Patient Stories

Bluewater Health Foundation
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89 Norman Street
Sarnia, Ontario N7T 6S3
T: 519-464-4408 F 519-346-4705
E: [email protected]

A Love Story

Theirs is a touching love story of two people who became deeply committed to one another long before they said ‘I do’. 

Dave Aitken met Colette Richardson through friends at a local event in the summer of 2011. Dave remembers the chance meeting as the start of a beautiful friendship.
“We started up a conversation and I don’t think we stopped talking the entire night. Everything took off from there and we have been together every day since.”
As their relationship grew and their love deepened, Dave and Colette knew in their hearts the next chapter of their life would include marriage. They shared a vision for their special day and began to plan it even before Dave had officially proposed, secretly setting a date of September 13, 2013.
Then suddenly their focus was forced to shift. A life so full and rich with promise was now disrupted by illness. Colette, who had previously been diagnosed with cancer, learned that it had aggressively returned. Surgery and extensive chemotherapy treatments would delay their wedding plans through the remainder of 2013 and most of 2014.
Yet even though a heartbreaking end to their fairytale was a possibility, Dave and Colette chose to seize each day and own their moments. With their love undiminished, in September of 2014 Dave and Colette escaped to one of their favourite places in Jordan, Ontario. He privately and romantically proposed before dinner – a treasured moment between two soul mates.
“It felt like the right moment, there in our own little special place,” he recalls. “For the first time since I met her, she was speechless.”
Yet Colette’s illness progressed and three months later, she became a patient in Palliative Care at Bluewater Health in Sarnia. It was while she was in hospital, that Dave and Colette successfully willed themselves to live in the moment again.
With the support of Bluewater Health’s Chaplain, Rev Merv Wilson, and close family and friends, they arranged to be married at home in a small, intimate ceremony. Elaborate wedding plans of old gave way to small thoughtful details that stayed true to their wishes, and the simplicity of the event was more meaningful than they ever believed possible.
“My memories of that day include relaxing in basement and sharing time with those close to us before slowly getting ready for the ceremony – a far cry from the traditional running around and typical wedding day stress. We sat, facing each other, held hands and exchanged vows. It was exactly what we wanted and needed,” said Dave.
The story of Dave and Colette’s love touched many hearts that day. While they were away from the hospital for their ceremony, the staff in Palliative Care, Environmental Services and Maintenance, along with unit helpers from Continuing Care, took great care to specially prepare Colette’s patient room for her return. They thoughtfully adorned her bed with rose petals, turned on music and creatively arranged towels like swans – reminiscent of a honeymoon suite at a grand hotel.
When Dave and Colette came back to the hospital that evening, they were overwhelmed by the kindness shown to them by staff – people who had been touched by an inspiring love story and wanted to give back in some small way to the young couple.
“It blew us away,” said Dave. “It was extra special how the staff went above and beyond. You could have spent a huge amount of money on a wedding day, but you’d never have a memory like this.”
Reflecting on their journey together, Dave speaks about a legacy both he and Colette believe is worth leaving…“a life of living in the moment, of cherishing those closest to us, not just sometimes but all the time, in sickness and in health.”
Bluewater Health and Bluewater Health Foundation are privileged to share this story with permission from Dave and Colette Aitken. On behalf of the staff, physicians and volunteers, our sincere sympathies go to the Aitken family on the passing of Colette, at the age of 34.

Life-changing text message strengthens friendship

After suffering flu-like symptoms in September 2012, Joanna Hayter went to the Emergency Department at Bluewater Health in Sarnia, where blood work showed her kidneys were failing. Joanna began dialysis treatments three times per week – initially in London, but then at the Sarnia hospital. “The staff and volunteers in the Dialysis unit here were so good to me,” says Joanna. “It’s a great bunch of people and you see them so much, they become almost like family.”
Then, in July 2013 her softball teammate Joanne Rivard sent her a text. “She said she wanted to give me a kidney,” says Joanna. “Kidney disease runs in my family and I had seen several close family members go through dialysis and undergo transplants. But it never crossed my mind that someone would donate a kidney to me.”
Once the decision was made, the process went quickly. “The conditions to donate a kidney are pretty simple: the donor must be a blood type match, and can’t be pregnant,” says Joanne. “I underwent some tests to make sure I didn’t have any underlying conditions, and then we began 100 days of prep for our November 6 surgery: a lot of blood and urine samples, and for two weeks, they mixed our blood to check for reactions.”
Joanna recovered quickly, when Joanne’s kidney starting to function within minutes of transplantation. She spent 12 days in hospital, and by January her life was essentially back to normal, other than participating in a study monitoring the effects of dialysis. “My uncle pointed out to me that those of us with kidney disease are lucky to have dialysis to keep us going while we wait for a transplant,” she explains. “I didn’t feel the side-effects of dialysis as much as others do, but it can be hard on the heart.” Tests for the study include an MRI and blood work at specific milestones for a year.
Joanne’s remaining kidney also did its job well, and after an initial three or four days of surgical pain, her only effect was fatigue for another four or five weeks. “I would do it again if I could,” she says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better support system, and I learned so much.”
“We went through the process together, which isn’t common when the donor isn’t family,” adds Joanna. “We’ve known each other for 10 years, but this definitely brought us closer.” But the bond between Joanna and Joanne goes deeper than the kidney. In addition to their love of baseball, they share a birthday, the same middle name, and their surgery occurred on the date Joanna was supposed to be born.
March is Kidney Health Month, and April is Month. For more information on organ and tissue donation, please go to www.

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