 2015 • Hope

73

to the chapel that changes throughout the
day and according to the season, depending
where the sun hits them. Overhead, wooden
beams form a peak over the pews, suggesting
a classic church roof. It welcomes all denominations and faiths, but there is a definite
Christian sensibility to the space. In consideration of that, the Royal Alexandra Hospital
also has an interfaith worship centre that’s
open 24/7, a welcome respite for people of
other faiths.
The chapel is a place to unite spirit with

74

Hope • Spring 2015

body and mind the quest for health, or in its
absence – for peace. “When you are sick or in
need, peace is what you hope for,” Cormier
says. She assists with many services here,
from Roman Catholic mass on Sundays, to
the blessing of hands, to memorial services,
to naming ceremonies for the babies who
died in utero. “People in need come here in
search of the mystery,” Cormier says. “And
the hope – we don’t know what each person’s hope is.” But Cormier and her spiritual
care colleagues support them in the journey.
5 Years of Caring

The chapel is named for Bill and Mary Jo
Robbins. Mary Jo trained as nurse, and her
philanthropic efforts often focus on education and health care. “She has a special love
for the sick and their spiritual welfare,”
Cormier explains.
The Robbinses, patrons of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, are the namesakes of this and a number of structures on
the hospital campus. The couple has generously supported the Royal Alexandra Hospital for many years.
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Spaces in the Heart
Healing Garden: From the Robbins
Chapel, the Walkway of Hope leads
patients, families and staff through
to a bell tower and to the Ted and
Lois Hole Healing Garden. A garden
is a way to connect with nature,
important for lifting the spirit
and opening the mind of grieving
or stressed patients and family
members. And it’s a natural addition
to the hospital’s special spiritual
spaces.
Hope Wall: Quotes from Lois Hole’s
speech at the naming ceremony
of the eponymous hospital are
inscribed on a two-storey granite
wall. Over it cascades water,
offering a soothing natural sound
and catching the light, allowing
it to play across and soften the
surfaces. “Women tell us that this is
a place of great meaning for them,”
says Sharlene Rutherford, vicepresident of the Royal Alexandra
Hospital Foundation. “They say that
seeing it when they first come in
to the hospital provides them with
reassurance and comfort.”
Soft Spot: While this might seem
more appropriate in the arts section,
many staff members and patients
report that the giant metal bird’s
nest and eggs, called “Soft Spot”
and visible from so many vantage
points in the hospital, offers them
solace. Each place you view it
from brings a new perspective and
patients say the thought of the giant
bird that built it, soaring just out
of sight, brings them a feeling of
lightness and hope.

www.loisholehospital.com

5 Years of Caring

Spring 2015 • Hope

75

Health Works

BY COLLEEN BIONDI • ILLUSTRATION BY CINDY REVELL

A Flood of Relief
Urinary incontinence sends women rushing
to the bathroom. But help is here
AS AN ARTIST, TEACHER AND MOTHER
of two teenagers, Marilyn Porter (not her real
name), 49, manages a busy life in Edmonton.
She also manages a condition not uncommon
to her peer group – urinary incontinence.
“I’ll be working in my office. I’ll feel the
need to go and run for the bathroom, but I
won’t make it,” she says. “I probably pee my
pants on a daily basis.” It’s been an issue for
Porter since childhood. She consulted doctors, but they could find no physical cause.
Porter was embarrassed that her body was
betraying her and was too humiliated to
talk about it.
Then, about 20 years ago, something

76

Hope • Spring 2015

shifted. She and a friend were giggling during
a visit, her bladder let go and she wet her
pants. “There was no way she could not see
what had happened, so I came clean. She told
me her sister did that all the time.”
“It was at that point that I lost the shame,”
says Porter. “I learned I wasn’t alone and it
wasn’t my fault. It was a turning point.”
Today, she wears maxi-pads, voids whenever she can – up to 20 times a day – and makes
sure she’s close to a bathroom at all times.
Women like Porter are the kinds of patients
Dr. Jane Schulz sees in her position as divisional director of urogynecology at the Lois
Hole Hospital for Women.
5 Years of Caring

