Author: Joel Johnson

I could not be more proud of my team of nurses.

Donna Didimos is the Patient Care Manager for St. Joe’s Emergency Department. For the past 7 ½ years, she has led her team of nurses through many challenges but none compare to this past year with COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we all work,” Donna explains, “especially here in the ER. We are on the frontline and at times, particularly when the pandemic began, it is frightening.”

Throughout the pandemic, St. Joe’s Emergency Department has cared for our community’s health care needs. People continued to have medical needs that required emergency care, such as heart attacks and strokes, and St. Joe’s nurses—and all staff—were there through it all.

“I could not be more proud of my team of nurses,” says Donna. “It’s been physically and mentally exhausting but, through it all, they continue to  step up in ways that reflects the reason we are all nurses: compassion, empathy and the push for excellence to provide the best care for our community.” From helping each other in their day-to-day work and lending a hand to help lessen the load for one another where possible, to being there to support each other through tough times—there is a level of care here at St. Joe’s that is like no other in comparsion.”

The nurses at St. Joe’s—in all departments—care for their patients, colleagues and community. We are fortunate for the work they do every day, for their compassion, resilience and dedication to their profession. 

“I’ve never worked with a group of people like this,” states Donna. “I’m fortunate to work alongside them every day. I’m truly inspired by them.”

As #NationalNursesWeek comes to an end, honour a St. Joe’s nurse or team with a donation and message of support.

St. Joe’s nurses are important to our community for the work they do today, and every day.

Theresa Beltran ER Nurse

St. Joe’s nurses are important to our community for the work they do today, and every day. Regardless of their department or team, they all provide compassionate and high-level care to their patients.

Theresa Beltran is one of more than 100 St. Joe’s emergency room nurses. “ I love working at St. Joe’s. We are like family here,” she says. “My colleagues are supportive of each other, whether it is helping with a challenging case, or being there to support me when times are difficult.”

This past year, St. Joe’s nurses—and all staff—have shown courage and resilience in the fight against COVID-19. 

“We are here 24/7—for everyone,” says Theresa. “We are here for our community to ensure it has what it needs, now, and in the future.”

This #NationalNursesWeek, say thank you to our St. Joe’s nurses.

St. Joe’s ER is where our community turns to when they are in need.

Alice Smolen has been an Emergency Nurse at St. Joe’s for 31 years. In that time, she has seen the west end community grow, and with that, the increase in visitors seeking care come through the Emergency Room Door.

“The ER is St. Joe’s front door to our community,” Alice discussed. “It’s where our community turns to when they are in need—whether their cases are high in acuity, such as a heart attack, or even if they need social assistance and don’t have anywhere else to turn. We have the resources to help everyone.”

Every year, St. Joe’s Emergency receives more than 100,000 visits, but it is only built for 60,000. Building a new ER that is almost double in size and has new areas allows nurses, like Alice, to treat those who seek help more easily and quickly.

“As a nurse, I care for this community. Over the years, I have come to know so many who come to St. Joe’s for help,” Alice explains. “Whether it’s their first time in the ER, or if I’ve met them frequently over the years, I know that when they leave our hospital, they have received great care and are grateful for the work we do.”

This Week is #NationalNursesWeek and we celebrate the courage and commitment our St. Joe’s nurses demonstrate every day. Thank you for keeping the Promise to our west-end community made by the Sisters of St. Joseph 100 years ago.

I wanted to work in end-of-life care. I wanted to be there for people and their families in some of their hardest moments.

It can be scary anytime you have to visit a hospital. And nurses are often the ones giving comfort during those uncertain times. 

Comfort can mean listening to patients, telling them things are going be ok, this is what you can expect, here’s our plan. Saying the words ‘We’ll get through this together’ goes a long way. A compassionate nurse at your bedside can turn your fear and anxiety into comfort and peace. 

Mark Kocsis is the Clinical Educator, Nursing Oncology and Endoscopy at St. Joe’s and is often asked, “why did you choose a career in nursing?” He answers that question by stating that he just knew he wanted to spend his life helping other people during vulnerable times in their lives, and teaching others to do the same.

“In my final year of nursing school, I was completing my placement at a west-end hospice, and it suddenly clicked for me,” Mark explains. “I wanted to work in end-of-life care. I wanted to be there for people and their families in some of their hardest moments.”

As soon as Mark graduated from nursing school, the 6M oncology and palliative care unit at St. Joe’s was his first job applied to—that was four years ago and he’s been at St. Joe’s ever since. Now, during this pandemic, he and his nursing colleagues face one of the biggest challenges of their careers.

“A lot has changed for nurses during this pandemic. We are working over-time, late hours, and being redeployed to new areas of care like the ICU,” says Mark. “We’ve had to constantly adapt to new infection control policies and procedures to keep us, our families, and our patients safe. It has been hard but I’ve been inspired by all the nurses who keep coming into work each day.”

This week is Nursing Week and we west-enders are showing our gratitude to all the nurses at St. Joe’s. 

As a west-ender himself, Mark thanks our community and neighbours for the support and generosity that has been shown to our St. Joe’s staff this past year and for doing your part to keep our Promise to meet the healthcare needs of our community. 

“I want to help St. Joe’s as a mom, westender and someone who works at St. Joe’s.”

Luciana Huff sees St. Joe’s in different ways. As a mother of two kids, she has relied on the CIBC Just for Kids Clinic and other services for her family. She is also a westender who knows the importance of having great care locally. And she is a speech and language pathologist who is proud to care for this community alongside a terrific team.

