Real life: hockey isn’t what matters most

I’ve told the story before about how my life changed forever on Aug. 16, 2006, when I celebrated my 48th birthday and welcomed my son Sam into the world the very same day.

It’s a story I’ll likely tell again Thursday when Jason Gregor takes his show to the Stollery Childrens Hospital from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on TEAM 1260 as part of Astral Media’s annual telethon to raise funds.

It’s a story worth telling — I promise I’ll try not to cry like a big baby this time, just like I do every year — if it means helping the SCH, and other institutions like it, better provide the life-saving and life-changing services it does.

If you listen to the Jason Gregor Show, or any of the other Astral Media shows doing their part on-air today to help raise funds, you’ll hear heart-wrenching stories about sick children, their families and the dedicated doctors and care-givers who make a difference. Some of those stories have happy endings. Others do not. Many are ongoing.

The rest is up to you.

Making a difference

Sam turns four this August. He’s a happy, healthy, normal little boy in every way, right down to summoning this old sportswriter, my wife Analyn and brother Michael to the bathroom on a daily basis proclaiming yet more proof he’s mastered potty training.

While Michael will attend the University of Alberta this September, Sam will start junior-kindergarten, as Analyn and I have decided it’s about time to unleash him on unsuspecting teachers. We’ve registered Sam for baseball. His first game is May 5.

Like the old man, Sam loves cars. Not only can he point out a Mustang or a Corvette to you, he can do it by year and engine option. Sam wants to be a guitar player, just like his big brother. Of course, Sam loves hockey in general and the Oilers in particular — something to do with the puck Sam Gagner gave him, I suspect.

We have our happy ending. We’ve got the Royal Alexandra Hospital, where Sam spent the first three months of his life in the neonatal ICU after being born 12 weeks premature and weighing just two pounds, to thank for that. Likewise, the Stollery Children’s Hospital, where Sam had surgery to repair an abdominal defect before he finally came home.

If you know Sam’s story, you know about the expertise and technology that saved him and everything that happened in between. If you don’t, feel free to tune in Thursday.

Do what you can

Like I said, Analyn, Michael and I have our happy ending. Not everybody is as lucky. The brilliant work the SCH does, with all the heartaches and hope that go with it for families with sick children, is ongoing.

Some families don’t get to take their children home. Some families don’t get to say, "Thanks so much" and walk away for good with nothing but boundless gratitude for the life-saving work the SCU has done, with baseball and junior-kindergarten to think about. If it was only that easy.

If you want to take a break from hockey talk now that the first round of NHL playoffs is over, or if you’re weary of the Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin debate, then tune into Jason’s show — or any of the shows that’ll be broadcast from the SCH Thursday — and listen. If you’re so inclined, give what you can.

There are, as I became acutely aware at 7:11 p.m. on August 16, 2006 when Sam’s fight for life began, matters other than hockey worthy of our time and passion.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • easymoney

    look fwd to the show.
    thx for the reminder: funny how easily we lose perspective.
    I thank the heavens every chance I get for my 2 boys and I am quite grateful to be able to live our life in a place like Canada that makes places like the SCH possible.

  • Wow, good to hear your the Stollery was able to help your son out, and great to hear he’s doing well these days.

    The Stollery has a pretty amazing group of people there, from the stories I’ve heard from friends and other people.

  • Robin,

    As I said to you in my email, thanks for sharing Sam’s story with OilersNation. I never get tired of hearing it.

    I’ll be donating to the Stollery tomorrow during Jason’s show for sure. I encourage other Nationeers to do the same.

  • Clangger

    Robin, my oldest son is now 16 and he also spent time the the NICU in the Royal Alex when he was born. The doctors and nurses that work there will always be remembered for their kindness and dedication to the so important job they do. They are truly amazing!

  • BigE91

    Thanks for your story Robin. My father speaks about his story every year on the radio about his grandson Kalelan who lost his battle with cancer. The Stollery is a great hospital, and people who have had these stories need to share them.

    • Harlie

      I’m sorry for your loss.
      Not everybody gets the outcome we did with Sam despite the best efforts of places like the SCH.

      It tears my guts out to think of anybody losing a child. We witnessed it first-hand during the four months Sam and Analyn spent in the hospital.

      That’s all the more reason to support funding for research and technology.

