Patient grateful for donor-funded tools used to diagnose and treat her cancer, close to home

Smiling woman standing outside the PRHC

Tracey Germa’s mammogram was supposed to be routine, but a few days later she was back at PRHC for an ultrasound, then a biopsy. With invasive ductal carcinoma confirmed, Tracey had a mastectomy.

“Since then I’ve been grateful, again and again, to PRHC’s doctors, nurses, and staff for their expert care and their compassion,” she says.

Tracey is also thankful to donors, who funded the tools her team used to diagnose and treat her close to home.

“From the mammography machines and ultrasounds, to the surgical suites, lab equipment and Dysart Radiation Centre. Thanks to donors, I had access to leading-edge technology that helped PRHC shorten my wait times while giving my doctor the clearest results,” she says. “Our hospital gave me a better chance at surviving.”

New interventional oncology treatments pushing the envelope on cancer care treatment at PRHC

Doctor and nurse in surgery

Dr. Kebby King has been providing minimally invasive care to patients in the donor-funded interventional radiology suites at Peterborough Regional Health Centre for 14 years. During that time she’s seen a lot of innovation in her field – making interventional radiology a broad specialty that can be used to diagnose and treat patients with a variety of medical conditions.

One area that has shown a lot of innovation in the application of interventional radiology is cancer care. Known as interventional oncology, this sub-specialty can be used to treat a variety of cancers and cancer-related disease – including kidney tumours, some types of pancreatic cancers, primary liver tumours, and cancer spread from the liver to the colon, pancreas and breast, to name a few – often allowing patients with cancer more time to live their lives.

“Interventional oncology has revolutionized cancer treatment,” says Dr. King. That’s because traditional cancer care involves administering chemotherapy medication to the entire body. For PRHC cancer patients who are candidates for interventional radiology, Dr. King and her colleagues perform very targeted treatments, using catheters and wires guided through tiny incisions in the skin and blood vessels, to focus precisely on the cancer.

“We’re able to specifically target the cancer,” explains Dr. King. “Either by delivering a higher dose of drugs to the target or by performing ablation or microwave therapy to kill the tumour directly.”

“We’re bombarding the cancer with all the good stuff to try to stem its spread and growth,” she says. “And because it’s so targeted, it has fewer side effects for the patient and it can be done on an outpatient basis.” Performed without the large incisions and associated risks of open surgery, it also means less pain and recovery time for patients.

This level of advanced and complex healthcare is available in the Peterborough region as a direct result of our generous donors. But PRHC’s interventional radiology suites are now 14 years old and are too small to fit new, advanced technology and the number of medical personnel required to use it. 

Your donations now will help shape the future of interventional radiology at PRHC. You’ll enable a $6 million upgrade and expansion of the interventional radiology facilities, including state-of-the-art equipment. With this essential upgrade, Dr. King and her colleagues will be able to perform more innovative and complex, minimally invasive procedures right here, so patients can receive the best care, close to home.

For more information or to support this exciting investment, please visit prhcfoundation.ca or call 705-876-5000.

Impact Spotlight: Donor-funded ED equipment is helping save patients’ sight

A doctor examines a patient's eyes using a slit lamp

Last year, more than 76,000 patients visited Peterborough Regional Health Centre’s Emergency Department (ED) in search of urgent, expert healthcare. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s historically one of the busiest EDs in the province.

Throughout the year, emergency physician Dr. Aidan Cunniffe and his colleagues use an ophthalmology microscope known as a slit lamp up to 2,000 times to diagnose urgent eye health issues and help save patients’ sight. This essential equipment many of us have encountered during a scheduled eye exam includes a binocular microscope and a strong, concentrated light.

Used so often, the slit lamp wore out last year and was replaced – not like-for-like – but with more advanced equipment funded by PRHC Foundation donors. The new technology is more reliable and instead of incandescent light bulbs that regularly burn out, features powerful, long-lasting LED light.

Dr. Cunniffe uses the lamp to examine a patient’s eyes and get a clear, 3-D look at what is happening in and around them. By adjusting the light, he can look at different parts of the eyes and face, including the skin around the eye, the eyelids and lashes, the surface and other layers of the eye, and the retina. The lamp helps him spot foreign bodies, abrasion of the cornea, signs of impact or detachment of the retina, and infection.

“Occupational injuries are a common emergency eye health issue we see in the ED,” says Dr. Cunniffe. “Recently a patient who had been injured at work came in with a lacerated cornea – a cut into the eyeball. He’d lost his vision. The slit lamp helped me diagnose the injury quickly, expediting an emergency eye surgery to save his sight.”

