Kiwanis Club of Sydney focuses on children with cardiac issues
Clinics have enabled families to receive care at home instead of travelling to Halifax
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.