To mark International Women’s Day, it seems fitting to salute a woman being helped at Providence Healthcare, and shine a light on the women who do the helping. Providence was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph, so the care of women, by women, has always been top of mind here. It’s an approach that has imbued the hospital’s caring culture, our celebration of courage and our commitment to the dignity of all people.
Meet Crystal Saverimuttu, an impressive young woman with a busy life, a successful career as an internal auditor and a wedding in two months. In August 2017, Crystal was diagnosed with a quickly growing rare tumor on her brain stem, after reporting some strange visual symptoms. Learning she had a tumor was horrifying news, but Crystal had little time to worry. Surgery was set up to remove the tumor and the wedding was indefinitely postponed.
When Crystal tells her story, you get a feel for her wonderful sense of humor and positive outlook right from the start. Of her 12-hour surgery, she says: “it was the best sleep I’ve ever had!” Of the hair cut the surgeons gave her (they shaved off a portion of her beautiful long hair), she says: “They are very good surgeons, but very bad hair dressers!”
The tumor was successfully removed, but unfortunately for Crystal, she developed a blood clot, which caused a number of neurological problems, much like a stroke. She was partially paralyzed and permanently lost her hearing in one ear.
Initially treated at St. Michael’s Hospital, Crystal came to Providence for occupational therapy and rehab. Six months after her surgery and a lot of hard work, she has made dramatic progress. She has no facial paralysis now, and is regaining her strength, but still requires a cane to walk and is working on improving her ability to write. No longer an in-patient, she comes in several times a week from home to continue her therapy.
“I can’t say enough about Providence,” says Crystal. “It’s a family here. As soon as you are introduced, everybody knows you. They handle all the little things so you can concentrate on what really matters. My mind is clear here, and that feels so good. For my Mom, it has meant she hasn’t needed to worry. She knows I’m in safe hands.”
One of the most important things for Crystal is: “The nurses don’t carry baggage from one patient to another. They understand.You can be yourself. No pretending and no judgements, compared to the outside world. It’s just a very positive environment for doing the hard work you have to do.”
Staying patient and positive can be a struggle. Crystal says she is still having panic attacks, but the support of her care team, her positive outlook and her sense of humor are giving her the courage and the strength to get through. She is the kind of patient that makes us all proud.
So many of the staff and volunteers at Providence are women. Along with the men at Providence, they are loved, valued and even described as angels. But there is another group of women who deserve recognition: the members of Women in Philanthropy for Providence (WIPP).
WIPP is a group of roughly 120 women who personally donate a minimum of $1,000 a year ($500 for women under 35) to support the urgent needs of Providence. The members get together for formal WIPP events several times a year and vote annually to select their project of the year.
Since WIPP’s inception in 2009, the women have collectively granted over $625,000 to essential projects at Providence. These projects are innovative ideas which would not receive funding without WIPP’s support, but profoundly impact the experience of patients and families.
Past WIPP projects include funding an overnight suite for family members in palliative care, to keep them close to their loved ones as they go through this sensitive end-of-life experience.
Another unique project was funding the renovation of the hospital cafeteria to create the Seasons Café, making it a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing place for patients, family members, staff and volunteers to take a break or enjoy a nutritious meal.
In addition to driving positive change at Providence, WIPP has created lasting friendships and camaraderie among the women who join. WIPP is a network, a circle, a forum and an example of what can happen when a group of dynamic women work together to spark change.
For more details about WIPP, email Lisa Novic or call 416 285-3666 ext. 3836.