Leaving a Legacy

“My parents, Cecylia and Joseph, were born in Poland,” says Helena Wojs, “and were taken by the Nazis from their homeland during the Second World War to labor camps in Germany. As young people, their lives were hard but they both survived. They met after the war and were sponsored by two families to come to Canada, to Toronto, in 1948 to start a new life. After they died, I felt that I needed to leave some kind of a legacy, not just for myself, but especially in honour of both my parents, knowing that if I do, it will help the Hospital.”

Helena was born prematurely at seven months at St. Michael’s Hospital and had to go into the incubator for her first month of life. Cecylia had to pump the milk at home and Joseph delivered the milk diligently to the hospital every day. This was the beginning of a strong attachment to St. Michael’s and Helena says that her family loved the Hospital because of the service and kindness that they received always.

In the 1970s, Cecylia had to have an emergency operation. Her oncologist and surgeon, Dr. John A. MacDonald, always showed a personal interest in her. Helena says, “When your future is uncertain, it’s so comforting to have your physician see you as more than just a patient. This meant so much to my mother, she felt it was so important to return to his office to thank him personally for everything he had done and presented him with a wooden carving of a sunflower from Poland which he hung on his office wall.” Later, at his funeral, Dr. MacDonald’s wife thanked Cecylia for coming to see him after her treatment and said that it meant so much to him when she came back to thank him and bring him that gift.

After Helena’s mother passed away in 1995, she became Joseph’s primary caregiver for the next 19 years. “We were very familiar not only with St. Mike’s emergency room, but also with the cardiology and urology departments. It may sound a little strange, but St. Mike’s became a second home for us. We always knew we were in good hands every time we entered their doors.”

When you spend so much time in a hospital, Helena says, you begin to notice the large number of people coming in to wait for their own treatment or assistance. She was always amazed at how kind and caring all of the nurses and doctors were, trying patiently to handle huge volumes of patients constantly coming in through their doors.

I want to give back to St. Michael’s as a “Thank You” for the care they provided for my parents over the years and for truly saving their lives. I also want to honor my parents’ memory, not only for their love and guidance, but to have this gift provide other families with the care they need to live long and healthy lives together. — Helena Wojs

In every interaction Helena and her family had with St. Michael’s staff, they found kindness, patience and the willingness to explain the care and procedures, so they knew what to expect. “When you’re worried about a prognosis or treatment, it’s extremely comforting to have this kind of consideration by medical staff.”

After being a dedicated care-giver for so many years especially for her father, Helena now has more time for herself to travel more, and do the things she could not do when taking care of her parents. She works at Element Fleet Management, who is a major supporter of St. Michael’s. She says she feels proud when she sees her company’s name associated with the hospital.

Because of the years of impeccable care the hospital provided to Joseph and Cecylia, Helena felt it was extremely important to include St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation in her estate plans: “I want to give back to St. Michael’s as a “Thank You” for the care they provided for my parents over the years and for truly saving their lives. I also want to honor my parents’ memory, not only for their love and guidance, but to have this gift provide other families with the care they need to live long and healthy lives together.”

Helena believes that it is very important to support St. Michael’s . She says “I want to let everyone know how important it is to help the hospital expand its research and teaching and to continue advancing into the future. We all have time for other things in our life but it is also important to remember a Hospital who helps ill patients and so wonderful to hear the success stories.”