Compassionate care during a crisis.

If you had spoken to Orangeville resident Ashley in October of 2018, she wouldn’t have been able to tell you about ICU respirators, chemotherapy side effects or the devastating feeling of losing a parent to cancer. A few short months later though, and she can tell you about all of those things in detail.

One night in November, Ashley’s mom Linda was having severe abdominal pains so Ashley drove her to the HHCC Emergency Department. “Before then, I had been to Emergency a few times for myself and son, but didn’t have much interaction with the hospital other than that,” she says. Thinking that it was a troublesome appendix, the mother and daughter were shocked to find out she was actually in pain because of Stage 4 colon cancer.

Ashley was so grateful to Dr. Salih, the attending physician, who delivered the news in a kind and compassionate way, yet provided the information they needed to understand what treatment would be required. “Dr. Salih was really amazing,” says Ashley. “It really made a difference in how we were able to process what was going on with my mom.”

After being admitted and spending nine days in the hospital, Linda began chemotherapy treatment as an outpatient. Unfortunately, Linda had a setback in January which brought her back to the hospital in serious condition. “We were so grateful to have a wonderfully caring and professional nurse like Kurt in Emergency,” says Ashley. Suffering from sepsis (a life-threatening condition caused by infection) and pneumonia, she was admitted to the ICU with Ashley by her side for the five days she stayed until she passed away.

“During my mom’s stay in the ICU, I was constantly asking questions and trying to understand everything that was happening with her. The nurses were so patient and kind with me. Sarah, Lynda and Edith were especially wonderful in the way they treated my mom with such dignity and respect as she neared the end of her life,” says Ashley. “And Dr. Mohsin was really good at giving us the information we needed; she was very direct, but in a way that we knew she cared.” It was a very difficult time for Ashley’s family but made more bearable by the care Linda received right up to her last day.

As a result of her experience with Headwaters, Ashley offers advice for others who may find themselves in a similar situation. She says, “People have very little control when they are in the hospital so it is important that your loved one be able to make any necessary decisions for themselves if they can, and as a family member you need to be their advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure both you and the person in the hospital bed understand everything that is happening.”

Ashley lives in Orangeville with her son, and is a volunteer Patient and Family Advisor helping HHCC ensure it is meeting the needs of all of its patients and their families.