Horizon Star - April 2019

Young volunteer brings comfort and companionship to patients at Horizon’s Miramichi Regional Hospital

A revolutionary change in diabetes care for Horizon patients

Dr. John Dornan, an endocrinologist and Horizon’s Regional Chief of Staff, is always looking for ways to reduce complications for his diabetes patients. Recently, while working with Type 1 diabetic patient Alicia Hunt, he recognized the potential a new type of insulin pump technology could have on her life. The pump, which Dr. Dornan calls an “artificial pancreas,” would mimic functions of healthy pancreas. After four weeks of use, the pump has exceeded Alicia’s expectations. “My husband says he hasn’t seen me this well in ages,” she said. “I’m happier and just doing better all around.” The MiniMed 670G Insulin Pump System was developed by Medtronic and approved by Health Canada in fall 2018. It is the first insulin pump to support closed-loop functionality for basal insulin. Alicia met with Dr. Dornan and Marilyn Heighton, a registered nurse who is also a certified diabetes educator, at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital in late January of this year, where they helped her begin using her

The Medtronic MiniMed 670G Insulin Pump System is referred to by Dr. John Dornan as an “artificial pancreas” because it mimics functions of healthy pancreas.

Robert Loggie has wisdom and maturity that belie his 22 years, perhaps from knowing that for as long as he could remember he wanted to help people in his community.

And for the past decade, he has.

“I have been volunteering with various organizations since I was 12 years old and it has always been something I’ve been passionate about,” said Robert, a volunteer with Horizon’s Miramichi Regional Hospital (MRH). Robert has known his calling for most of his life: he wants to practice medicine. Volunteering would not only help him get into medical school but also help him learn important skills. His most important reason for volunteering, however, is because he is able “to make a small but significant impact in patients’ lives,” he said. Every Monday and Tuesday evening the enthusiastic Mount Allison grad spends a couple of hours, sometimes more, hoping to do just that. Whether it’s bringing a snack or socializing and playing cards with patients, some of whom are in palliative care, Robert is empathetic and fully present with the patient, something he believes means so much to them. “Some patients just need someone to talk to and someone to listen to them,” he said. “I think everyone needs someone to talk to and it’s not always possible for the nurses or other staff to spend a lot of time with an individual patient.” “Sometimes the patient’s family and friends aren’t physically able to stay with them 24/7, and sadly, some patients don’t have anyone to visit them. This is where volunteers can help.” Robert recounts a friendship that developed between him and an elderly patient who had been hospitalized at MRH for several months. One of the patient’s daughters expressed to him how much of an impact he had made to her mother’s life. This comes as no surprise to Lori Sabo, Volunteer Coordinator at MRH. “He really got to know the patient and her interests,” she said. “When he discovered she loved gardening, he would come in early, thumbing through magazines to find one on gardening for her.” “It really made me happy to know I’d made such an impact on a patient’s life,” said Robert.

new technology – one of the first patients in Atlantic Canada to do so. “We dreamed the artificial pancreas would be here in our lifetime and now it’s here,” said Dr. Dornan. “It’s one of the revolutionary changes in diabetes care in my career. It will be one of the biggest things I see.”

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Horizon patient Alicia Hunt wears her newMedtronic MiniMed 670G Insulin Pump System.

This was an emotional day filled with happy tears for Alicia and her health care team; this small device was going to make big changes in her life. “I know in my heart of hearts this pump is going to give me a longer life expectantly and a fuller life,” said Alicia. The new insulin pump technology gives insulin automatically and safely. Now, a patient’s blood sugars will not drop too low while they sleep or rise dangerously high during the day. “With significantly better blood sugar control than I’ve had in decades, I wake up feeling well and full of energy,” she said. “The other day I spend 90 per cent of my day in target range. That alone was a huge accomplishment!” She’s happy to have more control over her diabetes, allowing her to do more of the things she loves, like be a mom and dance with her three-year old daughter. “We are planning camping trips with our daughter for the summer and I can’t wait,” she said. “I’ll take every moment this pump has given to me.” Alicia has already experienced the benefits.

Robert Loggie, 22, volunteers at Horizon’s Miramichi Regional Hospital, and hopes to make a “small but significant impact in patients’ lives.”

“He’s just fantastic,” said Lori. “He’s just a very thoughtful person. (Recently) some colleagues were commenting about how mature Robert is. He seems so comfortable with himself, self- assured and focused.” Those are required qualities to work with all patients, especially those in Palliative Care. “Many of these people are within their last days and maybe even hours of life,” Robert said. “If I can provide them with some support and company during their remainder of time here on earth, that can have a positive impact.” The breadth and depth of the experience Robert has acquired in this role over the past couple of years lines up well with his future goals. “I want to go to medical school and to get in, it is very important to demonstrate one’s involvement in the community. It also helps demonstrate to medical schools that you have an idea about what you’re getting yourself into and that you are committed to medicine,” he said. Lori and the staff and patients who interact with Robert are preparing themselves for the

day when Robert inevitably announces he will be leaving for medical school. “We would certainly wish him the best,” said Lori. “But we hope he sets up his practice in Miramichi and stays here.” These are big “ifs,” but it seems to be a possible path for Robert’s career aspirations, much of it stemming from his passion to help others through volunteering. No matter your ambitions, Robert believes volunteering is something everyone should consider. “Volunteering can help people learn important skills and gain beneficial experiences, no matter their goals in life,” he said. “For me, volunteering with Horizon has increased my self-esteem and my happiness and has enhanced my communication skills and my leadership skills. Not only is it very rewarding, it’s just a kind thing for someone to do.” If you would like to experience the rewards of volunteering with Horizon, get in touch with Horizon’s Volunteer Resources Department at your local hospital or volunteer.resources@horizonnb.ca.

Dr. John Dornan, endocrinologist and Horizon’s Regional Chief of Staff, and Marilyn Heighton, a registered nurse who is also a certified diabetes educator, were both overjoyed to see their patient, Alicia Hunt, receive a new pump system.

Lori says that staff are noticing as well.

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