“We get peed on every day,” she says. But
she is nonplussed. “Body fluids do not faze us
in any way. We want to see what is going on
so we can help people.” Schulz is not only
frank and funny, she is also setting the bar
high and leading opinions in treating urinary
incontinence. She says it’s a common problem that doesn’t commonly get talked about.
Schulz and her team at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women are creating new best practices that have the attention of other clinical
centres, and she says that acknowledging the
universality of the problem is the first step.
It happens frequently in women over
60 due to age and menopausal changes.
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

“Urinary incontinence can impact one in
four women over her lifetime,” Shulz says. It
can occur in elite athletes and in women
who are pregnant or have had children.
Many athletes have low body mass index,
which is associated with lower estrogen
levels and weaker connective tissues. Add
in high impact activities like jumping or
running, which put extreme pressure on
the pelvic floor, and you are at risk for
dribbling. Schulz estimates up to 70 per
cent of high-level athletes like Olympic
gymnasts and weight lifters will have
unwanted leakage during their training or
competitive activities.

Schulz’s leadership
in the field means help
is at hand.
During pregnancy, women can leak due to
hormonal changes and pelvic organ prolapse.
“Fifty per cent of women who have had children will have prolapse, where the bladder
drops and pushes against the vagina, or herniates through the vaginal wall,” says Schulz.
After pregnancy, damage to the nerves or tissues of the urethral sphincter can result in
unexpected peeing.
Other professions are not immune. Construction workers, farmers and health-care
personnel are vulnerable due to the pressure
on the bladder from the lifting and bending
associated with their work. “Women who
cough frequently – those with chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or
asthma – are at increased risk,” Shulz says.
Schulz’s leadership in the field establishes
that, for some women, incontinence and its
companion urinary frequency present more
than an inconvenience. “Pervasive disruption in sleep from the need to get up and go
can lead to anxiety and depression,” she says.
Approximately 25 per cent of women experience mental health problems as a result.
“But not everyone is bothered by urinary
incontinence,” says Schulz. “If the leakage is
just a spritz, you might just wear a light sanitary pad and call it a day.” But if you are
active and, for example, you spend time on
www.loisholehospital.com

the golf course or on the tennis courts and
the leakage is significant, it could be bothersome. “Jumping on the trampoline with
your kids and wetting your pants,” says
Schulz, “that is a huge issue.” For some
women, urinary incontinence makes them
feel like a wreck. “The good news is it’s
highly treatable,” says Schulz.
The first line of attack is to discuss the situation with your family doctor, who may
make suggestions or refer you to an expert
like Schulz. (This is not as obvious as it
sounds; many women have not told their
spouses about this let alone their primary
health care professionals.)
At the Lois Hole Hospital for Women
there’s a multidisciplinary team consisting of
surgeons, nurses, urologists, a family doctor,
pharmacist, physiotherapist and a dietician –
nurses will take a history and do a physical
exam. They will suggest you avoid bladder
irritants like alcohol, caffeine, citrus, tomato
and aspartame. “They’ll will ask you to keep
a bladder diary to record how often you go for
a pee,” Schulz says, “and note how much
you are peeing and what you are drinking.”
Next up is help with urge suppression to
increase the time between voiding; Kegel
exercises, for example, strengthen the pelvic
floor and help contain urine in 60 per cent of
cases. Vaginal estrogen – taken twice a week
and typically by cream or suppository – helps
temper an overactive bladder. If necessary,
you can get a ring-like device called a pessary
inserted that will support the pelvic organs –
the uterus, bladder and rectum.
If these conservative management efforts
don’t do the trick, there is surgery – bladder
slings, prolapse repairs, hysterectomies or
vaginal vault suspensions. Schulz and her
surgical colleagues are in the operating
room four days a week to help women stem
the flow.
And research is ongoing. Some of the most
promising leads involve exploring more
effective bulking agents to inject into the
bladder neck and developing more resilient
graft materials for pelvic floor repairs.
For now, the message is clear: women do
not have to suffer in silence. “This is a very
common condition,” says Schulz. “There are
lots of treatment and resource options. You
do not have to live with this.”
5 Years of Caring