  • Tracie

    Hey Robin,

    I can imagine how you feel…We adopted a little boy at birth and a month later found out he needed open heart surgery. He had the surgery on Feb 24, 2009 and now he is a very healthy 2 yr old! Without his beautiful zipper-like scar on his chest, you wouldn’t even know he was ever a sick little baby! It was amazing to be in the presence of greatness while we stayed at the Stollery. My boy, Elijah will always be my hero for being such a tough, courageous little guy, and the people at the Stollery will always have a piece of my heart. One of the things I remember most is when my little sister came to visit and we walked by the beach, which is a place that only sick kids are allowed to play in. We walked by and my sister heard all the screaming kids and she said, “Jeez, where are those kids parents, don’t they know that there are sick kids in this hospital that are trying to get better?” I told her that those WERE the sick kids and she was just amazed when she looked in and saw all these kids with IVs hooked up playing like nothing was wrong with them. The Stollery does an amazing job of helping to heal kids but I think the most amazing thing is that they work hard to make sure the kids don’t think they are in a hospital, they are just in a very cool play place that has a lot of doctors and nurses around – just in case.

    The Stollery needs alot of money for the equipment but the money also goes to making sure these kids don’t feel like they are in a hospital. The Stollery allows the kids to still be kids and have fun and I think that helps them concentrate on getting better, they don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves about being sick, they are having way too much fun.

    The Radiothons sure hit home for me, moreso now that I have two kids of my own. I am very thankful we have such a great facility so close to us. Thanks for doing this Gregor. I already donate but i will for sure be listening to your show, and crying my eyes out at the different stories!

    • Thanks for sharing your story.

      Anybody who has experienced the difference a place like SCH can make, and there are a lot of people who fall into that category, understand how vital it is the work continue.

      Advances in procedures, technology and equipment in just the last 10 years made it possible for Sam to survive. All of it costs money.

  • BigE91

    As a parent of a healthy 10 month old I haven’t had to experience the first class care at the Stollery, that being said the importance of the SCH can’t be understated. We all have friends or family who have needed the Stollery over the years and I’m pretty thankful there is a place like that in my own backyard.

    It would break my heart if the smiling little girl I see when I come home from work everyday was ever sick, but I take solace in the knowledge that the best help in the world for kids is right there in Edmonton.

  • I have been donating for the past few years. I don’t have any kids, but sooner or later I’m sure I will know a kid who has to spend some time in there.

    Seeing how the oilers aren’t in the play-offs, there should be a lot of disposable income in these parts that would be normally spent on pints of lager & heart burn causing chicken wings while watching our team.

    So I would challenge the rest of you to come up with an “Oilers play-off night out” donation. Mine is $100.

    If that isn’t your style, then through the miracle of technology, you can text a $5 donation. Text ASTRAL to 45678 (donation contribution will appear on your cellular phone bill).

    Or online here:

    • Jamie B.

      Thanks for posting the text number. Really wish I could match your $100 but tax season’s hitting hard this year. Not even I can make excuses over $5, so I hope people give whatever they can. If we all do it, it’ll add up.

      • The $5 text donation is just as good. I think you can do it up to 5 times. Pretty easy too.

        I feel you pain, I have a pretty big tax bill too, but just remember that next year you can use the donation a tax credit – as long as it isn’t on your phone bill. 😉

        Any money going to this charity would be appreciated by them. If every person who reads this blog gave even $5 it would be a substantial amount of money.

        • We donate to the SCH every month and it can be arrranged for anybody who desires to do it that way as well.

          If money is tight now, people can spread out a $100 or $200 donation, whatever the figure, over a year in equal amounts.

  • BigE91

    This is great to hear and a blessing to say the least. Your boy is adorable.

    I too was 3 months premature weighing less than 2 pounds. The old Victoria hospital in London Ontario still asks my mother about me. I am 30 years old now and I’m running strong! Back then it was uncalled for to survive under those conditions. They call me a miracle baby.

    My father was devastated that day. He almost lost both my mother and I since she had a stroke while having me. He too has a difficult time talking about it.

    Thank you

  • Homie

    My 4 month old daughter spent a couple nights in the pediatric ICU recovering from throat surgery earlier this year. She was by far the healthiest kid in there and we have never felt luckier. A lot of the children were recovering from heart and spine surgery, and weren’t able to move or speak because they were intubated.

    The short time we spent in there with our daughter was something I will never forget.

