“One of our patients will be undergoing laser surgery tomorrow. She might be open to sharing the experience with us.” Having a front-row seat to witness our donations in action was an amazing opportunity for me, both professionally and personally. On September 20, 2017, I watched as a life was saved by other people’s generosity.
When you work in fundraising, you tend to meet people who are caring, generous, altruistic and profoundly human. Robert Sears is one of those people. When it comes to giving, he is in the major leagues. To describe him as a “really good guy” would be true, although it would be a massive understatement. Robert is the driving force behind Kurling 4 Kids, a provincial benefit curling tournament that he has been organizing, running and promoting – with all his heart – for 20 years.
What spurs him on? The idea of making it possible for children’s hospitals to save young lives. That’s what Sainte-Justine did for his own daughter, Jessica, when she was two years old. So he felt like he had a debt to repay. A huge debt. Since that moment when he carried his daughter through the revolving doors of Sainte-Justine, he has vowed to do his part.
And do his part, he has. For two decades. Raising over $2 million. In 2017, the 19th annual Kurling 4 Kids tournament raised enough money to purchase a neurosurgical laser, the first of its kind in Canada.
[In French only]
That achievement marked a giant leap forward. This non-invasive alternative has revolutionized how children with inoperable tumours and drug-resistant epilepsy can be treated.
The impact is enormous, for society as a whole and for everyone who will eventually benefit from this cutting-edge technology. Maude is one young woman whose life has been changed because of Robert Sears, Kurling 4 Kids and the people who support them.
September 20, 2017, was the day Dr. Alexander Weil, a neurosurgeon at Sainte-Justine, would remove the tumour that had been causing Maude’s seizures for the past two years, greatly reducing her quality of life. She had had to quit CEGEP and give up playing her favourite sport: water polo. So there was a lot of hope invested in that early fall day.
I had the chance to be there for the operation. I met with Maude and her parents that morning. They let me come so I could fully grasp the impact of the donations that went toward purchasing the laser and gave Maude a second lease on life, which would otherwise have been impossible.
Watching your daughter be taken into surgery is an unbelievably emotional experience. Will she come out of it all right? Will the healthy parts of her brain be intact? Will she be able to pick up her life where she left off?
Hugs, tears, joy, fear, hope. So many feelings. But her team of healthcare professionals was meticulously prepared and ready to proceed. “We’ll take care of her as if she were our own,” Dr. Weil reassured her anxious parents just before she was wheeled in.
Twelve hours on the operating table. And every minute felt like an eternity. Patience, trust, taking things moment by moment. And our friend Robert was also there for the day he was instrumental in making happen.
“Thank you.” Such a simple phrase, yet so telling – straight from the lips of a father whose daughter is undergoing surgery and whose path to a cure is slowly but surely becoming a reality.
At one end of OR 11, there was Robert, so proud of what was happening before his eyes. And the other end was Yves, Maude’s father, whose stress was palpable. The two came together.
Everyone’s eyes were brimming over with tears. Mine and theirs. We were overwhelmed with emotion. I felt like an intruder during this powerful moment that felt utterly unreal. “Thank you.” Such a simple phrase, yet so telling – straight from the lips of a father whose daughter is undergoing surgery and whose path to a cure is slowly but surely becoming a reality.
The procedure went off without a hitch. Maude didn’t even need any time in the ICU. Two days later, she was back home.
Philanthropy changes lives. Philanthropy saves lives. Maude is living proof.
Today, several months later, she is her old self again, the person she was before epilepsy took over. She is happy. Life is good. She is back at CEGEP, back in the pool and has taken up a new hobby: curling!