Kimberly Gillis

Kimberly Gillis: A Patient’s Perspective (Text Only)

This interview with Kimberly Gillis gives us a patient’s perspective on healthcare. It is from the Guinness World Record Setting patient’s perspective interview marathon on the Perspectives on Healthcare podcast with Rob Oliver. We get both the patient and the family member perspective as she relates her own experiences as well as her experiences with her son Jace. Kimberly is from Nova Scotia, Canada and provides her personal experiences with the Canadian healthcare system. Just for the sake of reference, when she talks about IWK she is referring to a Women and Children’s Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The audio for this interview was a bit choppy so we are just posting the transcript and summary.

Here are 3 things that stood out as Kimberly Gillis shared a patient’s perspective on healthcare:

  • Affordability and accessibility are two of the key elements in a healthcare system that serves its patients well.
  • Quality healthcare considers not only the patient but also the family’s needs and emotional well-being during their healthcare journey.
  • Healthcare professionals must remember that patients are not the best version of themselves during healthcare crises. The impact of trauma and anxiety can have a profound effect on the way patients and their families present themselves.
  • BONUS: medical professionals who treat each individual they serve as though they were a family member can truly change the patient experience and foster stronger patient-caregiver relationships.

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Here is the transcript of my interview with Kimberly Gillis as she gave us a patient’s perspective on healthcare:

Introduction to Kimberly Gillis (and Jace)

Rob Oliver: Hello, and welcome to the podcast.

Kimberly Gillis: Good evening. I guess it’s evening.

Rob Oliver: It is evening here, so good stuff. What is your name?

Kimberly Gillis: Kimberly Gillis.

Rob Oliver: And where are you from, Kimberly?

Kimberly Gillis: I’m from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Rob Oliver: Nice. And can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experiences in healthcare?

Kimberly Gillis: Prior to this past year, I probably would have said I didn’t have very much experience with healthcare. But I guess my healthcare experience was back when I was 3 days old, which I don’t remember a whole lot of that, but I know my life was saved by a doctor saying that something was wrong, getting me to the place I needed to be, and here I am today. That in one sense, healthcare saved my life then. I’ve wondered many times why it didn’t, but. And then I guess maybe I’ve had the usual chiropractor, chiropractic treatment, massage, but there was one particular chiropractor that definitely changed my life after a car accident and thought that I wasn’t going to be pain free the rest of my life. And he took a holistic approach to do his treatment, and I became pain free. But then this past year, actually, it’s literally about a year ago, I was 20 weeks pregnant and I was in my 20-week ultrasound, and I started getting a lot of appointments for ultrasounds. And my baby’s not cooperating. Things are just, he’s just being stubborn. And what ended up happening was they detected shortly thereafter that he had congenital heart disease. So basically, he had three heart chambers instead of four. So that was my rude awakening into the medical field and into hospitals and appointments and all that sort of thing. Shortly after three weeks, I found out he had a single ventricle. He was going to need extended heart surgery almost immediately as soon as he was, right after he was born. And that as the hospital continued, they found out that it was actually more severe than they thought. So we would have to relocate to Toronto for a number of months in order to get him the actual health care that he needed. So I think this is the flavor in everything that I say here. I’m in Canada, and having free health care basically saved my child’s life. And I’m very grateful. So I need to say that I became very, if I were in another country, the options that were available to me would have been severely limited by accessibility as well as affordability. So they started out as patients. My son finished off as a patient. And since he was born, he’s had two open-hearted weeks.

Rob Oliver: Okay.

Kimberly Gillis: One is in IWK.

Recognizing Healthcare Heroes

Rob Oliver: Yeah. Kimberly, your story is amazing. And I’m feeling bad because your audio is a little bit choppy, but it’s okay. So have you met a health care hero during your health care journey?

