Together, our community cared for Brent Helwig

This past October, the nurses on 6W were surprised to receive a gift basket along with a beautifully crafted and poetic thank-you note from Brent Helwig. Brent had been a patient on the ward precisely one year before and wanted staff to realize just how much their care meant to him.

It was on October 24th (he remembers it vividly) while he was talking on the phone to his wife, who was away visiting family in the US. He felt a few twinges under his sternum and decided to lie down. Within an hour, the pain had grown unbearable, and he was writhing on the living room floor. His daughter rushed him to the GGH Emergency Department, and after an MRI, X-rays, ultrasound, and a panel of blood tests, Brent was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the organ that releases powerful digestive enzymes into the intestines. If the enzymes begin to work before the pancreas releases them, the situation may cause a severe life-threatening illness, infections, bleeding, and damage to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Brent says the pain was excruciating and relentless, and it took many days to get the medication to the right level. It was eleven days before his systems were back on an even keel, and he was ready to go home.

Brent’s wife, Jerren, is a local midwife, so he’s familiar with the healthcare system. He knew about the sacrifices that caregivers make for the benefit of others, but he was blown away by witnessing it first-hand. He says, “I really appreciated that the staff did what needed to be done— intense, hands-on work, with kindness every minute of their shifts.  They are my heroes!”  During the COVID lockdown, Brent was being treated and Jerren was not allowed to visit at the time. Brent remembers that the attending doctor came in every day at 8:00 a.m. and was so thoughtful to include Jerren by phone as he talked with Brent about his progress.

Today, Brent is careful with his diet, although it is uncertain what caused the episode. He’s busy in his new job as pastor for a local church, but not too busy to discuss his endorsement of Guelph General Hospital. “Support the Hospital?” he exclaimed. “How could you not? Every family will need these services at some time. We’re so lucky to have Guelph General Hospital and its wonderful staff, here, in our community.”