In its early days, respiratory technologist Fred Sander was invited to help Heart Institute founder Dr. Keon in his research.
It was the late 1960s, and Fred was an employee at the Civic Hospital. (Back then, before the Heart Institute had its own respiratory team, Fred would occasionally provide ventilation for Heart Institute patients.)
Meanwhile, Vivien was also in the healthcare field, working at the Civic as a dialysis nurse and occasionally visiting the Heart Institute.
“Sometimes I would also go to the Heart Institute to treat patients, because some would have acute renal failure after surgery,” she recalls.
Vivien admits she and Fred didn’t talk much about their time with the Civic Hospital or Heart Institute. However, that was deliberate. With both spouses working in the same industry and hospitals, they decided to keep work and home separate, “so we could have our own life outside of work.”
Comfort and care
Fred’s health began to deteriorate in the early 1990s. After experiencing his first heart attack in 1991, he was forced to retire—and became a regular patient at the Heart Institute.
“We went there for angioplasties, stents, and eventually a triple bypass,” says Vivien. “It was a lot; we’ve had quite a life with the Heart Institute.”
One particular memory which occurred following Fred’s triple bypass surgery stands out in Vivien’s memory.
“I knew some of the nurses there, and one of them said I could come and sit with Fred for a few hours,” she recalls. “I thought that was so compassionate. Being a nurse is so much different when it’s your spouse. The nurses were so good to me there; they just let me sit there and would bring me a cup of tea.”
“Not only did they look after Fred, but they looked after me too,” she adds. “That’s the thing—the Heart Institute looks after the families as well. We experienced their care firsthand, but also saw the good care they gave other people.”
When it was time to leave Fred for the night, Vivien recalls being given a phone number.
“The nurses told me to call at anytime—whether it was 2, 3 or 4 in the morning. They reassured me, and I was able to go to bed knowing he would be okay. It gave me great comfort.”
“In fact, any time Fred had to go into the Heart Institute, I always felt very comfortable. It was a relief because I knew he’d be in a place where they could properly care for him. I could be totally relaxed. That’s the one thing that will always be in my memory—how good the Heart Institute always was to us.”
Sadly, Fred passed away in 2016. This year, Fred and Vivien would have celebrated their 46th anniversary.
“He loved being at home in the country, being with the animals, going to the cottage, and gardening,” Vivien says in describing her late husband. “In fact, before he got sick, Fred would always be working in the garden—if you showed up unannounced, he’s probably have a shovel in his hand.”
An immigrant from East Germany, Fred was a relatively quiet man, but enjoyed socializing with his close-knit group of friends. However, says Vivien, “he did like going to Oktoberfest for the beer and polka dancing—and if he was in our group, he would often be the one talking all the time.”
A lasting legacy
Fred and Vivien supported the Heart Institute, making donations and throughout the years and with a Legacy Gift included in Fred’s will that will be used to support equipment purchases and education. In 2017, through Fred’s legacy and Vivien’s ongoing support, The Fred and Vivien Sander Fund for Nursing Education was established to support Heart Institute nurses’ professional development.
“Having been a head nurse and seeing how medicine is moving so fast, I know it’s very important that nurses receive extra education,” she says. “Nursing has to keep up—that’s the only way you keep up with medicine and the best nursing care possible. But you don’t learn all of that at school.
“Meanwhile, hospitals are under restraints when it comes to sending nurses on for additional education,” she adds. “So this fund will be there for nurses to tap into, if they are looking for extra training to become better cardiology nurses.”
The first awarding will happen later this year—and will be available to any nursing staff at the Heart Institute who wishes to pursue professional development.
Looking to the future
Recently, Vivien attended the Heart Institute’s Community Open House event to view the hospital’s new state-of-the-art facility.
“My eyes popped when I saw it; I was so impressed by the light and openness and expanse of the building,” she says. “And, putting my nurse’s cap on, it was wonderful to see the technology. Patients will not have to be opened from the chest anymore—surgery can be done through smaller incisions, and post-operative care will be so much easier.”
Vivien also believes the layout and features of the building will help patients with recovery, simply by being in it.
“I went to the fourth floor, where they have an open deck where patients can go outside and get fresh air,” she said. “And having all those windows and light will help with their circadian rhythm—which will help with recovery so much more.
“I really was blown away; it’s just beautiful. And I know Fred would have loved seeing that new hospital.”