Donor Spotlight: Susanna Jouwstra


“I got here on a Monday, and by Tuesday, I’d made up my mind that I was going to donate,” Susanna Jouwstra says when asked about her rehabilitation experience at West Park. “I never even knew about this place until a couple of months ago.”

At 74, Susanna has had a very busy life. She worked as the secretary treasurer for the Cattlemen’s Association, and was married to a farmer. Her husband passed away from cancer 12 years ago, and then Susanna got her own diagnosis: lung and liver cancer. She has since had surgery on her liver and left lung, and radiation and chemo on her right lung. But then her doctors discovered cancer in her pancreas.

Susanna was being treated at Sunnybrook Hospital when she was referred to West Park’s Respiratory Rehabilitation Service. She needed to increase her breathing capacity before she could have surgery on her pancreas. Her respiratory rehab included breathing classes, walking with weights, and circuit training on a treadmill and bike.

"I got here on a Monday, and by Tuesday, I’d made up my mind that I was going to donate."

“My breathing: it was amazing how it had changed, and how I felt afterwards,” Susanna says. “At home I didn’t do very much because I couldn’t breathe, and so I didn’t do anything. And here, they make you get up and do things. It is fabulous.”

Her rehab experience has been made even better by the exceptional care and attention she has received from West Park staff.

“I can’t say enough about the staff: they make you feel like they care about you. They make you feel like you’re really something,” Susanna says. “They treat you as a human being; they don’t just treat you as ‘oh heck, here comes another one.’ That’s why I gave. That’s why I think this place has got to be recognized more.”

Susanna is excited to keep sharing her positive experience once she returns home to Cobourg, Ont.

“We’ve got to let people know that you don’t have to die,” she says. “How wonderful that is to be given an extended life!”