Squeeze and relax
“Imagine you’re sitting on a wooden
bench next to the Queen of England
and you feel the urge to pass gas,”
says nurse practitioner Julia-lin Ding.
“Now squeeze that muscle,” she
says, putting the emphasis on the
word “that.”
“If you can do that, you are probably
doing a pretty good Kegel right now.”
Ding works with Dr. Jane Schulz at
the urogynecology wellness clinic at
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. A
Kegel is an exercise that she, Schulz
and a team of physiotherapists and
nurse continence advisors teach
women who suffer from urinary
incontinence. “A Kegel is the conscious contraction of muscles that
support pelvic organs,” Ding says.
But the opposite is equally important. “Sometimes my patients with
leakage or prolapse have problems
relaxing the pelvic floor,” she says.
Ding says that women with incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse
should be assessed by a physical
therapist like the ones in the urogynecology wellness program who
have specialized training. These
therapists and the specially trained
nurses who work with them manually
check the ability of the patient to use
these muscles before they prescribe
a Kegel exercise regime.
A typical prescription is 10 quickflick Kegels followed by three slow
ones with 10-second holds, performed
twice a day. Ding says that healthy
women can also benefit from doing
Kegels as a preventative measure.
If imagining a fart in the presence of royalty doesn’t scare you
into a good Kegel, Ding has another
metaphor. “OK, your vagina is an
elevator,” she says. “Now close the
doors, and imagine you are slowly
bringing the elevator up to your belly
button. I’ll bet you are doing a Kegel
right now.”

Spring 2015 • Hope

77

Corporate Donor

The Responsible Thing
What drives a for-profit company to donate money? For Canadian Natural
Resources Limited, the answer lies close to home
THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, J. CLAYburn La Force, the dean of the Graduate
School of Management at the University of
California, declared the idea that corporations should behave with social responsibility as a “political fad.” In this speech,
given to a group of business executives, he
said that proponents of this fad wished to
turn the corporation into “an instrument
for attaining somebody else’s ambitions,
euphemistically called the ‘wider goals of
society.’”
At the time, the term corporate social
responsibility had only been around for a
decade or two, and opinion was sharply
divided about the role that for-profit
companies should have in doing good:

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Hope • Spring 2015

La Force’s speech, while reprinted in The
Wall Street Journal, was scathingly reviewed
by The New Yorker.
Today, no one can call corporate social
responsibility a fad. However, the intricacies of a for-profit company devoting corporate profits to good deeds remain a tricky
business. How much can a public company
donate before it alienates the shareholder?
How many hours should it encourage its
employees to spend on volunteer projects?
Do companies with a strong corporate
responsibility policies risk having the warm
fuzzy feelings engendered by doing good
deeds encroach on the bottom line?
For Canadian Natural Resources Limited,
being a good corporate citizen doesn’t
5 Years of Caring

mean keeping an eye on the wider goals of
society, as La Force put it. Instead, its focus
is on the communities where employees
live and work.
Recently, the Calgary-based oil and gas
company made a six-figure donation
towards the robotic da Vinci Surgical System for the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
This new surgical tool turns a radical surgery with a long recovery time into a minimally invasive surgery that allows more
women access to better treatment with
shorter recovery times. These women may
be valued employees, or the mothers,
daughters, or wives of employees.
“It’s an initiative that aligns well with
Canadian Natural’s focus on health and
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

BY LINDSEY NORRIS

wellness initiatives,” says Julie Woo, a public affairs advisor from the company’s
investor relations department. Woo says
that the technology will benefit the company’s employees, their families, and the
communities in which Canadian Natural
operates.
Sharlene Rutherford, vice president of
the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation,
noticed a trend towards increased transparency in corporate giving.
“The corporations want to truly
understand how that donation can make a
difference to patients,” she says. “It isn’t
enough for a company to say, ‘The da Vinci
surgical system will benefit all Albertans.’
They will need to know which
communities benefit, where patients are
coming from. And they want to be able to
communicate that value to stakeholders.”
If communication around corporate
giving is an important aspect to a successful
campaign, Canadian Natural has a lot of
good news to communicate: in 2013, the
company’s total investment reached
$10.8 million, and included programs in
more than 50 communities.
www.loisholehospital.com

