Volunteer Don Ross and his wife Allison Elliot-Ross of Haliburton stand on the shore of Grass Lake with the painting Fall Magic by artist Dean Bradshaw. /DARREN LUM Staff

HHHSF built on volunteers like Don Ross

By Darren Lum

Published Oct. 11 2016

Four years ago lying on his back in Sunnybrook Hospital Don Ross thought he was going to die from a gallstone lodged in his pancreatic duct.

He spent close to 10 months (291 days) lost 83 pounds and suffered complete muscle atrophy.

In front of a packed room at the Haliburton hospital during the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation annual general meeting the volunteer and longtime cottager said he owes his life to the health-care system and the commitment of volunteers who are the backbone of the foundation’s success.

“I’m living proof of the good work hospitals do and I want to thank you guys board members for all the good work you do and work to support the foundation here. It’s all part of a total effort in every hospital” he said.

Although he credits Sunnybrook for saving his life and Providence Healthcare for giving him back his life he credits his wife Allison Elliot-Ross for emotional support.

“If I didn’t have my life partner Allison beside me visiting me every one of those 291 days I wouldn’t be here today” he said.

During his time in hospital his wife saved every one of his Haliburton Echo newspapers so when he was able he could catch up on what he missed.

“I bleed Haliburton green” he said.

In the 1950s he visited the area as a child with his parents staying at Birchpoint Lodge.
He visits as much as possible in the cottage his parents built located across Grass Lake directly opposite of the Haliburton hospital on Peninsula Road.

“As far as Haliburton is concerned I’m all in and have been for over half a century” he said. “My kids grew up here in the summer and now my grandchildren have grown to love it … I start to get asked how many sleeps before we go to the cottage? And that’s pretty nice” he said.

At the end of his long hospital stay he knew he needed to give back to the health care community.
He volunteers for Sunnybrook as a patient-partner working on a culture change called “person-centred care” to perceive a patient as a person and at Providence he is on the patient and family advisory council and serves on the steering committee to develop the centre’s first community engagement plan.

For Haliburton where his heart is he came up with the sealed bid art auction initiative for the HHHSF which has raised close to $20000 since it started four years ago.

The sealed bid art auction has artwork on showcase throughout supporting retailers in Minden and Haliburton where people can place bids. The pieces change every two weeks. This year’s recipient of the fundraising effort is being put towards bone densitometry equipment. Ross who owned an art gallery in Toronto does all the work from choosing and picking up art setting it up at local participating locations and then taking it to successful bidders.

He said this effort is a great example of what one person can do.

“It goes to show what one person can do if they’re motivated and committed” he said.

Ross feels great satisfaction in his work and is driven by this fulfillment.

Recently hired HHHS president and CEO Carolyn Plummer thanked everyone for their efforts.

“I thought I would take this opportunity to thank the foundation all of you as board members to thank all of the volunteers at the HHHS Foundation and to especially thank Dale and Carol for all the work they do and you all do to raise the necessary funds for us to buy the absolutely critical equipment to make improvements to our facilities and to be able to help us grow and evolve and to move forward as a health care centre in Haliburton County” she said.

She acknowledged the year of change at the foundation.

“We’ve had a lot of change of leadership but are continuing to grow and continuing to stabilize things which is amazing” she said.

Among the highlights for the foundation includes echocardiogram machine which is being used now the isolation rooms and the butterfly memorial garden at Haliburton hospital which had its official opening recently the continuation of fundraising efforts for palliative care and being designated as a pilot site for rural health hub.

“Thank you all very much” she said.