As part of an interprofessional team, I educate, motivate and provide appropriate exercises and aids to our patients to help restore their health . We give hope and strength to accomplish the goals they want to accomplish, whether it’s taking one step or running a marathon.
St. John’s Rehab works with unique patient populations in Ontario and across Canada. The specialized skillset and knowledge of our team allow me to learn something new all the time simply by observing others in action. The experiences I’ve gained at the hospital combined with the support of my colleagues have enabled me to fulfill a lifelong dream of using this expertise to help others living in a developing country.
No matter where I am, I am inspired by the common resilience of the human spirit in achieving anything despite what life may throw at it. Each patient who comes through our doors will face different challenges and milestones they want to conquer. I consider it a privilege to be part of their journey: to walk with them, both figuratively and literally, in their recovery process. Along the way there is both laughter and tears, but to me it’s all part of the relationship we are blessed to share.
– As told to Katherine Nazimek
the PALLIATIVE CARE DOCTOR
TO SIMPLY LISTEN AND ACT
Dr. Jeff Myers is head of the Palliative Care Consult Team at Sunnybrook. He oversees a team of 15 staff and clinicians and is the academic head of University of Toronto’s Division of Palliative Care. Before joining Sunnybrook in 2005, he was Associate Medical Director of the Hospice and Palliative Care Program at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Most people equate palliative care with dying. I’m often met with ’Wow, that must be so depressing and difficult; how can you take care of dying people all the time?’
We’re taught in medicine to heal, to reverse injury, to fix things in people. This is in direct contrast to the reality that every person is going to die. To be involved in a person’s life at such an intimate time and contribute to lessening their suffering is incredibly gratifying. It’s a life-changing experience for family members when someone dies. When everything is done well, the relief and gratitude that family and loved ones express is massive.
Palliative care, though, is much more than care at the end of a person’s life. It’s not an alternative to ’active care’ or something to be saved for the time when ’we’ve done everything we can.’ It’s about listening to people, figuring out their story, determining what’s preventing them from experiencing joy no matter where they are in their illness journey.
There’s a definite science to effectively managing a person’s symptoms, be they physical, emotional, spiritual, existential. None of what I do is magic. I ask the questions that need to be asked, and simply listen to and act on the answers. To me, this is just providing good care.
Why do I work at Sunnybrook? There is an eagerness among the front-line staff to always do better for people who are suffering. The staff has genuine heart and maintains a real sense of humanness. Sunnybrook’s leadership team has been nothing but supportive of the Quality Dying Initiative. As one of the only hospitals in the province with an organization-wide commitment to the quality of the dying experience, improving care for a dying person wouldn’t be possible without support from a high level at the hospital.
My day-to-day work life? It’s a privilege to be present with people who find themselves at such an unfamiliar and vulnerable time in their lives and rarely do I feel sad. It’s only when I stop for a moment and think about the impact that is made – that’s when it becomes emotional. – As told to
the OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
GOING OUT ON A LIMB
Terrence Yuen is an occupational therapist at Sunnybrook’s St. John’s Rehab with more than 25 years’ experience in his profession.
I’ve worked with many clients, including survivors of burns, traumas, spinal cord injuries and amputations. When I first meet them, they are dealing with the emotional and physical challenges of living fulfilling lives. They want to be parents, workers and friends. All these goals represent different levels of physical and functional challenges. This is where my role begins.