Its donorship benefits more than The Lois
Hole Hospital for Women. “Canadian Natural supports diverse opportunities for
employees to play a role in helping build
stronger, healthier communities,” Woo
says. She points to the company’s other
beneficiaries, which include the United
Way and Habitat for Humanity. Between all

Canadian Natural
Resources Limited made
a six-figure donation to
the Lois Hole Hospital
for Women towards
the cost of the
da Vinci robot.
of Canadian Natural’s varied efforts, hundreds of volunteers have logged thousands of
hours that benefit organizations in the community financially and materially.
Canadian Natural’s rebuilding projects
now go much farther afield: its international
5 Years of Caring

division, Canadian Natural Resources International, conducts operations off the coast of
the western African nation Côte d’Ivoire,
and the management and staff located in
that country are currently involved in projects to rebuild schools and hospitals in the
southern city of Abidjan, which was affected
during the 2011 humanitarian crisis.
So, from hospitals in western Africa to the
Lois Hole Hospital for Women in central
Edmonton, Canadian Natural has its hands in
lots of initiatives. In the increasingly transparent environment Rutherford has witnessed over the years, it becomes more
important for companies to be clear about
where their CSR dollars are going, and Canadian Natural has built consultation and
shareholder engagement into the corporate
responsibility process.
This may be an era in which few people
doubt that corporations have some responsibility to behave in a socially responsible
manner, but it is also the era in which everything from a Facebook post to a newspaper
flier is expected to produce a measurable
return on investment. There is research that
tries to pinpoint the value of charitable giving – motivated, productive employees,
lower turnover, improved reputation – but
these benefits remain stubbornly difficult
to quantify.
What is not difficult to prove is that most
employees want to feel that their work has
value, and that they work for a company
that supports their values. A survey by the
Conference Board of Canada found that 71
per cent of employees want to work for
companies that commit to social and community concerns, and in the highly competitive job market in Alberta, that is no small
benefit – it just happens to benefit the recipient as well as the donor, and in this case, it
makes life-changing technology available to
Albertans.
“It’s support from individuals and corporations that allows us to take our diagnostics
to the next level, to offer ground-breaking
technology that maximizes our ability to
deliver high-quality, compassionate care,”
Rutherford says. “We’re so fortunate to have
support from Canadian Natural and the corporate community here in Alberta. They
help us do amazing things.”
Spring 2015 • Hope

79

Donor Files

BY ROBBIE JEFFREY • PHOTOGRAPH BY BUFFY GOODMAN

Leading with Legacy
After the Royal Alexandra Hospital gave the Nakatsui family
peace of mind, they gave back
NATALIE NAKATSUI IS 10 YEARS
old, learning Mandarin, and reading
her father’s old science fiction novels.
Her father, Thomas, is a dermatologist in
Edmonton, and her mother, Melanie, is
a well-known volunteer with organizations like The Works Visual Art Society and
the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation,
the latter of which she joined after Lynn
Mandel asked her to become involved.
They look like a model family – two successful, radiant parents with their exemplary daughter, who is as curious and
bright-eyed as she is well-behaved. But
Thomas and Natalie’s decision to have a
child was fraught with anxiety. Almost
two years before Natalie was born, Melanie
had been pregnant but had a stillbirth. “I
wasn’t sure we should have another child
after that,” Thomas says. “It’s really traumatic because you’ve built up a relationship with that child. You feel the baby
moving, you’re talking to them – and then
something unbearable happens.”
Still, they tried again. But Melanie had
protein in her urine, often a marker of toxemia of pregnancy, and both feared a second trauma. Six months into Melanie’s
pregnancy, her obstetrician identified
potential obstacles and sent them to the
Royal Alexandra Hospital, now home of
the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, where
they had access to 3-D imaging technology. It was a blessing.
“We looked at the screen and saw our
daughter’s face; she was moving around,
and she had her thumb in her mouth,”
Melanie says. “We could even see her hair.