It’s crucial that PRHC’s emergency doctors, nurses and staff have the technology necessary to diagnose patients and get them the best treatment as soon as possible. Because the government doesn’t fund equipment, PRHC counts on donors to fund the lifesaving and life-changing tools the hospital’s healthcare providers need – essentials like the slit lamp.

“Thank you, donors,” says Dr. Cunniffe. “Because of your generosity the new slit lamp is helping me provide vital care to patients from across the region.”

Doug Lavery sees the impacts of his monthly gifts first-hand

A volunteer stands in front of the hospital's main entrance

When Doug Lavery first started volunteering at PRHC 12 years ago, he’d already been a donor to the PRHC Foundation for decades. Doug is a way-finder at the hospital and as he helps patients and visitors navigate the building, he sees and hears about the outstanding care provided at PRHC.

“I see people coming through the front doors every day,” says Doug. “My role is to make them feel more comfortable and help them get where they need to go. If it’s appropriate, I try to lighten the situation with some conversation and I hear from them how much they appreciate the care they or a loved one are receiving.”

Doug’s family has also experienced that great care, but it was after volunteering that he understood how the quality of patient care is connected to fundraising. Because the government doesn’t fund equipment, PRHC counts on donations to fund the tools doctors, nurses and staff need to save and change lives every day.

“After volunteering and realizing the importance of what the Foundation does to support the hospital, I wanted to donate regularly. This is something I believe in,” he says. That’s why Doug became a monthly donor to the PRHC Foundation.

Consistent, ongoing support from monthly donors like Doug lets the Foundation provide both flexible and reliable funding for PRHC’s equipment needs. This means the Foundation can respond quickly to the hospital’s most urgent requests as they arise, while also providing sustainable funding for longer term planning.

Together we’ve invested in every corner of the Health Centre – something Doug witnesses every day as a volunteer. His gifts help PRHC invest in state-of-the-art technology, which then fuels innovation, brings lifesaving new services to our region, and helps the hospital attract the best and brightest healthcare professionals. Plus, monthly giving helps the Foundation save on administrative costs, making those donations – and those impacts – go even further.

“If I can contribute something to enable the hospital to acquire the best equipment, then attract the best personnel to work with that equipment, then the sky’s the limit for PRHC,” Doug explains. “Whether a donation is big or small, something positive is being done. You know you’re donating to a good cause now and for the future.”

Becoming a monthly donor is easy to do online, or for more information, please call 705-876-5000.

Impact Spotlight: First in Canada SPECT/CT bringing best possible care closer to home

A medical radiation technologist demonstrates a SPECT/CT machine

Did you know that with the help of donors, in 2019 PRHC invested in a cutting-edge new SPECT/CT machine that was the first of its kind in Canada? This state-of-the-art technology represented the biggest leap forward in nuclear medicine in over a decade.

Since its installation made possible by donor generosity, the new SPECT/CT has scanned approximately 2,000 patients a year, providing PRHC’s experts with detailed 3D images so they can more clearly identify and pinpoint the site of any abnormality, particularly tumours, diagnose and stage cancer, and determine how patients’ treatments are progressing.

SPECT/CT uses two types of scans that when combined, allow doctors to gather more precise information about a specific part of the body. Scans with this machine are higher quality, take less time and use less radiation than the machine it replaced. For patients this means a more precise and timely diagnosis, and a more comfortable and safe procedure.

“PRHC has been on the leading edge, using advanced technology like SPECT/CT to bring the best possible care closer to home for our region’s residents,” says PRHC Nuclear Medicine Charge Technologist Brad Plain. “This equipment allows us to obtain the best quality images possible in a much shorter period, helping patients feel less anxiety and discomfort during the process, and helping doctors make diagnoses and treatment decisions sooner.”

Dave’s Walk inspired our community to get involved and raise over $11,000 for PRHC!

Dave Graham holds a donation cheque

Dave Graham and his family were shocked when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in late March 2021. “But we had to keep our heads up and keep going,” he says. 74-year-old Dave truly got going. He started walking for exercise and his daily strolls gave him time to think and pray. His strong faith played a large role in carrying him through his diagnosis, then surgery a couple of months later.

Dave describes PRHC’s Cancer Clinic as another bright light at that dark time. While he wasn’t happy about why he had to go there, he found he looked forward to seeing the healthcare professionals who supported him during his twice monthly chemotherapy appointments. He appreciated their compassionate and upbeat attitudes, and straightforward approach to care.

