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Stollery shout-out

The province’s health-care system is often the target of much criticism, with its workers under daily pressure to meet the needs of patients while struggling with staffing shortages and other challenges that impact delivery of services.

We can sometimes forget those health workers have hearts just like us. But then there comes a touching example that reminds us that despite necessary aloofness, doctors, nurses and aides care.

Last Thursday, Stollery Children’s Hospital staff organized a party to celebrate the homecoming of Christopher Lepine after his year-long stint at the health centre.

The 18-year-old St. Albertan, who has a mental age of two, has spina bifida, cerebral palsy, severe epilepsy, severe Crohn’s disease and other medical conditions. 

Christopher is mainly non-verbal and non-ambulatory. His family and caregiver Janie Overman, a support worker with Excel Society, use a wheelchair to get him from one place to another, including the home he hadn’t been able to live in for the past 12 months. 

On April 4, Christopher was able to return to familiar surroundings in St. Albert, squealing with delight upon his arrival. It was a moment of unbridled joy for him, his family and undoubtedly for those who took care of him at the Stollery as well.

His mother, Katie Ann Lepine, has praised the excellent patient care provided by the pediatric hospital during Christopher’s lengthy stay, but is relieved to bring her son home.

“We’re happy to be home. He’s happy to be home,” she told the Gazette.

The health-care workers who tended to Christopher during what must have been a stressful time in his life are likely sharing in the joy of watching a patient finally leave the confines of the Stollery. They demonstrated as much by throwing the going-away party for the longtime patient, going above and beyond the typical farewell expected when treatment ends.

It is clear Christopher left as much of an impression on them as they did on him and his family. These are people who care beyond the level required by their jobs, and in doing so they leave a lasting mark on our community.

Their actions likely come as no surprise to the parents of youngsters who are undergoing or have received short- or long-term treatment at the busy facility.

The Stollery, which opened its doors in 2001, is the only specialized hospital for infants, children and youth in central and northern Alberta.

According to its website,more than 40 per cent of the kids treated at the Stollery reside outside the Edmonton area. Young patients come from northern B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories to receive care offered under the long list of programs currently available at the world-renowned teaching hospital.

Parents rely on the doctors and nurses to ensure their sick children, many of whom have been diagnosed with illnesses such as heart and blood diseases as well as cancer, receive the best care possible. 

With caregivers like these among us, our beloved children and youth are truly in good hands.