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Patient Story – Mike Veenema

Patient Story – Mike Veenema


Photo: The Little Moments – Photography by Jessica Casey

Finding Confidence in the Unfamiliar

When health concerns brought Mike Veenema to CKHA’s Emergency Department (ED), his worries about visiting an unfamiliar healthcare facility quickly disappeared. Mike, a resident of Chatham, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in 2001, a type of cancer that develops in the bone. He underwent surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto where the affected bone was replaced with a stainless steel prosthetic. The internal prosthesis allowed him to keep his own leg for the duration of twelve years after his diagnosis.

Unfortunately in 2009 Mike’s steel prosthesis broke due to strenuous activity. After two revision surgeries, he acquired an infection in his right leg where the prosthesis was located. Mike dealt with the infection for a few years and as it progressively worsened, he was prompted to visit CKHA’s ED in April 2014. Despite the confidence Mike felt in his wife, Ashley, a Registered Practical Nurse at CKHA, he still had apprehensions about receiving treatment at a facility that had no prior knowledge of his extensive health history. “I thought, ‘Oh you know because I’m in Chatham, they don’t know anything about my situation. Are they going to know how to handle this?’” said Mike. His opinion changed almost immediately as he entered the ED. “When I got to the ED they realized the severity of my case and dealt with it accordingly. I had a very short wait time.”

Quick and accurate treatment was provided by the staff in regards to Mike’s situation. “They treated me and got me on antibiotics right away. And when I talked to my doctor in Toronto, they confirmed it was the right thing to do and that was exactly what they would have done,” Mike explained.

The communication between CKHA staff and Mike’s Oncologist in Toronto was prompt. “This was a Friday night at 8 o’clock and they called Mount Sinai and talked to my doctor’s resident, the Orthopedic Oncologist on call and told them the situation,” Mike said.

Mike received follow-up treatment through CKHA’s Fast Track stream in the ED for non-urgent needs, where he was given antibiotics and received wound care until arrangements could be made to receive his daily dose at the Community Care Access Centre. “I just really felt like they went above and beyond to work with me, and not put me in as an inpatient and make me stay in the hospital any longer than I needed to,” added Mike.

In May 2014, Mike made the difficult decision to undergo surgery again at Mount Sinai Hospital, where his leg was amputated above the knee. Later in the year he became a lucky recipient of the Genium X3 prosthesis, made by Ottobock and designed by the U.S. military. As one of the most technologically advanced prosthetic legs, it has been life changing, giving him his mobility and active lifestyle back.

Mike’s wife Ashley noted that the support of her co-workers, managers and union (CLAC) at CKHA was overwhelming, as they pooled together resources to help alleviate the couple’s struggles during Mike’s surgery in Toronto. “We were certainly overwhelmed by generosity and are truly grateful for all the caring people. It really speaks volumes of how CKHA is like family and everyone looks out for one another when times are trying,” added Ashley.

Reflecting on his experience at CKHA, Mike concluded, “You know, my confidence in coming to the ED here or for anything else… to send somebody… I have a lot of confidence in the staff at CKHA.”

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