Dave also found comfort in the support of his family, church community and close friends. One of those friends had his own personal experience with a cancer diagnosis and care at PRHC’s Cancer Clinic. Dave had always admired his friend’s positive spirit and after his diagnosis, appreciated it even more. “And there are so many people with cancer,” Dave says. “They’re all suffering and struggling, and I wanted to inspire them the way my friend inspired me.”

While experiencing great care and with so much support around him, Dave decided that something good had to come from his diagnosis. He was moved to give back to his hospital and his community.

Dave approached the PRHC Foundation, and with a little help, set up a fundraising initiative as a way to say thank you to PRHC’s Cancer Care team and contribute to the care of other cancer patients. He couldn’t have known then the extent of the positive impact his fundraiser would have.

Dave set a big goal: Walk 7,000 steps a day through mid-December when his chemotherapy was due to end, and raise $5,000 to help fund the equipment and technology PRHC’s doctors, nurses and staff use every day to provide outstanding cancer care to patients from around the region, close to home.

The community’s response to Dave’s fundraiser was overwhelming. Not only did people donate, they reached out with prayers and words of encouragement and thanks. Dave received emails and phone calls, sometimes from acquaintances he hadn’t seen in years.

“One day the doorbell rang,” Dave says. “And there was a man I worked with 30 years ago. He’d heard about the fundraiser and wanted to personally give me a $100 donation and wish me well.”

People Dave has never met reached out, too. “I’ve received notes from strangers, people who are also going through cancer or have a family member with cancer,” he says. “They’d say, ‘we’re all going through this, we have to help each other.’”

The support of his community inspired Dave all over again. “Some mornings instead of getting up to walk at 6am, I just wanted to stay in bed. But my community kept me going,” he says. “All these people were walking with me.”

Soon Dave surpassed his $5,000 goal and he raised the bar to $10,000. The area’s residents responded once more, taking Dave’s Walk from one man’s objective to “a team effort,” Dave says.

PRHC Foundation President & CEO, Lesley Heighway, describes the ripple effect community fundraisers have. “They give people hope and it inspires other people to consider making a difference of their own by doing something similar,” she says. “Financially, fundraisers are extremely important for our hospital, but they also galvanize people. They bring people together. Dave inspired others to think ‘Wow, look at what he’s doing. Maybe I could do something similar.’”

Dave’s fundraiser grew beyond a single walk to a series of creative initiatives as more and more people were motivated to get involved.  

His daughter Leslie and son Matt organized a Hair & Handlebar shave with the hope of raising $1,000 to contribute to their father’s goal. Over $2,000 later, Leslie shaved her head and Matt sacrificed his signature moustache for the cause.

Dave’s wife, Liz, wasn’t to be outdone. “I baked 11 dozen shortbreads and pickled two big lots of beets to sell on Facebook,” she says. “And then my hairdresser heard about it and took six dozen of the cookies.” Other businesses in the region also reached out to make donations.

In December, Dave finished his chemotherapy and his walk, having taken 765,000 steps in his journey to say thanks for great care and help ensure patients like him continue to receive advanced, personalized cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment at PRHC.

PRHC Foundation President & CEO, Lesley Heighway, explains that since the government doesn’t fund hospital equipment, PRHC relies on community donations to fund the tools Health Centre experts use every day. “All of those gifts come together to enable the great care that we have here,” she says. “It’s also a huge morale boost when staff and medical professionals see what people like Dave are undertaking in the community to ensure that the next person who comes after them can have access to world-class care.”

Shortly after Dave finished his walk and treatment, the PRHC Foundation was grateful to receive $11,111 in donations collected through his fundraiser. And then Dave and Liz topped even that amount! “A Christmas card came with $50 in it,” says Liz. “So we added that to the donation to bring it to $11,161.”

“This experience was so humbling,” says Dave. “It’s an experience I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. I know at my age I won’t have a chance to do something like this again for my community. I feel fulfilled.”

The PRHC Foundation is incredibly grateful for the generosity of Dave and Liz, their family, friends and congregation, and the wider community who donated and contributed their time and support to Dave’s Walk. The funds raised are enabling PRHC to invest in advanced new CT scanner and MRI technology used in the diagnosis of cancer, and a state-of-the-art robotic intravenous automation (RIVA) system to ensure every complex, patient-specific chemotherapy dose is prepared safely and accurately in a sterile, automated environment.  

It’s donors who make the difference between good and great care. On behalf of PRHC, especially patients and their families, thank you to everyone involved in this generous initiative.

If you’d like to learn more about organizing your own personal fundraiser, please visit our Events page.

