Community Care looking for caring volunteers

By Cecilia Nasmith

Community Care Northumberland is looking to recruit volunteers to visit and support clients throughout Northumberland County who are living with a life-threatening illness.

In offering this vital visiting hospice service at no cost to clients or their families, Community Care relies on well-trained hospice volunteers. To that end, the agency is offering a 30-hour hospice core training program that is mandatory for new volunteers who will be preparing to offer services that will help ease the journey of local residents and their families facing serious life-threatening illness, palliative-diagnosed, requiring end-of-life support and grief-and-bereavement care.

This next core training session will take place at Community Care's Cobourg office, starting March 29 from 9 a.m. to noon, and running for 10 consecutive weeks. Training includes classes, readings, specialized guest speakers, visuals, discussions and hands-on experiences in readying volunteers for the joys and challenges of this work.

Upon completion of the training, participants will have gained a better understanding of the philosophy of hospice care, comfort measures for end-of-life clients, attitudes toward death and dying, communication, family dynamics, grief and loss, and more.

For further information, or to register for this training, contact Community Care’s Hospice Services office at 1-855-473-8875 or visit

Community Care supports those experiencing grief

By Cecilia Nasmith

Anyone grieving the death of a loved one who needs a safe place to talk about the loss is invited to join the new eight-week grief-support group offered in Cobourg by Community Care Northumberland.

Meetings will be led by trained volunteer facilitators who will offer support and discussion, as well as share resources about the experience of grief with participants.

“These sessions are meant to help participants learn about how grief and bereavement affects them,” Community Care Northumberland executive director Trish Baird said.

“They will help them understand their feelings and emotional responses that come with loss, and how to express and communicate to others their needs, and the best ways to provide support to them.”

The agency's press release quoted a former program participant who shared how the experience helped. “I was able to realize I was not alone,” the participant said.

Meetings begin April 2 and run eight consecutive weeks, taking place from 10 a.m. to noon at Community Care's Cobourg office (1005 Elgin St. W., Suite 203).

For more information about this program, or to register for the group, contact Community Care Northumberland's Hospice Services at 1-855-473-8875 or e-mail

For more information on the agency's hospice services, visit

Cobourg councillor offers early-spring warnings

By Cecilia Nasmith

Spring lurking just around the corner is the time to take some warnings to heart, Councillor Brian Darling said at Monday's council meeting.

“Any remaining ice cover on bodies of water will be thin and unstable – high flows, slippery stream banks and dangerous conditions around stream beds and ditches – so I ask everyone to stay well back,” Darling began.

“Be sure your sump pump is in good working order and is not connected to the sanitary sewer, which is a violation of the building code and can contribute to a sewage backup in your basement if you're not careful,” he continued.

“Be sure yours discharges to your yard, a ditch or a storm sewer.”
Councillor Emily Chorley had her own spring-is-coming report – the outdoor rink is now closed for the season, and operations at the town's greenhouses are well under way.

Speakers urge council to acknowledge a basic human right

By Cecilia Nasmith

Because water is necessary for life, Petra Hartwig and Gudrun Ludorf-Weaver lobbied Cobourg council Monday to become a Blue Community.

The presenters represented the Northumberland chapter of the Council of Canadians, Sustainable Cobourg and Blue Dot, and were supported by a contingent of perhaps a dozen audience members (many dressed in the signature blue T-shirt).

Their request involves adopting a Blue Communities resolution to recognize access to water and sanitary facilities as a right, to phase out commercial bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events, and to consider including room in the budget for water-bottle filling stations for outdoor areas like parks.

As well, Ludorf-Weaver said, they promote publicly owned and operated water and waste-water services.

“Blue Communities challenge the privatization, commodification and corporate control of water,” Hartwig added.

As for sanitation, Ludorf-Weaver continued, everyone should have the right to private facilities that are affordable, dignified and culturally sensitive.

These rights have been enshrined by 40 countries, she said, and provinces that have come on board include Nova Scotia and Northwest Territories.

“Why do we have bottled water?” she wondered.

“It represents a private take-over of the water commons. Corporations take free-flowing water from its natural source, or sometimes municipal water, put it in plastic bottles and sell it at exorbitant rates.

“Scientific evidence suggests 50% of bottled water comes from municipalities,

“We contend that water is not a product,” she insisted.

“Water-bottle companies extract water for next to nothing from springs and aquifers. Whole watersheds are under threat because of this practice, and people spend over 3,000 times what it would cost to have tap water.”

Hartwig described their discussions with Lakefront Utility Services Inc. and how they are prepared to support the water-bottle filling stations – though the purchase, at $3,500 to $4,500 per unit, would be a town responsibility.

“Maybe one this year, maybe one or two next year – it doesn't all have to happen at once,” she said.

Mayor John Henderson earned their approving comments when he pointed out that the drinking fountains next to the elevators at Victoria Hall have been converted to water-bottle filling stations.

Councillor Brian Darling made a motion that the presentation be forwarded to the Environment and Climate Change Advisory Committee for their comment.

