June 14 2020 was a typical Sunday for Stefania Piacente-Battisti. She was having coffee with her mother and sisters when she felt a sharp pain in her head. Quickly the pain became unbearable; Stefania’s mom had to hold Stefania’s head tightly while her sisters called an ambulance. “It kind of felt that she was holding my head in place. that if she let go my head would roll-off,” Stefania recalls.
Three days later she woke up at Toronto Western Hospital.
Stefania had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, something that is fatal in about 50% of cases. When Stefania got to the hospital there were two teams on standby ready to operate on her. Luckily the first team was able to coil the aneurysm by accessing the artery through her leg/groin area – avoiding a craniotomy, where surgeons remove part of the bone from the skull to access the brain. Following her procedure, she spent time in the ICU recovering. Due to COVID-19, no visitors were allowed in the hospital, even her family.
“I can’t imagine how hard it was for my whole family – I have two kids too – to not be allowed in because of the pandemic,” says Stefania.
For the next month, Stefania recovered in the ICU where doctors, nurses and physical therapists helped her regain her strength and independence. “I could not have imagined a better experience considering the circumstance. The team was amazing,” says Stefania.
After she worked with her physical therapist, her nurses encouraged her to start moving, assisting her as needed. “They were awesome, they heard me talk about my kids and that I wanted to go home to them – so they helped me,” says Stefania.
Even though her family wasn’t able to visit, Stefania always felt cared for thanks to the staff in the ICU. When she began suffering from insomnia during her hospital stay, the night nurse, Amanda, would stay with her to keep her company. “I talked that poor girl’s ear off,” laughs Stefania.
Experiencing more than a month of incredible care during COVID-19 gave Stefania a new perspective on health care workers.
After a follow-up MRI in December of 2020 showed Stefania was at risk of rebleeding in her brain, she became the 15th patient to receive a revolutionary robot-assisted brain surgery performed at UHN’s Krembil Brain Institute. This time, she was able to recover at home with her family.
After her two procedures, Stefania knew that she wanted to give back – but she didn’t know how to do it until she heard of Give a Shift. Give a Shift is a first-of-its-kind fundraising event to honour UHN’s healthcare heroes. Participants will spend 12 hours completing tasks and challenges to give them a glimpse into the life of a healthcare worker – all in support of UHN
“The other morning the TV was on and I heard a doctor talking about Give a Shift,” says Stefania, “so I went online as soon as I got up and I was like, this is it. This is how I’m going to give back.”
Stefania has already raised a remarkable $10,000 as part of her fundraising efforts for Give a Shift. She hopes that, by participating in an event like this one, she’ll be able to raise more awareness about the efforts our healthcare workers put in every day.
“If more people would listen, maybe we would maybe have a little bit more help,” says Stefania, who aims to complete 25,000 steps while wearing PPE for Give a Shift.
“If I changed even five people’s minds about what the truth is, I’m good,” says Stefania.
A portion of the funds raised through Give a Shift will provide UHN’s frontline staff with complimentary meal vouchers to ensure they are able to care for themselves while caring for others. Stefania’s participation in Give a Shift will directly support the well-being of our healthcare heroes and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
Visit giveashift.ca now to donate.