Patient Stories

People often say “you don’t know what you have, until it’s gone”. But if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s this: you don’t know what you have, until you need it.

I couldn’t miss this opportunity to tell you how you helped my family when we needed it most.

In the spring of 2011, my husband Gord was told four words you never want to hear: “You have terminal cancer.” It was news we never expected, and we went through all of the emotions: shock, anger, and – being only in our 50s – grief at being robbed of our golden years together.

But Gord was always one to make the best out of any bad situation. He never let it get him down. So although there were not many treatment options available, he chose to fight his cancer aggressively over the next four-and-a-half years, and spent every minute he could with friends and family.

But on January 14, 2016, Gord was rushed to hospital … he had had a heart attack, his kidneys were failing, there were massive tumors in his liver, and a blood clot on his lung. The day we had been dreading had arrived. The doctors confirmed our worst fears: he had a few hours, maybe a day or two, to live.

Our three children, who live all across Canada, quickly came to Winnipeg for what they expected to be their dad’s funeral. But by some miracle, Gord went on to live for six weeks in the most loving, compassionate place: St. Boniface Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit.

What we thought was the end, turned out to be the beginning of a long, memorable goodbye filled with family, friends, and the comforts of home … thanks to donors like you.

Being at St. Boniface Hospital was like staying with family. I will never forget how the staff took care of our young grandchildren who Gord loved so much and tried to spend as much of his limited time with as possible.

Even when it was just the two of us, Gord had many other welcome distractions. When he was feeling down, a therapy dog came to his room for pats which always brought a smile to his face. In the afternoons, volunteers served us tea in china cups along with homemade sandwiches and baked goods.

During our quiet moments together, we sat in the beautiful solarium overlooking the Red River. We loved to watch the activities at the Forks, or the sun set over our big prairie skies. No matter the time of day, it was a peaceful escape during the toughest time in our lives.  

In the evenings, the staff would bring a sleeper chair, which folds out into a bed, so I could spend many nights right by Gord’s side. We were never quite sure when Gord’s time would come to an end, but knowing I could be with him, no matter the hour, was a great relief.

Your continued donations made all of these special moments possible. Thanks to you, we both found comfort at St. Boniface Hospital.

 The nursing staff treated Gord with the utmost respect and cared for everything from his aches and pains to his hopes and fears. To me, they were a constant source of support at a time when I could barely function. They knew when to laugh, when to be a shoulder to cry on, and when to just sit with me for company.

I never felt alone as I walked that path between life and death.

When Gord passed, we both knew we had made the best of the worst of times, thanks to the kindness of staff, and the generosity of donors like you.

Though our palliative journey has ended, right now there are many other families facing the same fear and grief as we did. You can provide the comfort they so desperately need in this difficult time. Please join me today in making a donation to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation so we can give them the support they need.


Kathy Maconnell

p.s. On any given month, there are 25 patients in palliative care at St. Boniface Hospital. Become a monthly donor by filling out the coupon below, and you can make a difference in their lives and others’ year-round.

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