Northumberland County shares 2018 triumphs with Cobourg council

By Cecilia Nasmith

With a 2% increase on the horizon for the Northumberland County portion of the 2019 budget, chief administrative officer Jennifer Moore and treasurer Glenn Dees updated Cobourg council Monday on some of the county's accomplishments for 2018.

Moore led off with the Business and Entrepreneurship Centre, which helped 111 businesses get started and helped create 135 jobs. It also hosted its first entrepreneurship conference, which was a sold-out event and will be followed up by a 2019 version.

They began a partnership with the New Canadians Centre that has them offering services out of the county building on William Street, where The Factory co-working space has 60 members.

Other points of pride include the fourth annual Northumberland Multicultural Day, completion of the Roseneath Emergency Services Base, a good beginning on the Trent Hills base (on which construction should begin this year), and 1.4-million lb. of food (worth $3.6-million) distributed through the Food 4 All Warehouse.

The year begins with the prospect of work beginning on the big Golden Plough Lodge redevelopment which should also house the county archives and provide an increase in beds to 180 from 151.

“We are hearing loud and clear we need those additional beds in our community,” Moore commented.

Looking ahead, Dees said, $56.2-million of the county 's $123-million budget for this year ($98.7-million in the operating budget, $17.5-million in the capital budget and $6.8-million to be transferred to reserves) comes from tax levies.

Another significant source of revenue for the county is provincial grants and subsidies that account for 35% of a year's revenue. The average for an Ontario municipality is 20%, Dees said, but the fact that Northumberland County is an upper-tier full-service municipality may help account for the difference.

Cobourg budget should raise taxes by 1.9%

By Cecilia Nasmith

A marathon series of meetings for Cobourg's 2019 budget has resulted in a draft that increases the municipal tax levy by 1.9% after assessment growth.

Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin provided a summary of the process at this week's council meeting.

Following department-by-department public meetings throughout February and presentations in support of Community Grant reports, an all-day committee-of-the-whole meeting took place last week to produce the final draft that will come to council April 8.

Seguin said that this year's capital budget is projected to be $7,294,750, with a prospective operating budget of $24,060,529.

Cobourg Police introduce a new face

By Cecilia Nasmith

The new face of communications from the Cobourg Police Services is that of their new corporate communications co-ordinator Laurie Debattista.

A University of Toronto graduate with more than 10 years of experience in communications at Cameco Corporation, Battista is taking on a newly created position with the Cobourg Police Services that Chief Kai Liu explained Thursday in a reception in her honour.

“This position became available as a result of the vision that the Police Services Board had in the development of a three-year business plan,” the chief said,

“It came as a result of the board's community survey, which identified the need for more communication and transparency about what we do.”

In her new role, Battista will oversee areas such as public relations, a newly redesigned website, social media, promotional material and the Cobourg Police Services brand.

Chief Liu identified some partners she will be working with in support of these tasks.

“She will work closely with the media, helping to develop your stories and reach your deadlines. She is here as a resource and asset to you as much as she is to us,” he said.

“For our community partners, when we are involved with you on different events, Laurie will be brought in to help communicate the message you are trying to get out in the community.

“She will be a real benefit to the message we are trying to share.”

Deputy Chief Paul VandeGraaf mentioned another area she will work on – their booming corporate-services sector.

“It's truly a business that requires a marketing set of eyes,” VandeGraaf said.

“We are really looking forward to getting her working with the strategic vision of the corporate services which we are about to unveil as well.”

Addressing those present, Cobourg Police Services Board chair Dean Pepper added his thoughts.

“This is a vision the board realized, the importance to connect with you, to connect to the storytellers out there and make sure the message gets out that the service and the work in the community is important,” Pepper said.

“You can only do that with the expertise of a communications officer.”

“I am really looking forward to everything this job entails and what the future looks like,” Debattista said.

“I really hope for great communications with the media and community partners to showcase the good things we do within the Town of Cobourg.”

“Laurie has already proven to be a great addition to our team, and we are excited to have her on board,” Chief Liu stated.

Be a donor, local man urges

By Cecilia Nasmith

If not for the miracle of a heart being available at the right time, Dave Mitchell's 41st birthday would have been his last.

Mitchell wears a green ribbon to commemorate that miracle and also to remind everyone that, though it's really simple to be an organ donor, the gift can make a profound life-or-death difference.

April is Organ Donor Awareness Month, so he will be sharing his story as much as he can to promote the cause.

Everyone is aware that the donations of organs does save lives – potentially up to eight, he said. Tissue donations (like skin) can potentially improve the lives of 75 people.

Bone donations are also life-changing, he cited, giving the example of a coworker who lost her mother. Her eyes were donated to someone who can now enjoy the wonders of sight, but the donation of a bone from her forearm also made a difference for a cancer patient.

Mitchell will forever think of 2015 as the year of the heart transplant that meant that his wife Stephanie and their five children (aged 12 to 26) are still a family.

He was a volunteer firefighter with the Cobourg force at that time, little foreseeing that his colleagues would be first responders that January when he had a heart attack at home on Jan. 3.

“When they arrived, I was without vital signs. They had to use the defibrillator,” he recalled.

He was taken to Northumberland Hills Hospital and, from there, to St, Michael's where he remained for more than a month.

