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Margaret Underhill

June 16, 2023

With Gratitude to SCHC

Margaret Underhill

Vaccine Clinics for COVID-19 and Flu still take place throughout Scarborough. During the Pandemic, Scarborough was an identified region that reported high vulnerabilities to COVID-19. On the surface, these clinics display the service of administering vaccine doses and healthcare information to residents. These outreach events and clinics are bridges to the quiet and simple ways that people find community through a shared humanity rooted in care. Our awareness of the spaces we hold and the people we encounter is the window to the stories and lessons of our community.

During a recent TPH Vaccine Clinic – Edrie (Scarborough Resident) received her vaccine dose and shared a story of her mother’s care with one of SCHC’s Nurses at an info booth alongside the TPH Clinic. Edrie recognized the SCHC’s logo present at the Vaccine Clinic. The purple, yellow, and blue colours mirrored the many colorful memories that Edrie has of the support given to her elderly Mother named, Margaret, by various SCHC health professionals. She feels if she had not gotten her mother connected with SCHC, she would have just “withered away.” For this, Edrie is very grateful to SCHC.

Edrie and Margaret’s story is rooted in the values of helping one another, being kind and truly being there for each other. The compassionate act of listening and being heard.

Margaret was a patient of Scarborough Health Network where she was later referred to a Nurse Practioner for palliative care. Margaret was also going back and forth between Home and Community Care Support Services and the Doctor of her Retirement home. After 2 months, Margaret (and Edrie) became a part of the SCHC community and circle of care.

Before coming to SCHC, Edrie witnessed the changes and decline in her mother’s health. Margaret was not eating, which resulted in significant weight loss. The changes in her physicality mirrored changes in her mental health, the onset of depression, and the worsening of her dementia. Margaret would mention that “people were yelling at her.” The realities of Margaret’s declining condition and final stages of life signaled the need for Palliative care. Edrie is an only child and, at the time, was single, which meant a limited support system for them both. It was common for Edrie to be unable to take her mother to the hospital when needed. The situation was also a source of financial stress for Edrie, who was hiring health professionals/staff on her own.

Margaret and Edrie were fully connected to SCHC after a referral from a Doctor at Centenary Hospital. A geriatric psychiatrist was linked up to Margaret following consultations with SCHC. Edrie has many wonderful memories of SCHC, and their ethic of care can be summarized in 2 simple questions – “What do you need?” and “How can we help?”. In Edrie’s words “SCHC took away the stress and got things done!” A humbling and welcoming experience for Edrie as validation and a circle of care was given to Margaret. The help given allowed for a sense of relief. SCHC professionals also came to Margaret’s retirement home for assessments.

A memory that stands out for Edrie was when an SCHC hospice navigator came and spoke to the staff at Margaret’s retirement room. A DNR was signed, and providence was contacted. While Margaret was in her last few weeks of life, she was taken care of and received the extra care she needed.

Margaret passed away at the age of 94. Edrie reflected on her mother’s character and when asked what was a significant achievement during her time with SCHC – Edrie proudly stated Margaret’s graciousness and resiliency. She was always pleasant and sweet with health care professionals and staff. Margaret lived and led by example to honor various life lessons on being aware, resilient, and kind to others. A foundational value of hers was to love your family and love them every day. Margaret enjoyed all people and would often reach out and care for others before caring for herself.

Edrie’s experiences and memories of SCHC’s circle of care shifted her perspective of health care professionals. A sense of relief allowed Margaret and Edrie a feeling of validation – they were truly heard and listened to. Initially, Edrie/Margaret was not aware of SCHC’s programs. She feels many community members may be in the same boat of not knowing about SCHC services and networks. Edrie would happily refer other community members to the care that SCHC offers. SCHC checked in with Edrie following her mother’s passing with information on bereavement services.

We honour and pay tribute to Margaret and are grateful to Edrie for sharing her story during the recent vaccine clinic. Navigating health challenges can be isolating and stressful. From Margaret’s story, we humble ourselves to remember the value in listening with an open heart and mind. This has a simple yet profound impact on clients, family members, and the community. Listening and truly hearing someone gives them back their dignity and allows them and all of us to feel less alone.

Written by Alan Faigal, Community Engagement Coordinator & Abira Vaithilingam, Marketing and Fund Development Coordinator