Kimberly Gillis: So I would say that we’ve had a lot of health care heroes along the way. We’ve been very fortunate, very blessed. I’m going to say names, and I’m just going to give a list of names that stand out to me. For how they have helped and just supported the whole journey. So first and foremost, the doctor that took care of me prior to us moving to Toronto, Dr. Sherbart, there were many days where he basically just sat with me quietly. I had nothing to say and let me cry. And that’s basically what my appointments were before we moved to Toronto. Then Dr. Honjo and Dr. Set were both surgeons. Dr. Honjo did his first surgery and Dr. Set did his second. Both very humble men, very thorough, kind hearted. You just felt safe leaving your child in their care. Dr. Chen has been a cardiologist in the IWK. A nurse that stands out to me, a Synthusia. And she probably doesn’t even expect to be mentioned here. But on my birthday, the day after Jace’s first surgery, he presented me with a card with Jace’s footprint and thumbprint that said, happy birthday, mommy, love Jace. And that just floored me. It brought perspective to, oh right, this is my baby. I’m his mom. And it kind of gave him a voice, I guess you could say. Dr. Hamden here in Sydney, Cape Breton. He is pediatrician at his work throughout the world. And I think he was in Dubai for a bit. He has been very patient and thorough in his care for Jace, and explanations to me. Dr. Trevo, my family doctor, who’s been very thorough, has even referred me to her husband, who is a nurse practitioner in the States, as a respite worker, practitioners, critical care nurses. Oh, I forget these guys. They were the air transport critical care nurses that took us from Toronto to Halifax. And they were the working nonstop throughout the pandemic to transport patients throughout the globe to get the health care that they needed. Oh, one more, my sister. She used to work on 40, the heart floor. And she’s going back there in the fall, but she has spent her day and night as a nurse that thoroughly understood Jace’s condition and has supported us throughout. So there’s my health care heroes. Sorry for the long list.

What does Quality Health Care mean to you?

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. And they all are recognized in their own way for the work that they do. So that’s amazing. What does quality health care mean to you?

Kimberly Gillis: I’ll try to summarize this to the best of my ability. And I think it’s been mentioned many times in various interviews you’ve had. Accessibility and affordability, definitely top on the list. Being able to get the care that you need within the timeframe that you need. And not having to worry about affording it. We are very fortunate to have here, but there’s limitations to that. There can be limitations to that as well. But I think those two are crucial. One thing about accessibility, I’ve had a couple of doctors and specialists provide me with their personal cell numbers. So that when there is an urgent need there, we are able to find out answers in a timely manner to get the help that we need. So, even that in this this day is very helpful.

Rob Oliver: Okay,.

Kimberly Gillis: There was one quality health care. I think the last two people mentioned this. Having a holistic approach to health care. So, caring about the whole person. I think Esther just mentioned this as well. When your child is the one that needs the medical attention, caring for the parent is also crucial so that they can care for their child. And I think that’s… when I was flown back from Toronto to Halifax with my, like, less than a month old baby that had just had open heart surgery and immediately put into isolation because of the pandemic. So, no one was able to come in. No one was able to go out. I had to call for help whenever I needed. And it didn’t go well with my understanding of how postpartum care can be handled. And I recognize the pandemic limited that. But yeah, I felt like I was not really in the best position to take care of Jace. But that’s why I would say holistic approach that recognizes individual needs of each patient.

What your medical providers should know about you

Rob Oliver: Okay. What do you wish your medical providers understood about you?

Kimberly Gillis: I struggled with this answer, but I think typically when you’re admitted to a hospital or dealing with a health issue, it’s kind of like a crisis time of your life. And I’m sure I know professionals are trained to understand that. But there’s a lot of trauma, anxiety and fear that talks far quicker than your best side. So, and I’m sure medical professionals know this, but just that we’re not always the best version of ourselves when we’re dealing with trauma, anxiety.

Suggestions to Improve Quality Healthcare

Rob Oliver: So true. So, very true. Last question for you. What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Kimberly Gillis: I think I’ve narrowed this down to, and I think this is possibly already done in a lot of places. And it comes down to the individual healthcare worker. What I’ve sort of, the way I think about it is there’s a system that’s in place that tends to limit personalizing healthcare. But yet it’s still very necessary in order to provide this to practice, to prevent other lawsuits, all sorts of things. So there’s a lot, there’s a system in place to ensure that the proper procedures are followed. However, I feel that maybe this applies, I think, in the teaching profession as well. Treat each patient as though they are your own family member. And I think that really resonates with me, because as a teacher, it really takes perspective when I think, okay, if this was my child, how would I want them to be treated in the classroom? And I think it’s impossible to constantly be aware of that, as you’re going about your job. But at the same time, I think it does, it will, like each individual, nurse, doctor, healthcare worker that takes the time and puts in the effort to care and treat patients as though they were their own family, I think it will resonate with their patients.

Rob Oliver: Absolutely. I think a very powerful, very powerful way to wrap up our conversation today. Listen, Kimberly, thank you so much for being with me. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s incredible. And I will say I respect your perspective on healthcare.

Kimberly Gillis: Okay. Thanks so much for this opportunity.


Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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