This is the story of Ottawa Rabbi Yehuda Simes.
“It was just a regular, absolutely uneventful drive, but the totally unexpected took place,” says Rabbi Simes, describing an accident that took place in June 2010, after a deer jumped out in front of his family vehicle. “In order to protect our family, [my wife] Shaindel had to veer around the deer, but the car lost control.”
Seven of eight Simes children were in the vehicle with Rabbi Simes and his wife, who was seven months pregnant with the couple’s ninth child. Though the children and Mrs. Simes escaped with only minor injuries, Rabbi Simes was crushed by the ceiling of the van.
Rabbi Simes was airlifted to the closest hospital in the U.S. for trauma treatment, until shortly after when he was transferred to his home town, and The Ottawa Hospital (TOH).
“When we received the call requesting transfer arrangements, Dr. John Kim and I looked at each other and said – ‘we have to bring this man home,’” says Nancy McDonald, Clinical Manager of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the General Campus of TOH.
Once he arrived, TOH quickly mobilized Rabbi Simes’ health team. Paralyzed from the neck down, Rabbi Simes was ventilator dependant and required total care. Physicians, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and others made it their mission to provide him with the best possible care.
There was also the matter of Mrs. Simes’ pregnancy. There too, a team of TOH professionals stepped in, even assisting the family to ensure their religious traditions could be accommodated in the clinical environment.
“Everyone was very efficient, very calming and very relaxing,” says Mrs. Simes.
The hospital team gave her a phone number that she could call 24/7 for any support she needed.
“We knew all the staff personally,” she says with a smile, recalling the family ice cream celebration TOH facilitated when the children were first reunited with their father. “We always laughed that our kids had a great time at the ICU because they had so many friends there.”
Ice cream was one thing. Fulfilling the Simes family’s wishes for the birth of their ninth child, however, presented an entirely different set of challenges.
Mrs. Simes expressed that it was incredibly important that her husband be present for the birth. TOH didn’t hesitate: the team knew they had to work together to make this happen.
Step one was transferring Mrs. Simes to the General Campus, where her husband was in ICU, from the Civic Campus, where she had been treated in the past.
To ensure the rest happened as safely as possible, TOH also needed to coordinate two teams of experts: the one caring for Mrs. Simes in her delivery and the one responsible for the quality and safety of Rabbi Simes’ care during his move from ICU to the maternity ward.
McDonald recalls how intensively the team worked to make this happen.
“We met weekly, to the point where we even had Rabbi Simes and Mrs. Simes come to our meetings to be part of their plan of care,” says McDonald.
“We prepared a bag for the Rabbi with all of the things that we would need,” says Julie Boulianne, Respiratory Therapist. The team had sourced all the equipment they would need in advance, so that Rabbi Simes could be safely transported out of ICU the moment his wife went into labour.
“This case was no different from what we would do for any other patient coming in,” said Sharon Chothia, Registered Nurse in the Birthing Unit at the General Campus, adding that Mrs. Simes “came in very, very quickly, in the middle of the night.”
Mrs. Simes arrived at 3:50 a.m., and delivered at 4:30 a.m. In the short 40 minutes that it took her to deliver, both the ICU and the birthing unit sprung in to action to make the couple’s wish a reality.
Mrs. Simes says she will never forget the final moments of her delivery.
“Just as my baby was being born, they yelled ‘he’s coming – he’s coming! He’s here!’” she recalls. “My husband literally was brought into the room within moments – seconds – of our baby being born.”
“The joy was incredible,” says Rabbi Simes. “The miracle was so blatant. They had the baby ready for me. As I held that miracle baby, I said the blessing that we say when babies are born. It was a beautiful experience.”