Kelly Bald returned to the warm embrace of home and mother Diane in Penetanguishene in 2001. With her was daughter Gabrielle, then age two, who was afflicted with a serious heart condition that required a transplant.
The ensuing years were fraught with family angst as Gabrielle endured a variety of treatments. Those anguished times were eased somewhat by, as Diane and Kelly recall, the vibrancy that Gabrielle brought to their days, and by the comforting care they received at Georgian Bay General Hospital.
GBGH, they recall, provided a dual benefit: Its close proximity meant that many medical issues that arose could be addressed quickly — “if we had to go back and forth to Sick Kids, the costs would have been tremendous,” Kelly says — but, of greater importance, the personalized touch that comes from a facility in a smaller community — a level of intimate care that is extremely difficult to find in a super-scale facility — was invaluable.
In the ER, staff quickly became familiar with Gabrielle and her specific needs — since her immunity was compromised, for instance, there were occasions when she needed to be isolated from the general public on visits, to avoid health complications. “That familiarity was so re-assuring,” Diane says. “We never questioned her care.”
They have special fondness for Dr. Martin McNamara, who became a key caregiver and who, they note, also went more than the extra mile. “There were times when Dr. McNamara would come to our home because he did not want Gabrielle coming in” because of immunity issues, Kelly says.
In 2012, two weeks after her 13th birthday, Gabrielle passed away. “Although it is eight years now, it still feels like yesterday,” Diane says. “She was so vibrant, and it has left a huge hole.”
Diane and Kelly say their experience demonstrates the importance of maintaining a facility such as GBGH in the local community — for everyone in it. “We are just so thankful we have a hospital here,” Diane says.