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After 27 surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, Mississauga firefighter Tim Casarin was able to return to the job he loves.

West Park Healthcare Centre’s scenic 27-acre campus on the Humber River in Toronto is one of the facility’s most treasured amenities for its patients. But the park-like setting isn’t what Tim Casarin recalls when he was first rolled into the hospital on a stretcher.

“I remember looking at the ceiling and although I had no idea what was ahead of me, I felt safe and secure,” says the Mississauga firefighter who was transferred to West Park to recover from injuries sustained when a cinder block wall collapsed on him and two other firefighters when a warehouse exploded.

Although he knew his recovery would be long and hard – four years later he has had 27 surgeries – the father of three wasn’t daunted and was determined to return to the job he loves.

Today, speaking from the firehall, it’s not the West Park building and the facilities he recalls, rather he reminisces about the people.

“They were very good at giving me just the right amount of work and knowing when to pull in the reins. I’m a motivated person, but if I had a bad day, they made me feel it was normal and okay,” he says.

West Park has a long history: first as a sanitarium for the treatment of tuberculosis in the early 20th century, and now as a nationally recognized leader in rehabilitation and complex care.

“The hospital may be a little worn, but I never paid much attention to it; it’s the people I remember. They’re engaged and thoughtful every step of the way. I felt like they wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to succeed,” says Mr. Casarin.

“Now we are preparing to align the quality of our infrastructure with the excellence of our people,” says Shelley Ditty, West Park’s VP, campus development and support services, referring to the new state-of-the-art hospital building and expanded indoor and outdoor therapy space that will be built on the site.

As shovels went into the ground just a few weeks ago, West Park Foundation continues its commitment to the Get Your Life Back Campaign to raise $80-million toward the cost of the new hospital.

“The design focuses on patients and families,” says Ms. Ditty. “It’s about pulling the services to the patients, bringing related expertise together in one area, enhancing collaboration and integrating research with clinical care. Ultimately it’s about better outcomes for patients.”

The new hospital will have 20 per cent more beds than the current facility and a significantly expanded outpatient area.

“This will enable us to care for the growing number of people who need our specialized services and will incorporate evidence-based design features that will make the care experience better for patients like Tim Casarin and their families,” she says.

As Mr. Casarin reflects on his time at the facility, he recalls the physical and emotional stress he endured as he regained his strength and learned to walk again.

“On my worst days, they said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got this.’ They always had my back. When I was at my lowest and having my worst days, they were at their best,” he says, adding world-class staff deserve to work in a world-class facility.

The new hospital is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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