"One of the great things about Victoria Hospital is that it's a bit smaller, which I think makes it easier for the staff to be more caring, because you don't just get lost in the shuffle.” – Gisele Solon

In January of 2016, like many retired Manitobans, Gisele Solon and her husband of 44 years Dwight were enjoying their usual winter getaway in Apache Junction, Arizona, when things took a terrible turn.

By February, Dwight, aged 65, was just not feeling like himself. A trip to an Arizona hospital in March quickly raised some red flags when doctors suspected cancer. A week later he was taken by air ambulance to Winnipeg and transported to the Victoria Hospital, which turned out to be a blessing. His physician, Dr. Salem, has privileges there.

"Our time in the hospital passed fairly quickly,” remembers Gisele. “We were fortunate to be in a private room, surrounded by incredible staff. From the nurses to the aides, cleaning staff, and occupational therapists, everyone involved made it easier to be there."

Over the next 5 weeks Dwight underwent extensive testing. A biopsy eventually led doctors to diagnose Dwight with metastasized liver cancer with unknown primary. Dwight passed away one week later.

Through every step of their journey, Gisele found caring, compassion and most importantly, dignity for her husband at Victoria Hospital.

"I really think that they did everything they could for my husband,” says Gisele. “At every opportunity they went above and beyond to make Dwight comfortable. My husband was a big guy to start with, so consequently, in his weakened state, his mobility was compromised. Everyone was very patient and respectful and they treated him with dignity regardless of his size. I really appreciated that, because Dwight's dignity was very important to me.”

It was not only medical staff that went the extra mile for Dwight and his family, but even the administrative personnel played a role in providing comfort during this trying time.

"Dwight uses a Bi-pap machine to breathe at night, and in our haste to leave Arizona, I forgot to send it in the air ambulance,” recalls Gisele, “so I arranged to have the machine shipped directly to Victoria Hospital.”

Gail Bartlette in the administrative office ensured that Jack Mui from the receiving area was aware of the impending delivery.

“I was concerned that because it was coming from the US there might be duty assessed, and I didn't want the shipment refused,” says Gisele. “Gail monitored the situation and advised me when it had arrived. It was really great for them to look after that for us, and they did it without hesitation. Things like that really made a difference, and I am so grateful."

Gratitude is abundant in Gisele, despite her devastating and sudden loss.

"Gratitude is the key, and it helps you navigate grief,” says Gisele. “We both had faith that this was a part of the journey, which also helps. Gratitude is how I function."

The care and compassion Gisele and her family received at Victoria Hospital contributed to that gratitude, by providing a sense of community.

"One of the great things about Victoria Hospital is that it's a bit smaller, which I think makes it easier for the staff to be more caring, because you don't just get lost in the shuffle,” says Gisele. “Staff didn't seem to change too often, and there were always lots of familiar faces. It was nice not to have to start over with new nurses every day, there was a lot of continuity.”

When the time came for final goodbyes, the care continued as it began, with sincerity and compassion.

"I really felt that during Dwight's time at Victoria Hospital the staff made an effort to know my husband as a person,” said Gisele. “They seemed to be affected by his death and showed genuine compassion over his passing. My daughter Samantha, Dwight’s brother Paul and his wife Cyndi and I are grateful that Victoria Hospital is where he ended up."

Months later Gisele is slowly adjusting to her new reality.

"As a widow you have to re-define who you are, because I lived as a wife for 44 years and now suddenly I have no status,” says Gisele. "There are so many things I miss about my husband. I miss his sense of humour and his outlook on life. We both knew that life is not forever, and yet it's not the end.”

Going forward Gisele will continue to support the Victoria Hospital Foundation having experienced first-hand what an important role it played during the most difficult time.

"We are forever grateful for the professional care, compassion, and respect we found at Victoria Hospital,” recalls Gisele. “It's a small, genuine, caring place, and it needs our support. We are very lucky to have it.”