Rita & Peter’s Story

We’re Rita & Peter Premich, born, raised & married in small town, Saskatchewan. Rita was blessed to be living directly across the street from the only doctor for miles around, lucky enough to have a tiny rural type hospital practically in her backyard, while Peter & his farming family, had a hard time accessing crucial, necessary services. We moved to Ontario in 1962, Toronto (62-64), Brampton (64-98), before retiring to Wasaga Beach, 22+ years ago. While keeping fond memories of vacation times with our young family, enjoyed at cottages near the longest fresh water beach in the world, we chose a retirement home with biking, walking, hiking trails, fresh air, wide open spaces, close proximity to airport, plus a small town hospital nearby, should we ever have an emergency! 

It’s sad & embarrassing for us to remember how misinformed we were to have prioritized our wants by minimizing the value we should have placed on our hospital! At that time we believed CGMH was mostly a hospital for Collingwood residents. Come on now, how ignorant & sad is that? We work at staying healthy & fit, so as not to use the hospital/health care system unnecessarily. Last summer we biked from our home in Wasaga Beach all the way to Sunset Point in Collingwood, had lunch by the water & biked back. We’re proud of this achievement. We may be seniors, but we’re not dead yet! No matter what age or experience one has, it’s proof positive, there’s no end to the learning that awaits each new day, providing we commit to an open mind, therefore we feel compelled during this COVID-19 Pandemic to tell Our Story and explain why we’ve become so passionate about CGMH. 

In the early years of our move to Wasaga Beach, CGMH ran information sessions at Collingwood’s Senior Centre, spearheaded by a lady named Jory Pritchard-Kerr. Interesting seminars, with news about the happenings at the hospital, introducing new doctors, specialists, innovative ideas, meeting CEO etc….We attended many of these, but in our ignorance, we never understood what the word “Foundation“ meant, or how it tied in with a hospital. As we look back on it now, reading the literature we brought home from these seminars would have helped! Sheesh! Many more years passed & we continued to use the hospital minimally for things like X-rays, tests, small surgeries, etc…. Occasionally we’d find ourselves in the hospitals’ basement, curious about the sign “Foundation” in front of an open doorway. 

Fearful, it might be a forbidden area, we didn’t dare go inside, but one day while cautiously peeking in, the welcoming voice of Alison Sheffer caught us red handed, with the words: “Yes, can I help you?” We couldn’t run away, so we walked in, & had the whole Purpose for the Foundation Sign explained to us, met everyone, including a familiar face, Jory Pritchard-Kerr. The same “Seminar Lady at the Senior Centre” many years earlier. Unbeknownst to us, Jory was part of the “Foundation”. My, my, my, the innocence of ignorance! We were offered a tour of the hospital, accepted, & on that very day, our mindset was changed forever! Until curiosity about the Foundation sign got the best of us, we always believed hospitals were entirely funded by the government – Wrong! We learned more & more facts on return visits, and became so interested. 

Our curiosity, turned into education, that led to knowledge, that caused pride in “our” hospital, and a desire to be part of the solution. We quickly became “Friends Of The Foundation” with a new understanding, becoming passionate, & can honestly admit there isn’t much we wouldn’t do in support of CGMH! We’re not leaders, but volunteer as often as we can, donate as much as we can, SO if anyone reading this story is a leader & has ideas as to how to drive much needed funds towards this hospital we’d throw ourselves behind that leader 150%. But wait this story doesn’t end here! More than 3 yrs ago, while spending the winter in Florida, Peter had chest pains, was rushed to a Big City Florida Hospital by ambulance. His heart was believed to be the cause, so he was hooked up, had various tests, spent the night in a hospital hallway, reassured the next day his heart was fine, & released. 

A few days later, same thing happened, again his heart was checked & he was released, however the chest pains persisted, so eventually insurance offered to fly us home, transport our vehicle (empty!) or as an alternative they’d cover Peter for 5 days, if the same problem surfaced on our drive home. Unable to leave our belongings behind, uncertain if we’d even be able to return, we decided to take the 5 day travel insurance offer. An easy 2 day drive, took us more than a heart wrenching, difficult 5 days, in stormy, cold Jan/2017. We arrived on a Thursday night late, but, at 5:00 A.M. next morning, Peter was again rushed to CGMH with, (you guessed it!) more of the same chest pains. Within a few hours of arrival, the emergency doctor on call found the problem.

It was not his heart. He had a blood clot lodged in his lung. Peter was told a flight home may very well have killed him. He’s been on the same medication he was prescribed on that day, ever since. He was referred to cardiologist, Dr. Smiley, in case the Florida Hospital missed something. After a series of tests/follow-ups, etc…., we were assured all was well with Peter’s heart, confident we received the very best treatment possible. The Big Fancy Florida hospital kept testing only his heart & coming up with the same answer, while our little small town, innovative, cutting edge hospital, with its array of talented medical professionals knew there was something more in his chest, than only his heart. 

CGMH took a blood test plus a CT-Scan 1st. Florida did not take a CT-scan on any of the return visits to their hospital. CGMH found the problem quickly. Within a few hours Peter’s problem was detected, & treated with the medication he’s been on ever since. For us this is a David & Goliath Story, with David emerging as the Big Winner! To say we’re grateful is an understatement…. The support of all surrounding communities is crucial to keep this hospital as current as possible, while we all work towards the new one.

Hopefully we’ll still be around to reap the benefits, of a brand new facility, but if we’re not, imagine what an amazing gift we’d be leaving for future generations? The morale of our story: “Give in to curiosity, & give in to donations”. Especially during this unsettling time in all our lives. Either one could save your life one day.

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