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Hope • Spring 2015

For me, as a mother, I felt such a relief that
she was OK, that she looked healthy. That
had a huge impact on me emotionally and
mentally.” And in 2005, Natalie was born.
As Natalie grew up, Thomas and Melanie
became more and more involved with the
Royal Alex. They were donors to the Lois
Hole Hospital for Women during its capital
phase. They took tours of the hospital,
continually impressed by the calibre of the
technology and the staff. Melanie joined
the board.

There’s nothing
more personal or
intimate,” Terry Tobin
says, “than how a
person decides to
allocate the wealth
they’ve accumulated
throughout their life.
Then they met Terry Tobin, senior
development officer at the foundation. In
2013, he made a presentation to the hospital’s board about bequests and planned
gifts. Shortly after, the Nakatsui family
made a monumental commitment. They
put the foundation in their will.
Tobin is both a consultant and an agent.
He provides prospective donors with
information or sample wording of how
they can include the hospital in their
estate plans; he also administers and
directs those gifts. But he quickly dispels
5 Years of Caring

any notion that he persuades people into
gift-giving. “There’s nothing more personal
or intimate than how a person decides to
allocate the wealth they’ve accumulated
throughout their life,” he says. “No one can
convince you to make a gift in your estate –
it always comes from the donors’ hearts and
minds.”
A gift in a will can be customized. Sometimes donors are specific in where they’d
like their money to go, while others are content to give to whatever the hospital needs.
They can request that their name be public
or private. Sometimes Tobin is surprised to
find that people who have donated small
amounts throughout their life leave to the
hospital a considerable bequest. And sometimes, someone leaving a bequest will also
end up getting more involved in the hospital
during their lifetime. The choice is up to the
donor, whose wishes are paramount.
With Tobin’s guidance, the Nakatsui family earmarked $50,000, an amount they’ll
add to over time, in their will for the Royal
Alexandra Hospital Foundation, to go
toward whatever needs funding at the time.
Tobin cautions donors about getting too
specific with choosing a specific program or
area – some areas are well funded, while
others need more attention. Some programs may change in years to come. “Terry
made it very easy for us,” Melanie says. “He
explained to us in a very understandable
way, and we decided from there.”
Tobin underscores the importance of telling the donors’ stories. “Gifts from strangers
are beautiful, but we’d like to know from
whom we get our gifts so we can tell their
The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

WHERE THERE’S A WILL: Thomas and Melanie Nakatsui have made
a lifelong commitment to the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

stories,” he says. “If someone prefers to
remain anonymous, we can tell their story
in a way that protects their identity, but we
like to share stories. There’s usually a connection between what the donors think is
important and what the foundation does.”
Malcolm Burrows agrees with Tobin. As
head of philanthropic advisory services at
Scotiabank’s Private Client Group, he is
happy to discuss the logistics of planned
giving and talks about the importance of
consulting an expert. And of course he
speaks enthusiastically about the benefits of
leaving part of your estate to charity, and
how people can gift a charity and eliminate
tax on those funds. But he, too, circles
www.loisholehospital.com

back to the importance of storytelling.
“One of the great mistakes in the area of
planned giving is that we focus too much on
the mechanics and not enough on why people want to give back. It’s not so much a
question of ‘Will I do it if I find the right way
to do it? Will I do it if I save enough taxes?’”
Burrows says. “Planned gifts are driven by
life experiences – putting it in that context
is the first thing to grapple with.”
It’s no surprise then, that another motivating factor behind the bequest of the Nakatsuis
was reading the story of Kazimierz (Kasey)
Kozak, who left a gift to the Royal Alexandra
Hospital Foundation to honour his late wife.
Not only do the Nakatsuis have their own
5 Years of Caring

incredible story to tell – they were inspired
by someone else’s story. And as Natalie
Nakatsui reads her science fiction novels,
it’s clear that the power of telling these stories will carry on.