  • No Clue

    I have three kids, all healthy, however when my youngest son Ty was 4 months old he got sick.
    At first we noticed that his little tummy seemed distended, we took him to see the doctor, he was treated for constipation. Shortly after Ty got a cough, so back to the doctor. The older 2 had just gotten over croup, so we were told to treat Ty the same way (cool, humid air). It didn’t seem to work like it did for the other kids, and he got sicker.
    After work a couple of days later my wife came home to find Ty lethargic and pale. She rushed him to the ER and carried in our limp barely breathing 4 month old son. He had developed a severe respiratory infection, RSV, and was moving next to no air, another 15 minutes and he might not have made it.
    His stay at the Stollery was only 12 days, but for me it was an eternity! My wife never left his side, and the staff changed out his crib so she could sleep with him at night and cuddle with him during the day. I was at home with my other kids, and I have never felt so helpless and useless. I went to see Ty and my wife twice a day, and every time the staff greeted me with a reassuring smile and comforting words.
    As Ty’s breathing got easier, my wife and I began to relax about his condition, we started to notice everything else. We saw how every bed was taken with a sick kid and that there was always families around trying to figure out how to cope. For every one of those kids and their families the staff seemed to know what to say and how to say it, they are nothing short of amazing!
    Ty and the other kids are healthy and rambunctious, like they should be. They try my patience, and make me laugh. Whenever I think about our time at the Stollery it chokes me up. I am thankful for my kids health and for everything they did for us at the Stollery. My wife and I donate to the Stollery every chance we get.

  • Hungoverman

    I am a major lurker here and infrequent poster. My son has spent many days and nights at the Stollery battling ALL Leulemia and all of the folks who work in that hospital are amazing. I can appreciate your emotions Robin and thank you for telling your story every year!!! I get choked up listening to it and your pictures are heartwarming.

  • The Fish

    The Stollery is an amazing place. My son spent the first week of his life there. Luckily he was able to come home with us, but there are so many kids that don’t and I get choked up even thinking about that. I have made a donation this morning as I do every year for this event and encourage all to do the same.

  • Harlie

    Congrats to you and your healthy Family Robin!! I’m blessed with a wonderful Wife and two healthy boys as well. One is turning 3 this July and the other is almost 15 months old. Other than the lack of sleep due to the Wife and I waking up with two ankle biters snuggled up in every conceivable direction and position in our bed almost every morning, we are all doing well. And no matter how much money I make or what new thing we buy the most important thing to our Family is spending time together and making sure we are all healthy.

    Knowing that we are truly blessed by our good fortune Family wise and career wise we decided a few years ago to sponsor a little Girl in Haiti through WorldVision. Also, we continue to support and will be supporting this year the excellent Stollery hospital and other Charities that we come across through the year that we feel the urge to give to. (the Lunch for Kids program is a favorite as well).

    So give what you can everyone. It will make you feel great and it will make the people you are helping feel even better. Health and happiness to one and all!

  • Harlie

    I could share the same kinda story as per my son Robin. I know how you feel. IMO doctors and nurses should receive alot more thanks for what they do. That being said it really truly is amazing what they can accomplish. Its amazing how fast a guy forgets what they do for you when you are in need. Even I’m a little guilty of it. Thanks for bringing this up even though I try to forget how hard the first couple months of his life really were. Could never tell now and maybe thats how a guy forgets.

  • Mitch

    Robin I’ve been with my uncle to the clinics to have his kidney checked out, as he has had a transplant. In the real world yes life is way more important than any hockey, nice to here your little man is doing well. Great to know we have world class facilities around us.

  • Mitch

    Robin I’ve been with my uncle to the clinics to have his kidney checked out, as he has had a transplant. In the real world yes life is way more important than any hockey, nice to here your little man is doing well. Great to know we have world class facilities around us.

  • A wonderful story Robin and best of all one with a happy ending.

    My wife works at Sick Kids here in Toronto. The people who work at children’s hospitals have a difficult and often brutal job. It can also be extremely rewarding because of the kids that do survive, like Sam.

    Best of luck today.

  • westy

    The SCH is truly an amazing institution and though I am the proud father of a 10 month old and thankfully have not had to use their services, a good friend of ours did when their baby had a stroke moments after being born. Let’s just say, that if the Stollery staff hadn’t flown to Red Deer in blizzard conditions to rescue baby, things would not have ended as happily as they did.

    I was happy to make my $100 donation (and wonder why I don’t do it more often)…

  • westy

    I don’t work with pediatric patients but do work in acute healthcare in a hospital and I see the benefits of these types of tele/radiothons daily. Everyone will either use his or herself, or have someone in their life who will use these services/technology at some point. Great cause, give what you can.