“They were trying to treat it as an electrical issue with medication. I went home in early February with an internal defibrillator – which they had to postpone until I was well enough to have that done.”

Before the month was out, it went off. He was going to bed one night when it shocked him and continued to shock him for a total of 14 times, before he got to Campbellford Memorial Hospital and they got it stopped. Fortunately a nurse on duty, who had worked in Toronto and knew about this kind of thing, used a magnet to put a stop to the problem, Then, when he was stable enough, he was transported by Ornge (the Ontario air-ambulance service) to St. Mike's again – on Feb. 13, his 41st birthday. The following day, he was transported to Toronto General for a Positron Emission Tomography imaging of his heart, but he crashed before they could perform it.

“They put me into an induced coma on two forms of life support. On Feb. 22, they decided I needed a transplant. On the 23rd, I was stabilized enough to get on the transplant list. On the 24th, I had my transplant,” he said.

“My old heart failed so quickly, my only option was a transplant. When I was able to get on the list, I went straight to the top, based on my condition, my age and my health. Prior to all this. I had no health issues, no heart-related issues – I was on the list less than 23 hours.”

The average wait time for a heart is two years. Often, those waiting for one have chronic conditions they can manage while they wait, but that wasn't Mitchell's case.

“Because my heart failed so quickly and I was in hospital on life support and I was in a coma for 10 days, when I woke up I had a new heart.

“It was really kind of a miracle. From the very beginning, I was fortunate that when I had the heart attack, my spouse was there with me at home and I could tell her, 'Call 911' before I sat down. She did CPR until the fire department arrived. The fire department revived me, and the paramedics arrived and rushed me to the Cobourg hospital. They stabilized me and got me immediately to St. Mike's. I believe it was all about being in the right place at the right time.

“The transplant at Toronto General – I was there and had all the best care from all the resources.

“After the fact, the surgeon informed my family if I didn't receive that transplant, they would have given me 72 hours.”

In hindsight, what might have been a warning took place Dec. 29, 2014, when he went to the NHH emergency department just because he felt something funny.

“I was thinking pneumonia. It felt very vague. The EKG (electrocardiogram) revealed I had already had a heart attack at some point.”

He would spend the night in the hospital, with much attention and blood work – and an angiogram the following morning. It was clear.

“I was sent home, given medication, told to follow up with the cardiologist in the new year.”

He would have, he said. He never got the chance, because of the heart attack just days later.

“The pathology on my heart came back as an extremely rare auto-immune disease. We have researched it after the fact – giant cell myocarditis. Giant cell typically results in sudden death. What causes it and how to prevent it are unknown. It's rare to diagnose it ahead of a heart attack.
“But that's another piece of luck. Because I survived a heart attack, they immediately started treating me with prednisone, a steroid – and one of the only treatments for giant cell is prednisone, so you can prolong your life until you get a transplant.”

A diagnosis of giant cell myocarditis automatically calls for being placed on the heart-transplant list, as there is no cure. But the good new is that it has no biological implications – no chance of it being hereditary.

The transplant is a gift of life, he said, but it does require maintenance beyond the medication. The health ordeal affected his liver and kidneys. Because of a 25% chance of a giant-cell recurrence, he is still on prednisone. He is in Toronto every three months for an echocardiogram, he sees a cardiologist every six months and he has blood work every month, not to mention seeing a Peterborough nephrologist to keep an eye on his kidneys.

But compared to 2015, he said, it's a picnic.

The prolonged hospitalization for his transplant caused terrible atrophy and loss of function. He was undergoing rehab in April, when he contracted pneumonia and sepsis and was rehospitalized at Toronto General. He was in a coma another six days.

He didn't really get to come home until Canada Day weekend that year. Of the first six month of 2015, he was not out of hospital for more than a couple of weeks. And during that time, he could count on his wife, his sister (Jennifer Arsenault) or his parents (Steve and Stephanie Mitchell) being at his bedside virtually every day.

Part of his luck was having that heart available, thanks to someone who had thought to become a donor.

“You have to think to do this, and telling your family is just as important as to register as a donor,” Mitchell stressed. “Because of our laws in Ontario the way they are, your family members can override your wish to be a donor. Even if you've checked that box, the family has the last say.

“In that time of grief, they may say, 'No, I don't want to be bothered with it' – because it's quite a process.”

What he hopes his story will accomplish is the awareness that saving lives or even just making a life-altering difference is as simple as visiting Have your health card handy, he said, and it takes less than two minutes. It will even tell you if you are already registered.

“It's such an easy thing to do,” he said.

And if you just want information, visit It's the Trillium website, representing the agency that oversees organ donation in Ontario. It's a great resource website with all the information you could want – including statistics for this area.

While the Trillium organization is aiming to have 58% of Ontario health-card holders registered as donors, that rate is 48% in both Cobourg and Port Hope. Mitchell is hoping to see that reach at least 50% soon.

Since 2015, Mitchell has supported the cause at high-profile events and smaller ones. This year, he will be at a special flag-raising April 1, and will make an appearance at the March meeting of Northumberland County council (with green ribbons for the councillors).