TO GIVE A GIFT

A bequest in your will supports
compassionate, world-class patient
care at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Lois Hole
Hospital for Women. To learn more, contact Terry Tobin
in Bequests and Planned Gifts at the Royal Alexandra
Hospital Foundation, 10240 Kingsway NW, Edmonton AB
T5H 3V9, 780-735-5061, bequests@royalalex.org

Spring 2015 • Hope

81

Donor Files

BY SAM MACDONALD

The Modest Donation
When donors band together and pool their resources,
the results are as powerful as any corporate gift

THE LOIS HOLE HOSPITAL FOR
Women is flourishing from community support. Donations from thousands of contributors run the gamut of amounts, and most
come from close to home.
“We have valuable donors who make
major transformational gifts to the hospital,”
says Sharlene Rutherford, vice-president of
the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.
“We certainly couldn’t make the changes we
do without those.” But Rutherford says there
is also power to create enormous progress,
fuelled by modest donations. “Community
support turns a good hospital into an outstanding hospital,” she says.
Modest donations might include one-time
gifts of the proceeds from children’s bake
sales and birthday parties that ask for
donations in lieu of gifts. They also include
one-time or regular, recurring donations
from adults. Anne Fry, a realtor with Remax
Excellence, is one such contributor, who has
signed up for a monthly donation.
Fry was inspired to donate after seeing
first-hand what charitable giving, even in
small amounts, can accomplish. She cites the
kindness of her mother, Susie Fry, and Lois
Hole, the activist after whom the hospital is
named, as her inspiration. “Lois Hole
inspired many of us, and in donating, I also

82

Hope • Spring 2015

remember my mother. Both were vibrant,
giving people.”
And a little at a time over time adds up.
“Let’s put it this way – there’s a room in the
hospital named after my mother,” Fry says.
Rutherford says that donors often take an
active role in their contributions. “They’re
interested in learning whether the hospital is
leading in the areas they donate,” she says.
“Oftentimes, we are.”
An example of the power of small donations is a piece of game-changing technology
called the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System.
(Read more about da Vinci on page 60.)
Rutherford says da Vinci was purchased in
part thanks to some large donations. But a
campaign led by Edmontonian Lynn Mandel
energized thousands of donors who stepped
up to make it a reality with small gifts specifically for this project.
Modest donors, most of whom are women,
have contributed more than $100,000
towards daVinci, Rutherford says. But so
many other features at the hospital are likewise made possible by the multitude of modest contributions.
CuddleCots, cooled bassinets to allow
more time for grieving parents to spend time
with deceased infants, are an important
bereavement program resource fuelled by
5 Years of Caring

small donations. Other items include breast
pumps for the mothers of premature babies
in the neonatal intensive care unit, and blood
pressure monitors for mothers with highrisk pregnancies who need close monitoring.
“Not everything is really high-tech, but it’s
certainly an enhancement to the hospital
that provides special care for families,” Rutherford says.
Fry agrees, and says that gathering and
donating funds to enhance the hospital has
been personally very important to her. A special moment that recognized her efforts was
the naming of a room after her mother. “When
I was first asked to be on the committee raising
funds, I didn’t have that much awareness of
the importance of small donations,” she says.
“I was just one person among a big number of
people.” That’s when she realized that harnessing the power of the individual meant
harnessing the power of the group.

A Little Goes
a Long Way
To donate any amount, modest or
otherwise, donors can give with the
click of a button.
Visit royalalex.org/loisholehospital
and select the “Donate” button. It will
take you to a secure page where you
can enter an amount and indicate if
it’s a one-time gift or a recurring gift,
and also select a campaign or leave
comments. You can also indicate if
your gift is a memorial gift or one that
marks a special occasion. To donate
over the phone, call 780-735-4723.

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women

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FOR ALL THE WOMEN WHO MEAN THE WORLD TO US
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