Forever Grateful

For almost 30 years, Elia Guido has depended on St. Michael’s Hospital. According to Elia, it’s the only hospital in the city she will go to for treatment.

“When I first came to St. Michael’s in 1988, I remember the nuns were here, and they would provide comfort to all the patients,” says Elia. “It was so reassuring when I was sick to know they were caring for me.” But Elia was especially impressed by her cardiologist, Dr. Luigi Casella, who offered to conduct her appointments in Italian, Elia’s native language.

“He was such a kind and compassionate man,” says Elia. “When he told me I would need heart surgery to replace one of my valves, he took the time to sit down with me and explain that the biological valve he would use would likely need to be replaced in 10–12 years. He was such a gentleman and I appreciated his candor and friendliness,” says Elia. “And sure enough, 12 years later I was back in St. Michael’s to have the valve replaced, just like Dr. Casella said.”

One day in 2000, Elia noticed a faint whistling coming from her chest whenever she breathed. When her daughter Tonina arrived home, she suggested a quick trip to a nearby hospital to make sure everything was alright with Elia’s heart.

Within an hour of arriving at the hospital, Elia learned that her heart valve would need to be replaced and that she would need to be admitted for surgery.

“Immediately, my Mum panicked at this point,” says Tonina. “She didn’t want any other doctor or any hospital other than St. Michael’s treating her.”

“I wanted to go back to St. Michael’s where I know the doctors and they know me,” says Elia. “I wanted to go back to my hospital.”

St. Michael's is the best hospital in Canada and I’ll never go anywhere else — Elia Guido

Dr. Casella asked the hospital to transport Elia to St. Michael’s, where her surgery would be performed by cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. David Latter. Dr. Latter sat down with Elia and explained that over time, Elia’s heart valve had worn down and would need to be replaced with a titanium valve that would last throughout her lifetime. In 2000, Elia’s heart valve was successfully replaced by Dr. Latter.

Several years later, when Dr. Casella retired, he made sure to call Elia to let her know that she would be transferred to another cardiologist at St. Michael’s, Dr. Howard Leong-Poi. But before that “He gave me three different phone numbers – one for his home, cell phone and cottage – and told me to call him anytime I had a question or concern,” says Elia. “He was so compassionate and committed to ensuring that I received the best possible care and I deeply appreciated that.”

Earlier this year, Elia had a high temperature and collapsed several times at home. Terrified, Tonina called 911 for help. When the ambulance arrived, Elia was rushed to another hospital.

“A doctor told me I had internal bleeding, and that I was a very sick woman,” says Elia, who was desperate to be treated at St. Michael’s. “They told me I would need a blood transfusion and I insisted on being taken care of at St. Michael’s.”

The next day Elia was seen in St. Michael’s Emergency Department and was immediately taken into a spacious, private room where nurses did bloodwork, connected her IV and started the transfusion.

“The difference in patient care was unbelievable,” says Tonina, Elia’s daughter. “Every 15-20 minutes, if it wasn’t a nurse coming in to monitor my mother or check her levels, it was someone else who was there to let us know what was happening, and that we were a priority.” What also touched the family was that Dr. Leong-Poi made a point to come visit Elia every single night after his shift to see how she was doing. Even though she wasn’t under his specific care, he still made a point to see how she was doing. Seeing a familiar face made her feel more at ease and kept reassuring her she was under the best possible care.

“St. Michael’s has been so good to my mother,” says Tonina. “And it’s not just the doctors, it’s the entire team. Whenever there’s a transition between shifts the process is open and thorough – they’re so careful to involve the patient in their care plan,” says Tonina. “And that’s so important because the patient wants and should know what’s happening.”

Tonina and Elia say they will be forever grateful to St. Michael’s and the wonderful staff who work there. They have both generously included St. Michael’s in their wills.

“St. Michael’s is the best hospital in Canada and I’ll never go anywhere else,” says Elia. “Whatever takes me in the end, I’ll be treated here until then.”

To learn more about how you can leave a gift in your will, please contact Cynthia Collantes, Director, Gift Planning at St. Michael’s Foundation at 416.864.5879 or CollantesC@smh.ca.