Lori’s Room

Tragic events often seem to creep to out of nowhere and strike those who appear least vulnerable. That happened to a young woman named Lori whose tranquil life was cut short by a virulent form of cancer. She passed away 6 years ago at age 35 leaving her parents with a profound sense of loss but a desire to give something back to the hospital and staff where she received exceptional care and where she in turn inspired those caregivers with her spirit and vitality in spite of the grim outlook she faced and ultimately succumbed to.

Her needs in those final moments resulted in the development of the ‘Healing Environment’ concept at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto. At first, a single ‘memorial’ room was planned and created. A standard issue patient room in the Oncology Unit was refurbished and refurnished with features such as a patient controllable electronic bed, more pleasing pastel painted walls and floral fabrics. Colourful artwork, softer lighting, and a recliner lounge chair to accommodate overnight visitors upgraded the room resulting in a more serene environment that helps soften the sickness, the raw emotions, the long hours for not only patients but also staff, friends and family.

Lori’s parents set out to complete one room. But their efforts and Lori’s story, and to no small measure, the objectives of these Healing Environments touched others. And with this grew the momentum until today, not 6 years later, over 25 rooms – the entire unit, have been remade along these design standards. Each patient passing through these rooms and those family and friends becomes a supporter, and many contribute to further improvements that help hospital staff deliver their services better and more effectively at no cost to the taxpayer.

After the rooms, the concept was then taken to convert an underused space on the floor and make it into a Quiet Room, a place to reflect, regain control, consult, console and, also to grieve. The Lori’s Room fund created this for the benefit of all those who pass that way in that hospital floor.

Now the funds are earmarked for what will be the new Lorna-Lynn Martin Chemotherapy Clinic. In this modern space, designers will address patient comfort and physical accessibility, creating tranquil, spacious patient areas, and an overall healing environment overlooking Lake Ontario, a view Lori cherished and still, in spirit, presides over.

The Lori’s Room fund has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the health-care system. But more than that, it has now affected thousands of lives, patients, family and staff. It is a model of community involvement and of the dedication of the volunteer network.

On May 11th, volunteers, sponsors and hospital staff will participate in the 3rd Annual Lori’s Room Walkathon along, Toronto’s lakeshore. Last years walk brought in over $38,000, every cent of which goes into patient care. What more can one ask but to extend the invitation to other health-care professionals to join in on this celebration of life and of giving.

For those who wish to obtain more details on the fund or explore the impact this movement has had on the health care system, contact the authors.

Walkathon Event DetailsRegistration begins at 8:30 a.m. at Humber Bay Park (East) in Toronto’s west end.

Entry fee is $10 or $25 in pledges.

The walk begins at 10 a.m. and follows the waterfront trail east to St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

To participate in the walkathon and obtain pledge forms, please call 416-255-7414 or email the authors at geotec@plus-ultra.com