Now she has another connection as a Co-Chair of WomenPromise 100, a committee of women who are bringing 100 others together to help St. Joe’s keep its Promise to meet the health needs of this community. “St. Joe’s is celebrating 100 years and we know we can honour this milestone by making a big impact together,” she says. “Women play many roles and this will be an exciting way to come together, inspire each other and make a difference.”

Luciana volunteers on the Foundation Board of Directors and is also a donor. “Donating to St. Joe’s means giving back to a hospital that has always been there for my family. I believe if we all give, we will see many positive changes for St. Joe’s and our community over the next 100 years.

St. Joe’s is my local hospital

Marilyn Lightstone is an award-winning actress and artist. She is also a proud westender and supporter of her hospital. After she had eye surgery years ago, she noticed  some of the surroundings were drab and wanted to help—by adding  some colour.

“I received exceptional care and wanted to give back as a way of saying thank you.”

Marilyn gives regularly and donated more than100 pieces of her art to make our spaces feel special.  

“St. Joe’s has been caring for this community for a century,” she says. “As neighbours, it is wonderful to do what we can to help lift the spirits of those needing care, so we are happy to help.”

“The care at St. Joe’s feels different. It’s personal.”

Marilynne Day-Linton and Bill Linton believe our west-end community needs great care close to home for another 100 years. They are long-time west-​enders and donors to St. Joe’s because it holds a special place in their hearts. Marilynne served on the Foundation Board since 2004 and as Chair from 2010 to 2014. Her and Bill are among our largest donors.

“Donating to St. Joe’s is personal for us,” says Marilynne. “The doctors and staff have helped our family—our kids when they were growing up, and both of my parents when they were in their vulnerable years and faced the end of their lives. The care here feels different. I am happy to bring my family to St. Joe’s, where I volunteer. I think that’s the strongest endorsement you can give a place.”

“I always knew this is where I needed to be.”

When Dr. Eddy Lau is not at St. Joe’s, he is just a few blocks away from the hospital. “I have two daughters who have both received care St. Joe’s—so this place means a lot to me.”

Dr. Lau is a paediatrician who came to St. Joe’s more than 20 years ago. “I worked at three different hospitals before I chose to come here,” he says. “St. Joe’s is a great community hospital with a small-town feel, yet it is very academic and specializes in many areas—caring for kids being one of them. We can treat 95% of all paediatric conditions right here. As a parent in the neighbourhood, that’s comforting to know because when your child is sick, you want them close to home.”

The 100-year history of St. Joe’s means something for Dr. Lau. “We get to care for children from the time they are born and see them grow up. Now we are celebrating 100 years of care—imagine how many lives started right here in this hospital? I can tell you the most rewarding thing is seeing a child get better. That’s the best thing about my job.”

What My Grandmother Taught Me.

This is a picture of my grandmother, Tripat Kaur, but I call her Badi Mamma. Translated to English from Hindi, that means “big, or wise mother.” She is one of the wisest people I know.

Like lots of seniors during this pandemic, it has been a hard year for Grandma. In June, she had surgery for a vertebral fracture and multiple procedures for gallbladder stones and spinal stenosis. Recovery from all these procedures has been painful and exhausting, made even tougher because of her other conditions, like liver cirrhosis.

When she finally made it to rehab this fall, we got news that she had contracted COVID-19. Given her already fragile state, the virus was especially devastating to Grandma’s health. I was terrified and wanted her to get the best possible care.

Over the last six months, my family has had countless experiences with medical staff from many different hospitals. The staff at St. Joe’s stood out immediately.

Grandma left rehab, and arrived at St. Joe’s on the evening of November 22nd in pretty bad shape. I was so worried because my family had never been to St. Joe’s before; but our fears were calmed immediately after Dr. Carpenter called us with a spot-on summary of her complicated condition. She was in good hands. She was moved to the Covid Ward.

And that was just the beginning of the healthcare team going above and beyond in her care. In the Covid Ward, when Grandma needed translation from English to Punjabi, her personal support worker, Shazia, was there for her. Shazia fed my grandmother her meals and cared for her just like my siblings and I would. Grandma was given excellent care by Dr. Elsobky who followed up with us every day, patiently listened to our concerns, and shared with us the next steps in her care plan.

The nurses involved in Grandma’s care were incredibly patient and compassionate. Jamie set up video calls for my family and also shared all her lab results as soon as they came in; Stephanie took the time to go through Grandma’s belongings and helped to retrieve items she’d left at rehab; Neha patiently set up video calls, fed Grandma and provided nightly updates; Victoria walked us through everything we needed to make sure Grandma could safely come home. We felt cared for and heard.

At a young age, my grandmother instilled in me a desire to give back to my community. My family is making a gift to St. Joe’s to show our thanks for the exceptional care we received from Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Elsobky, Shazia, Neha, Stephanie, Victoria and so many more.

Grandma is now back home, resting and enjoying the company of her family after six grueling months of procedures, recovery from Covid. The staff at St. Joe’s have played a pivotal part in reviving her and bringing her back home to be with her family.


With thanks from Badi Mamma’s proud grandchildren,

Kuljot, Sarabjot, and Simran Anand

Unity Health Update

With the generous support of donors, the St. Joseph’s Health Centre and the St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation have been an integral part in meeting the healthcare needs of the west end community for many years. Along with St. Michael’s and Providence, our three healthcare facilities make up Unity Health Toronto.

Recently, Unity Health Toronto announced that St. Michael’s Foundation and Providence Health are joining to create a single Foundation by April 2021. Here at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation, we want to assure our community, donors and volunteers, that we are continuing as we always have.

This new opportunity at the other two sites does not affect our efforts to work tirelessly with all of you to keep the Promise and meet the healthcare needs of our west-end community.