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Whether it’s selling headbands, mowing lawns, or washing cars – teaching children the value of hard work is an important lesson. As rewarding as it can be to teach our children, the experience is far greater when they, in fact, teach us.

A quartet of young girls from Dundas – Kaylynn, Lucy, Hannah, and Lexi – had spent part of their summer on an entrepreneurial undertaking by selling headbands they decorated. Business was good, and they earned a fair bit for their work. Their parents were proud of the girls’ efforts.

When these young ladies decided to donate their earnings to the 3 Wishes Project, their parents were truly amazed, and staff members in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton were humbled by their generosity.

“I’m deeply moved,” said Dr. Deborah Cook, as she learned about the donation. In 2013, Dr. Cook established the 3 Wishes Project at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, which has grown internationally after publishing the original article in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The 3 Wishes Project aims to enhance the dignity of dying, critically-ill patients and their families. This includes humanizing the environment for the patient and creating positive memories for grieving families. ICU staff have also experienced the inspirational effects of the 3 Wishes Project, which helps to re-establish the humanity in their vocations.

By carrying out at least 3 final wishes, this low-tech, low-cost, and low-risk project has helped many North Americans come to terms with the passing of a loved one.  The spirit of the project has spread to other wards here at St. Joe's and elsewhere with guidance from coordinator and respiratory therapist France Clarke, and spiritual care clinician Feli Toledo.

The resources needed to fulfill a patient’s final wishes has decreased over the last 6 years at St. Joe's due to creative but inexpensive wishes (e.g., locks of hair in a bottle), common wishes that do not incur costs (e.g., favourite music, pet visitation), individual donations (e.g., comforting blankets, slippers) and community discounts. Today, the average cost of one wish is about $5.

The girls officially made their donation of $160 in December. All of the girls were excited to present their donation to Dr. Cook in person, though Kaylynn and Lexi were unable to attend. Dr. Cook was delighted to thank Lucy and Hannah personally, share some stories, and answer their questions.

Dr. Cook shows a descriptive word cloud to Lucy and Hannah, which are often given to patients’ families as part of the 3 Wishes Project.

Lucy and Hannah were given a tour of the ICU by Dr. Cook, 3 Wishes Champion and bedside nurse Neala Hoad, and several ICU staff. There, they learned about the type of care given to critically ill patients.  They were especially curious about the breathing machines and special beds used. Dr. Cook explained how the 3 Wishes Project helps to honour patients and comfort families. The wishes can be those of patients themselves if they are able, wishes of family members to help them celebrate their loved one's life, or wishes of clinicians who help to create meaningful memories in the final days or hours.  

“As parents we are proud and deeply moved by the thoughtfulness shown by our daughters. Their kind and generous act, which serves to help people who are at a moment of great difficulty in their lives, fills our hearts with a sense of wonder and joy,” wrote one of the parents, speaking for the group. “At a very young age our girls are having a meaningful impact in our community and we are truly grateful to them for reminding us about the important things in life.”

When asked what motivated them to donate their earnings to the 3 Wishes Project, Lucy said, “we wanted to help the people so they can feel happier. They have wishes but are too sick to leave the hospital to get their wishes so we wanted to help them get their wishes.”

“We’re extremely grateful to these thoughtful young ladies and to everyone who has supported us through St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation,” noted Dr. Cook.

“Just as the 3 Wishes Project has helped remind healthcare workers of the humanity that is so integral to their work, their generosity has reminded us that we all have the power to make a difference in other people’s lives,” noted Dr. Gail Martin, Executive Director of the Research Institute of St. Joe’s – Hamilton.

The 3 Wishes Project is supported by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation.

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