Behind the scenes at Bruyère

Bruyere Foundation

A problem-solver, community partner and a path home for patients across the region: Bruyère is a diversified health-care institution improving the quality of life for Ottawa residents.

Driven by research, learning and innovation, the multi-site academic health organization “Is much more than a hospital, it’s a bridge to home, we keep you home and for some, we are home,” says Bruyère Foundation president Peggy Taillon.

Taking a closer look at virtually any of Bruyère’s programs makes clear the expansiveness of the organization’s services. One example is Bruyère’s stroke rehabilitation program, which has touched the lives of countless patients and their families.

People like Tim Kerr whose life was dramatically changed after he suffered a massive stroke aboard the Canadian naval ship he was commanding. After he was stabilized and transferred back to Ottawa, he arrived at Bruyère where he began his long and challenging journey to recover and regain his quality of life.

Bruyere Foundation

“If you have something like a stroke, it takes a lot of effort to recover; now I have made an exceptional recovery,” Kerr shared. “What an organization like Bruyère does is enable you to recover as best you can. They’ve got world class experts and world class facilities. I was fortunate to be a patient there and with their support I was able to get back to my family and regain the ability to serve my community.”

Restoring quality of life 

As Kerr learned, Bruyère hosts the only dedicated stroke rehabilitation program in the region. The organization provides compassionate care to members of the community while continuing research and advancing innovation in this field.

Bruyère has seen a steady increase in the demand for services within its stroke rehabilitation program. Pressure for this kind of care has spiked alongside an ageing population, but – as strokes do not discriminate – this program has supported people of all ages. The organization has responded to this increased demand by providing more beds for the program, enabling it to care for a larger segment of the community.

“It is a privilege to be of service to the local community and region in this way,” says Guy Chartrand, the CEO of Bruyère Continuing Care. “We look forward to designing a future that’s adaptable and suitable for our patients’ needs. We are always asking ourselves, ‘How can we best serve the community?’” 

Helping people get home 

While Bruyère’s acute care partners may save a patient’s life, Bruyère is dedicated to restoring patients’ quality of life. The organization has implemented a variety of state-of-the-art tools – including innovations such as Virtual Reality (VR) – that enable patients to return home faster than ever before. 

"The VR system we use in our stroke rehabilitation program started as the games you see in many museums," explains Heidi Sveistrup, CEO and chief scientific officer at the Bruyère Research Institute. “It started with the programs that allow users to play hockey and see themselves holding a hockey stick. They were not developed for stroke rehabilitation, but there was a lot of potential for this technology in rehab because they are engaging, and people enjoy playing them. Engaging with these VR games not only increases the number of activities available in stroke rehab but frequency and intensity.

“As patients engage with VR, their brain changes; neurons and brain functions change, and they get better – and these functions help in recovery.”

Bruyere Foundation
From left, Bruyère Continuing Care CEO Guy Chartrand, Bruyère Foundation president Peggy Taillon and Heidi Sveistrup, the CEO and chief scientific officer at the Bruyère Research Institute.

This innovative technology is not just used in Bruyère’s inpatient program. Once patients are ready to return home, they will often take these VR systems with them, enabling them to maintain the level of activity they had in the hospital and combat the slow declines that can occur when activity drops off. 
A physiotherapist can remotely monitor how frequently patients are using the system at home, including what games they played and whether it was sufficiently challenging. If the game proved to be too hard or too easy, the difficulty level can be adjusted. And, if Bruyère staff see a patient isn’t using the system at all, they can call to check in.

The bridge to home

Transitioning from acute care to Bruyère’s care and ultimately back home can be challenging for patients, especially those who have suffered a stroke. That’s why Bruyère understands the importance of giving all patients adequate support in the community. 

“When a patient is discharged, proper community connections are made,” says Chartrand. “Finding the right facilities and navigating health care can be complicated, especially when a patient is not in the best condition, which is one reason Bruyère goes above and beyond.”

Today, Tim Kerr is one of the Bruyère stroke program’s dedicated volunteers, supporting stroke patients, encouraging them to work hard at their recovery, even when it is difficult to do so. 

From dedicated volunteers like Kerr, to Bruyère’s many generous donors, it is the support of the community that makes so much of the organization’s work possible.

“The Bruyère Foundation is deeply grateful for our community’s tremendous  support,” says Taillon. “We pride ourselves on being part of this great community and we cannot do what we do without them  we could not build and grow into the future.”

Learn more about Bruyère at bruyere.org.