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191 Wyecroft Rd, Oakville
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379 Speers Rd, Oakville
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When fourth year nursing student Jeanine McLean passed away in 2013, her father Jim was devastated. “I was in grief counselling for years,” he says. “It was a dark time.”
Although her death was sudden, health challenges had been a constant throughout her life. When she was just two-and-a-half, doctors implanted a pacemaker in her chest to help treat a congenital heart defect. As she grew, visits to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto were frequent. These were frightening times for Jeanine, but they revealed her amazing courage and resilience.
“When she came out of her first surgery she was shaking and shivering,” says Jim. “When her second pacemaker went in a few years later she was a trooper. She was remarkable that way. Nothing could keep her down.”
Jeanine never forgot the kindness she was shown by the nursing staff at SickKids. When the time came to think about postsecondary education, Jeanine decided that she wanted to study to become a cardiac nurse. Someday, she hoped to be in a position to provide the same kind of compassionate care that she had received as a child.
Jeanine worked hard to achieve her goal. Hugely personable with an always-cheerful disposition, she endeared herself to her classmates and made an impression everywhere she went.
“She had a great sense of humour,” says Jim, “And her eyes had a brilliant sparkle to them. She would light up a room. Everyone loved her.”
In 2015, members of Cambrian College’s Nursing Student Council created the Jeanine McLean Memorial Award as a tribute to their cherished friend. The award supports full-time nursing students who are living with or who have overcome significant health challenges. When Jim heard the news, it was a shock—one that pulled him out of the dark haze he’d lived in since Jeanine’s passing.
“It wasn’t until the award came to be that I found some closure,” he says. “It gave me a feeling of having dealt with the loss. It was a huge boost. It helped me to move on.”
Since its launch, Jim has been committed to helping the award grow. He has raised money by running half marathons and by turning occasions like birthdays into opportunities to ask friends and family to give. He has also become a member of the Guardians of the Children Canada—a motorcycle service organization that advocates for abused and bullied children—and has organized a charitable ride to help create a permanent endowment so funds are always available to assist students in need.
Although she is no longer with us, Jim knows that Jeanine’s spirit will live on in those who will be a calming presence at hospital bedsides, holding children’s hands and offering them comfort. For Jim, there is no better way to honour his daughter’s memory.
“Imagine you’re a young person in a hospital for the first time waiting to have surgery—you’re really scared and overwhelmed. But then a nurse comes up to you, someone who has benefitted from this award, and says, ‘You’re going to be just fine. I know what you’re feeling. You’re going to make it through this.’ That’s Jeanine’s gift— she’s still making her mark and helping people.”