Ki­wa­nis Club of Syd­ney fo­cuses on chil­dren with car­diac is­sues

Clin­ics have en­abled fam­i­lies to re­ceive care at home in­stead of trav­el­ling to Hal­i­fax

Cape Breton Post - - REFLECTIONS - BY GREG MCNEIL gm­c­neil@cb­

A com­mu­nity ser­vice span­ning al­most four decades be­gan an­other ses­sion of help­ing chil­dren with heart-re­lated is­sues this month.

The Ki­wa­nis Club of Syd­ney’s chil­dren’s car­diac clinic al­lows in­fants and chil­dren with heart de­fects to have their quar­terly check­ups at the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Hospi­tal in Syd­ney.

It’s a ser­vice that saves fam­i­lies the time and cost of trav­el­ling to Hal­i­fax.

“It was rec­og­niz­ing a need that there was no child car­di­ol­o­gist,” said Brad Gille­spie, chair of the Ki­wa­nis Club of Syd­ney’s pe­di­atric car­di­ol­ogy clinic.

“Of course back then there wasn’t a re­gional hospi­tal. A fam­ily had to travel to Hal­i­fax four times a year for fol­lowups. It is not just travel, it is meals and ac­com­mo­da­tions.”

The club was re­spond­ing to sev­eral lo­cal physi­cians who had younger pa­tients forced to go to Hal­i­fax for treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to Steve Gille­spie, the past clinic chair.

“ There were costs in­volved, travel wasn’t that great at the time. They came up with an idea to in­volve the IWK and pay for the pe­di­atric car­di­ol­o­gist and a nurse to come to Syd­ney as a clinic.”

In­stru­men­tal in putting those early clin­ics to­gether, ac­cord­ing to Steve Gille­spie, were War­ren Perry and the late Sam Jes­some.

“It was the first one ever done. There had never been a satel­lite clinic be­fore. The Ki­wa­nis pi­o­neered that and now there are satel­lite clin­ics all over the place.”

And the pro­gram is no longer just for chil­dren. It has since ex­panded to as­sist those still in need of a car­di­ol­o­gist af­ter they turn 18.

“ That was iden­ti­fied two years ago that we needed an adult clinic,” said Brad Gille­spie. “Now we ac­tu­ally carry over those into an adult clinic that we have once a year, one day. The name Ki­wa­nis is just for chil­dren, but we didn’t re­ally want to aban­don them once they were 18.”

In the lo­cal area, the re­sult has been an es­ti­mated sav­ing for area fam­i­lies that is ap­proach­ing $2 mil­lion.

Be­cause of doc­tor/pa­tient con­fi­den­tial­ity the Ki­wa­nis mem­bers don’t know who the clin­ics as­sist, but many of­ten make an ef­fort to thank them for the pro­gram.

One of Steve Gille­spie’s favourite thank-you sto­ries occurred while he and Don Lynch were cam­paign­ing out­side a lo­cal busi­ness dur­ing the an­nual Ki­wa­nis Mile of Money fundraiser.

“ This el­derly lady came out and stopped to look at our sign. We asked her if she wanted to make a do­na­tion to the Ki­wa­nis Club of Syd­ney. She reached into her purse and took out a $50 bill. We had just started that day and said “sorry mam we don’t have any change to give you.” She said ‘If I had more I would give it to you. My grand­son was in your car­diac clinic for the whole 18 years of his life. And if it wasn’t for you guys we wouldn’t have been able to get him the care he needed.’”

That mem­ory still in­vokes strong emo­tions for mem­bers who are proud of the ser­vice.

The club in turn thanks its spon­sors for their help.

When the clin­ics be­gan, Ki­wa­nis mem­bers cov­ered a large por­tion of its es­ti­mated $10,000 per year ex­pense.

Now the club and its com­mu­nity part­ners share the travel, ac­com­mo­da­tion and meal ex­penses of the vis­it­ing pe­di­atric car­di­ol­o­gist dur­ing each clinic.

The pe­di­atric nurse that ac­com­pa­nies each doc­tor is cov­ered by the IWK.

There is also an on­go­ing part- ner­ship with the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Hospi­tal Foun­da­tion, Fer­gu­son’s Phar­macy in Glace Bay, an anony­mous lo­cal busi­ness spon­sor, and funds raised in the com­mu­nity.

To­gether it has al­lowed the proj- ect to op­er­ate on a break even ba­sis.

“The Ki­wa­nis ended up just tak­ing care of the clinic. It didn’t come out of our fundrais­ing bud­get,” said Brad. “The Ki­wa­nis now just has to com­mit the over­age.”

The Ki­wa­nis also thanks clinic vol­un­teers, Edna Redquest and Olive Humphrey and co-or­di­nat­ing physi­cian Dr. J.P. Fin­ley of the IWK Grace car­di­ol­ogy depart­ment.

Clin­ics are held each Fe­bru­ary, April, Au­gust and Novem­ber and a to­tal of 200-250 pa­tients are seen each year.

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