By BRETT POIRIER
Sept. 23, 2014
SUMMERSIDE – Warren Ellis was laying on the ground, the victim of a car accident. He had no pulse.
“The first people on the scene took their coats off and put it over my face,” Ellis said.
They thought he was dead.
Ellis was rushed to Prince County Hospital, fighting for his life.
“I was supposed to be airlifted to Halifax, but a doctor got on the phone with a surgeon from there and they were able to save me.”
That was 42 years ago and Ellis credits the hospital staff for saving his life.
“I pulled through because of that hospital.”
Ever since, he has been looking to repay the hospital. He found it.
The sixth annual Grass Roots and Cowboy Boots fundraising gala was held Sept. 16 and it was a million dollar night for the hospital foundation, pulling in $1,465,049.
Ellis, a local businessman, founded the event, and he’s thrilled it’s still taking place in the city.
“I’m so excited I don’t know how to express it. There was a lot of ups and downs getting support for this but it all came together in the end.”
Ellis donates everything from the food to the Jeep Wrangler given away as a door prize.
More than 1,100 people were at Eastlink Arena at Credit Union Place for the lobster and steak dinner followed by an auction and live entertainment.
P.E.I. premier Robert Ghiz announced the province would match $500,000 in donations each of the next two years, paving the way for up to $1 million for the foundation.
Another major contribution came from Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL). The company pledged to donate $200,000 over the next several years.
There were plenty of stories told at the event, perhaps none more compelling than the Mendoza family’s struggles.
The family of four has been in and out of hospitals for as long as they can remember.
Cindy and Alan, along with their sons, Tanner and Mitch, often find themselves spending more time in a hospital than at their own home.
Mitch, 20, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease while in elementary school and Tanner, 18, has battled many illnesses, including a digestive disorder.
The family has made more than 80 trips to the IWK in Halifax over the years caring for their sons.
Each time the Summerside hospital can assist, it’s a huge weight lifted off their shoulders, Cindy said.
“PCH allowed us to have friends and family visit. To sleep in your own bed and continue that level of normality is priceless.”
Not every procedure or check-up can be done on P.E.I., but as her children get older they’re now able to stay home much more often.
Cindy recalls one incident where she felt as confident leaving her son with the staff in Summerside as she did in Halifax. Mitch was going into surgery and Cindy and Alan weren’t sure what to expect.
“One nurse turned to me and said ‘We’ll treat your son like he’s our own.’”
Cindy began to cry.
“They do everything in their power to make you comfortable.”
The Mendoza’s were the poster family for the hospital foundation this year, telling their story and supporting the hospital whenever they got the chance.
“We wanted give back however we could. The hospital did so much for us, now it’s our turn to help.”
Donations poured in during the five-hour event, everything from a local resident donating $10 to a corporation giving $10,000. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to help.
Gordon Coffin, president of the hospital foundation, had one word for Saturday: “Phenomenal.”
“It’s wonderful to see such a great turnout. The support from the community was great.”
The money raised will be distributed throughout the year as hospital staff decide what medical equipment is most needed.
Seeing so many people at the event shows the impact the hospital has had on the community, Coffin said.
“In some places most people don’t care about the hospital until they’re calling 911.”