Alumni Funded Projects

As former patients of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, we know how difficult the recovery process can be. That’s why we’re so dedicated to making current patients comfortable as they get better. Over the years we have funded hundreds of projects to enhance the patient experience at the Heart Institute, including the purchase of new beds, medical equipment, and creating nursing education funds.

In total, since 1999 we have donated more than $5,000,000 towards making the patient experience at the UOHI as positive as possible.

Find out more about some of the unique projects that we’ve funded by clicking on the project title for a description or click here to make a contribution and help us with funding upcoming projects.

Cooling Blankets
The healing power of a good blanket

One of the projects that we’re most proud of is the funding and implementation of the “Cool It Program”, a program first used at the Minneapolis Heart Institute. This program uses Cooling Blankets to slow down people’s metabolism and protect their brain from any damage caused by restricted blood flow. This procedure is also referred to as “Therapeutic Hypothermia”.

While this life-saving technology is not yet covered by OHIP, we’re proud to be able to help fund Cooling Blankets and make a difference in the lives of people who rely on the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Cough Pillows
Taking the pain out of a cough

One of the more unique funding requests received by the Patient Alumni is for something referred to as a cough pillow. These pillows are custom made, and are about a third the size of a regular standard pillow.

When someone needs open-heart surgery, the sternum is cut open to allow access to the heart. Once the sternum is closed using either a form of staples or special glue, the patient can experience bouts of pain during the healing process. Imagine having to cough or sneeze, and being terrified of the pain it brings during the first few weeks after surgery. A patient recovering from open-heart surgery can hold one of these cough pillows snug against the chest, thus minimizing the stress on the rib cage when coughing.

The nursing staff has heard many glowing testimonials about these small but mighty items. One patient was heard saying, “Don’t stand between me and my cough pillow!” Another patient said, “I am not leaving the hospital unless I can take my cough pillow with me”. And indeed, they do get to take the pillows home with them. Funding is available to provide a cough pillow to every patient who needs one to relieve pain.

Water Bottles
Necessary and environmentally friendly

As part of their treatment, patients are told they must drink a lot of water in order to flush the dye from their kidneys that was given for their angiogram. To help reduce hospital waste, every patient in the day unit is given a water bottle by the volunteer or RN. In addition to being environmentally friendly, these water bottles allow nurses to clearly measure the amount of fluid needed. They also reduce spillage, are an easy way to access fluids and can be taken home by patients after they’ve recovered.

On any given day there were 47 plastic cups on bedside tables. Since the water bottles were provided, there has been a dramatic decrease in the use of plastic cups.

Tilt Wheelchairs
More support for those who need it

A Tilt Wheelchair can tilt back while maintaining a 90-degree angle between the backrest and seat frame. This allows an appropriate physical position for those at risk of cardiorespiratory complications, digestive complications or postural hypotension.

For more information

Surgical Support Bras
Support when you need it most!

Surgical support bras were introduced to promote patient comfort and decrease the incidence of sternal wound infection. Many of the women who had surgery, particularly if they had large breasts, reported significant pain after surgery. Also, where the left internal mammary artery was used in bypass surgery also contributed to the pain. For some women, incisions came apart after the surface stitches dissolved.

As the use of these bras evolved, the women were measured for the bras pre-operatively and the bras were attached to their charts and applied before the women left the operating room, depending on individual circumstances. If they arrived in the intensive care units without the bras, these were applied as soon as the patient was settled.

Bras provided stability and support to the breasts, easing the pressure on the incision and providing significant pain relief.

Toiletry Bags
Much needed supplies just in time

Often, patients who arrive at the Heart Institute have not planned their visit. They are taken by surprise by a heart event and become patients through emergency efforts. When the Patient Alumni consulted with nurses on the patient room floors of the hospital to see how we could best support the patient community, one of their suggestions was a small toiletry bag for patients arriving in an unplanned way.

In December 2019, these toiletry bags became available for patients, containing a few essentials – toothpaste and a toothbrush and shampoo – to tide them over until a loved one or friend could bring the patient’s personal belongings. Feedback from patients has been very positive – they appreciate the kits and said that contents helped them feel more human after their traumatic event.

CPR Training
Skills to save a life

The goal of the Heart Institute’s CPR workshop is to help family members, friends and patients to feel more prepared and confident if something happens in the future. While these workshops don’t result in a certification (there is no test at the end), they equip participants with lifesaving skills and help to relieve stress for both patients and caregivers about future heart events.

Funding from the Patient Alumni covers half the cost of these workshops, for patients and one family member.