Saint Martha’s Hospital has, and continues to be, a blessing for both the communities and families that it serves. For generations, this hospital has been the face, heart, and hands, that welcomed our children into the world at life’s beginning, as well as the empathetic arms that cared for our loved ones at its end. Between these two moments, and all the moments of our lives, this hospital has been the cornerstone of ensuring that the health and well-being of those its serves is of primary importance. I am one such person who has learned this first hand.
My name is Shaun Machnik. I was born with several health complications, which included a form of Spina- Bifita that had left me with a malformed digestive and renal system. The effects of these afflictions included: periodic painful spasming, incontinence that forced me to wear diapers (until I was 17,) as well as intermittent surgeries/complications that made me a familiar face to the staff at St Martha’s and at the IWK. However, when I turned 17, my life changed forever. I developed severe spasms in my bladder, which caused renal re-flux, that was leading to potential kidney damage. With this began a period of surgeries -as of now 16- that included the creation of an artificial bladder and a colostomy. The story of these interventions are reflected by the scars left on my abdomen, and by the pain and bowel adhesion’s that lead to periodic infections and obstructions. These surgical interventions caused many complications that brought me into contact with many of the doctors and nurses of St Martha’s Hospital. Whether it be painful bowel obstructions, bladder/kidney infections, or complications with epilepsy, etc; St Martha’s has been a place where I was cared for in a way that only those with experience of staying in hospitals across the province may understand. As a patient of St Martha’s, I was treated as a person, and not as a number. Doctors, such as Dr Steeves and Dr Hickey, have been the GPs that have witnessed and cared for me each step of the past 20 years. Dr Philip Cooper and Dr Brennan were the caring surgeons who operated on me when my artificial bladder had seized, or when I needed jaw reconstruction surgery after a grand- mal seizure. The late Dr Lindsay Myers as well as Brenda Harrop, were the professionals who cared for me when the effects of chronic and unending health trauma’s led to a depression that I would not have recovered from without them.
St Martha’s also has an emergency team that is second to none. Over the last 19 years, doctors like Dr Sutherland, Cooper, and Dr Allen, intervened and cared for me during the countless visits to the ER I have made where pain had reduced me to my hands and knees. I am also grateful to the nurses of St Martha’ (past and present) of this same Emergency Department. It was nurses such as Ellen and Beryl who were the professionals who cared for me through long days and nights with patience, empathy, and excellence. These nurses, and others like them, throughout the hospital, exemplify the values and ideals that Florence Nightingale sought to strive for in creating the modern nursing vocation. Moreover, the X-ray, blood collection, and other staff, have reflected the mission and values that set St Martha’s apart, and would make the founders of our hospital proud. I guess what I am trying to say is, that the professionals at our hospital have made our hospital an integral part of our community. They have turned a building made of brick and concrete, into a living organism that is there to serve us when we are most in need. It is not until one loses their health or that a loved one becomes ill, that we wake up to see how truly blessed we are to have such a hospital as St Martha’s. As residents of Antigonish, and to all other communities that St Martha’s serves, we have been bequeathed a hospital that has been a central pillar of support when we were, or are, ill. It has shared in all the milestones of life, and has always lived up to its mission of serving and healing. This mission is paired with respect for our dignity and intrinsic value as human beings, and has been a cornerstone of practice and a beacon of guidance for successive generations.
However, this hospital’s continued role and importance to us all, is dependent on the continued support of those of us in the here and now. It is our responsibility to work together to ensure that St Martha’s Hospital serves future generations of Nova Scotian’s, thus ensuring that it remains a regional hospital of medical excellence and care- and not a victim of retrenchment, shifting governance priorities, or financial hardship. As Nova Scotian’s, we owe to those who came before us, and to those who will come after; a St Martha’s Hospital, which remains as strong as the rock of Gibraltar and as effective in healthcare service as any other hospital in Canada. For me, this hospital represents a living entity, which has helped my family and I, navigate the pain, surgeries, distress, infections, etc, that chronic health issues present. I am sharing my own personal story (which is difficult) because I support this hospital. Again, we must remember, that we must not take for granted the gift of St Martha’s. Who would of thought, just a few years ago, that schools and other infrastructure would be closed and boarded up in our county and others like it? As a community, we have the strength and ability to ensure St Martha’s place in our community. However, we must come together as a team.
The founders of this hospital- the nuns, doctors and nurses, and farmers and fishers, etc- faced the rigor and problems of building a hospital in times of hardship. But with resolve and community unity, they achieved this. Today in 2017, we too face hardship; however, together with a common resolve and will, we can emulate those that bequeathed this hospital to us, and ensure that the technology, health services, etc, of 21st century medicine, are available for our families and for our community. In the final analysis, what we do now, shapes the future; let us join hands with a single voice and say yes to supporting St Martha’s.
Shaun Machnik, November 1st, 2017.