Gary’s life has come full-circle and through a gift in his will to the hospital he aims to help make other people’s lives better.
I grew up in East Toronto which was a wonderful place to grow up. I was born here – at the local hospital - and spent the early years of my life living with my grandparents, parents and brother in our family home on Luttrell Avenue near Victoria Park on the Danforth.
I was into sports which landed me in the emergency with bumps and sprains every now and then. It’s impossible for me to think of my upbringing without thinking of Michael Garron Hospital. It’s always been a part of the fabric of my life.
Outstanding compassion and care on the front lines
After graduating high school, I applied to the police service on a whim but it turned out to be an ideal fit for me. Aside from the discipline and the camaraderie which I loved, I realized that I mostly just enjoyed helping people.
As a police officer, I saw first-hand how important the hospital was to my community. After all, police and hospitals are closely tied together in a crisis and I got to know the emergency staff pretty well.
“As a police officer, I went to the hospital with a lot of overdoses, with car crash victims, or with people we’d arrested who needed medical care. The police and the local hospital, as you come to learn pretty quickly, are a pretty closely-connected group providing emergency services. Whether it’s paramedics, firefighters, police officers, nurses or doctors—we’re there.”
At Michael Garron Hospital, their work amazed me. No matter the trauma or chaos, the teams created a safe space for everyone. They provided compassionate care to every person who came through the doors.
A hospital to turn to during my own health emergency
My relationship with my community hospital changed significantly when I was about to turn 50 and I had to rely on them like never before. It was right before Thanksgiving and I had found a lump in my neck. I didn’t know what it was and I’d never been sick…I’d never even had an operation!
I went to see my family doctor who immediately told me to go to the hospital. The Stavro Emergency Department doctor saw me, and then called a specialist in. ENT specialist, Dr. El Masri, admitted me and ran some further tests.
It turns out it was squamous cell carcinoma in my neck. I asked about the prognosis and was told that 50 per cent of patients with this diagnosis die within 2 to 3 years. Dr. El Masri created my treatment plan, and he recommended a neck dissection in addition to radiation. Because if the cancer were to come back it would be fatal for sure. When I needed surgery to remove this cancerous lump, I can’t tell you how grateful I was to receive the same outstanding care that I’d witnessed over the years while on duty.
There are some things in life that you take for granted and you never think you’ll need them until you do. Wouldn’t you agree?
Continuing to serve the community with a gift in my will
My doctor asked if I’d be interested in joining the hospital foundation’s board. I jumped at the chance to give back to the place that meant so much to me and my community. Serving as a volunteer with the foundation was the first time I learned just how important it was to leave a gift in my will.
Perhaps you’re like me. I’d always assumed that only the wealthy made charitable gifts in their will. But I discovered I can provide for my kids and still leave a gift as my way of saying thank you to the place that has meant so much to me all my life.
“They say that music is part of the soundtrack of your life. But the hospital? It’s part of the soundtrack of my life—it’s not a small part either, it’s a big part. The more I learnt about giving something in your will, the more I thought I should give something back. My kids would be good. I’m not rich, I’m not poor, but I can certainly afford to leave something to the hospital as a personal thank you.”
Knowing that I’ve included Michael Garron Hospital in my will feels like everything has come full-circle. Even after I’m gone, I’ll be helping people in my community. And that’s the job I originally set out to do.