Barry & JoAnn’s story

Barry and JoAnn Suitor are soon celebrating 27 years of marriage. They are both grateful for every day they get to spend together. Life has thrown both of them some curve balls but they were always able to surpass every challenge, with a healthy dose of positivity combined with the most amazing care from the doctors and nurses who crossed their path. In early 2012 Barry and JoAnn moved from Regina to Wasaga Beach, Ontario to be closer to their family and friends, just 7 months after Barry had lost part of his lower leg. 

As with anyone who moves to a new city, Barry & JoAnn did not have a family doctor in Wasaga Beach. One day Barry had to get his prescriptions refilled and went to the same-day clinic in Collingwood. Dr. Caroline Bowman was the doctor in the clinic that day. When she saw Barry’s prosthetic leg, she wanted to hear the full story. So Barry explained: “In December 2011 we went to southern Ontario to spend Christmas with our family. A few days after arriving I knew something was terribly wrong with my right ankle – the pain was intolerable. 

My wife JoAnn took me to a nearby hospital as I was displaying severe infection symptoms and getting weaker by the minute. A day after being admitted and then transferred to ICU I was diagnosed with Necrotizing Fasciitis, commonly known as flesh eating disease. I was in pretty bad shape.” Eleven days and 3 surgeries later, Barry & JoAnn were confronted with the decision of whether or not to amputate his leg. Although the surgical team had done an amazing job of stopping the spread of the disease, the Plastic Surgeon felt the area would pose continuing problems down the road. Therefore they left the decision up to Barry and JoAnn. 

Barry said the choice was really quite easy as he didn’t want a life of inevitable issues. JoAnn agreed, and 2 hours later he was taken into surgery for the lower leg amputation. Despite this outcome, Barry continued to display an extremely positive attitude which doctors and family voiced had kept him alive through it all. JoAnn said “he never allowed himself to get down. Yes, there was the odd tear but he had a remarkable it-could-be-worse, get-on-with-life attitude”. 

After hearing what Barry had been through and knowing he required ongoing care, Dr. Bowman agreed to take the couple in as patients with no hesitation, despite the fact that she wasn’t accepting new patients at the time. “To this day we feel so lucky to have found her. Dr. Bowman has been there for us over and over, she’s remarkable, as well as her support staff,” said Barry. About a year later, it was JoAnn who was not well. “I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer”, said JoAnn. “I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma in my early 30s, so I had some experience with dealing with that kind of news. What was remarkable to me was the speed with which Dr. Bowman dealt with my diagnosis. 

She called Dr. Lisi right away and I was in to see him the very next day! Within a month he was performing the surgery that saved my life.” Fast forward to spring 2019, JoAnn noticed her leg was very red and given she had a nursing background she knew something was wrong. She decided to go see Dr. Bowman, who ordered an ultrasound for the next day to have a closer look at what it might be. As it turned out it was a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or blood clot, which can travel to one of your main organs and take your life in an instant. 

“Given the severity of my case, the ultrasound technologist immediately called Dr. Bowman’s office with my report. I was sent to her office and by the time I got there we were able to go over my course of treatment and medications”, said JoAnn. JoAnn was amazed that this all happened in less than 24 hours. “Within a few hours of being diagnosed I was home and on appropriate medication. We are so grateful for the medical care we have received since we moved here. People like to point out that the Collingwood G&M Hospital is old, but when it comes to the people within the hospital walls, they are extraordinary,” JoAnn noted.

Barry and JoAnn could not be more thankful for Dr. Bowman, Dr. Lisi and for CGMH: “It really gives you peace of mind to know that this quality of care is readily available; you know you are going to be taken care of right away and that is priceless. There’s something to be said about small communities and small hospitals. From the volunteers, to the staff in all departments, to the doctors and nurses at CGMH… they are all top notch. We feel very fortunate – it would be really tough to move away from here.

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