There’s a simple reason why Jenny Poulos can’t forget the caregivers at Toronto East General Hospital. Her son won’t let her.
Connor was just three years old when doctors at the hospital noticed his speech development differed from other children. After further tests, he was diagnosed with autism. From then on his life — and that of his family — was forever changed.
“Finding out your child has autism can be a scary and confusing rollercoaster ride,” Poulos recalled. “My alarm bells started to go off.”
She credits hospital staff for offering much-needed assistance for Connor and providing resources to help her family cope with the realities of autism. Now 11, Connor has progressed to the point where he does not display any clear signs of his condition.
“I can think of no other description than extraordinary for what they do,” she said. “(The hospital) reaches out a hand and supports those who need it most.”
A vice-president at RBC, Poulos shared her experience at a reception on Nov. 2. At the event, the bank announced a donation of $500,000 to the hospital for the construction of an outpatient clinic dedicated to children’s mental health.
Poulos told the gathering of dignitaries, which included former East York MP and federal cabinet minister David Collenette, that Connor constantly recalls his experience at TEGH.
“He talks about (the hospital) every time we drive past it,” she said.
TEGH sees an average of 240,000 patients annually, of which 60,000 are visitors to the emergency room. While the hospital provides a variety of services for children, TEGH’s chief of psychiatry believes mental health treatment needs to be improved.
“There is a dearth of out-patient services for kids who have mental illness,” Dr. Allan Rosenbluth said
According to Rosenbluth, Canada lags far behind countries like Australia when it comes to treatment for children who, like Connor, suffer from mental illness. He hopes that the money provided by RBC is a sign that mental illness is now more widely accepted by mainstream society.
“When RBC gives money and isn’t embarrassed to give to children’s mental health programs, it speaks to the change that’s happening,” Rosenbluth said. “This money will allow us to start something and we will build on it.”
The hospital’s chief of emergency services hopes the money will assist medical staff in providing comfort and reassurance to children and their families.
“Coming from the frontlines, (the donation) really makes a difference and we’re very appreciative for all of your work,” Dr. Paul Hannam said.
Hannam talked about his experiences dealing with children and their families who are in a state of crisis.
“What they really need is a well-lighted room, a place to sit and a quiet place to talk,” he said.“So they can figure out what’s happening.”
For nearly 80 years TEGH has serviced the healthcare needs of East Torontonians from its Coxwell Avenue location.
East York councillor Case Ootes reminisced about the countless times he and his family visited the hospital over the years.
“On a personal level, it means a lot to me because my wife and my four children were all born (at TEGH),” he said. “The hospital is part of our well-being.”