Saskatchewan families have been waiting years for this province to have a children’s hospital of its own.
And while there are a couple of more weeks remaining until the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan officially opens to the public, another milestone was reached last Thursday during the grand opening celebration.
It was a day to remember for many, particularly for the Sernick family of Estevan.
Payton Sernick, an 11-year-old Estevan resident who is a two-time survivor of Stage 4 acute lymphoblastic leukemia, was invited to the festivities because she was the hospital’s 2018 champion child. She was joined by her family – mother Andrea, father Cheyenne and brother Beckham.
They attended the ribbon-cutting and the speeches that were part of the event. Then they were shuttled to the TCU Place for a luncheon that had more than 525 people in attendance. Payton spoke to the crowd at the event, giving the address to the children.
Pattison, the famed Saskatchewan-born business leader and philanthropist, spoke just before Payton.
Finally, they returned to the hospital for a private tour.
In her speech, Payton drew on the hospital’s theme of hope. She said she and her brother have been waiting for the hospital to open, and then she asked the audience what they were doing on that day five years earlier.
“Well, for me, I wasn’t in … school, I was in an Estevan emergency room, and in constant pain,” said Payton. “Many of you know I spent a lot of time in hospital, but through all the pain and procedures, scans, needles, drug reactions, losing my hair and feeling like garbage for months on end, there is one word that I grabbed onto and held tight: hope.”
For all of the babies and children going through their own medical journey, this new hospital will give them hope, she said. It will also provide the best medical care and research projects, as well as the space to be with family and friends, and a home to so many people, so they can get back to the business of being a kid.
“We are forever grateful, and when we are adults, we will keep the support going to our kids, because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
Now that she has been there and she has seen the facility, Payton believes it was worth the effort to raise all of the money through the Cancer Sucks project that she and Beckham ran. It raised nearly $40,000 for the children’s hospital’s foundation, and thanks to their efforts, the Sernick Family is on the new hospital’s donor wall.
When Jesse Beyer, the MC for the luncheon, told the crowd at the luncheon that Payton was cancer-free, it was greeted with rousing applause.
Andrea said it was a busy day, but well organized, and it was heart-warming to see it all come together. And she came away raving about the hospital.
“This is a gorgeous facility,” said Sernick. “It’s really quite outstanding. They’ve done a lot of research and a lot of thought’s gone into things in terms of children’s opinions, so it’s very Saskatchewan made,” she said.
For example, one floor is the Marshlands Floor, so they have pictures of cranes and fish. A north floor features northern animals, and there’s a forests floor, too.
“Instead of saying ‘Go to Unit B,’ they say ‘Go to the Frog Pond,’” said Andrea.
Another highlight is the Northern Lights lighting system, where there’s a strip of light that allows the kids to select the colour of their room.
“If you want the room glowing blue, or glowing green, or pinks or purples, you can make that adjustment,” said Andrea. “It’s really quite a nice add for the children.”
Payton agreed with her mother’s assessment that the Northern Lights make for a cool amenity. She also like the outdoor playground and a movie theatre for families, and full-sized pull-out beds in the long-term care area.
Another nice addition is a surgery recovery room where a child will be brought after surgery. Parents can be in the room while the child is waking up from an operation. It’s different from other hospitals in which there are other people in the room.
“It’s a little bit scary for kids, and once the children are awake, then they normally call in the parents,” said Andrea.
Andrea doesn’t know if Payton will ever need to access the hospital. Her appointments will continue at the Allan Blair Cancer Clinic in Regina and with the transplant team in Calgary. But she’s glad it will be open soon.
“There are lots of families that we do know (who will use it),” said Andrea. “It was a nice little reunion to see quite a few people today. They are living that. They will be in and out of that hospital. They’re over the moon excited with every room being a private room.”
Payton agreed that it was nice to see people she has met over the years during her treatment.
The hospital is slated to open on Sept. 29.