Impact Spotlight: X-Ray Trauma Suites

A medical radiation technologist prepares to X-Ray a patient

Three years ago, Peterborough Regional Health Centre Foundation donors made it possible for the hospital to make a $1.1 million investment in two new X-Ray Trauma Suites in the Diagnostic Imaging department. In constant use, the previous suites were worn out, the equipment was out of date, and they were no longer able to keep pace with the high demand for X-Rays, almost half of which were supporting the diagnosis and care of Emergency Department patients. PRHC’s Emergency Department is one of the busiest in the province.

At the time the new suites were installed, PRHC’s Chief & Medical Director of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Mark Troughton, explained why having new, up-to-date equipment is so important to the care of patients:

“When older technology starts to break down, it causes delays in patient diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Troughton. “We knew we couldn’t afford to let that happen – not in a department with patients in urgent need, when minutes or even seconds can mean the difference between life and death.”

Dr. Troughton and the technologists who work with the equipment also explained that the new technology wasn’t replacing like with like. Upgrades in technology mean that the new suites feature equipment that is faster, smaller and more portable.

Three years later, the new suites continue to be in high demand and allow PRHC’s experts to provide quicker, safer care to patients. In the last year, 32,000 exams were conducted in the X-Ray Trauma Suites, with the majority performed in the care of Emergency Department patients, who may be experiencing great pain and distress.

The PRHC team members who use these suites every day to provide great care, say they’ve seen a lot of benefits with the advanced equipment.

The updated technology allows the equipment to be positioned around the patient, meaning that patient has to be moved less throughout the exam. The older equipment required much more movement of the patient to facilitate an X-Ray at the necessary place on the body, causing them further discomfort. The auto-positioning feature of the equipment also makes an exam faster for the patient and safer for the technologists, who have to do less manual maneuvering of the equipment.   

The wireless detectors used in the suites to achieve certain views during an exam, display an image right away, which also helps decrease exam time for the patient. The less time a patient spends being examined, the less discomfort they’ll feel.

All of these advancements in X-Ray technology improve diagnostic quality, too, providing clear imaging quickly to staff, to support fast, accurate diagnoses and treatment.

PRHC’s healthcare workers are so appreciative of the incredible donor support that is helping them provide excellent patient care every day. “Having timely access to the best equipment available is central to providing the highest quality patient care,” says Dr. Troughton. “On behalf of those patients and everyone here at PRHC, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who supports our critical fundraising priorities, like the X-Ray Trauma Suites.”

Historic $5 million donation to Cardiac Care

Dr. Warren Ball, Lesley Heighway, Jim Neill and Dr. Peter McLaughlin

PRHC has been supported by a tradition of philanthropy since its beginning. Now, a generous community member has stepped forward to honour that tradition and inspire others by making the largest donation in PRHC Foundation history: A $5 million commitment to PRHC’s Cardiac Centre of Excellence from donor Jim Neill.

Mr. Neill’s gift will have a transformational impact on patient care now and in the future, explains Dr. Warren Ball, PRHC Interventional Cardiologist & Head of Division, Cardiology. “This gift will help keep our hearts here today by investing in significantly improved technology,” he says, “and when you add state-of-the-art technology to our exceptional patient care, his investment will empower us to pursue our vision for tomorrow.”

Dr. Ball continues, “While the planning for this exciting opportunity is in the early stages, we’re committed to ensuring our patients have access to the finest, most comprehensive cardiac care available, right here at PRHC.”

Lesley Heighway, PRHC Foundation President & CEO, agrees. “As Dr. Ball said, our hospital has exciting plans for the future of cardiac care. It will take the collective support of donors to stoke the flames of innovation,” says Lesley, “but it takes the support of a visionary leader to ignite the spark. Mr. Neill’s incredible $5 million investment in cardiac care will do just that. We’re so grateful for his gift.”

For a time, Mr. Neill was based in Toronto where he lived minutes from multiple hospitals. He realized the significance of having a world-class Health Centre to serve a regional population when he moved back to the Peterborough area.

“I really appreciated how different it is here,” he says, “but you need the same care. I wanted to be part of that process of providing very timely cardiac care close to home. And they’ve got such great plans for the future, I thought I could make a contribution and be part of that.”

Inspiring others to join him in contributing to the healthcare of the region – no matter the size of the donation – is also a major consideration for Mr. Neill. “I hope that my donation will encourage and inspire others, as donors who have come before have inspired me,” he says.

Learn more about how to make an impact on Cardiac Care at PRHC.