Kaufmans Legacy Gift Honours Humanitarian Couple’s Commitment to Education and Philanthropy

Legacy Gift Honours Humanitarian Couple’s Commitment to Education and Philanthropy

Dr. Hyman (Hy) Kaufman and his wife, Dr. Sylvia Van Straten Kaufman spent their lives committed to making a powerful impact on future generations. A shared passion for philanthropy, research, and education, together with a strong belief in the potential of rapid developments in cardiology, inspired the Kaufmans to leave a legacy with a generous gift to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Often, the choice to leave a legacy gift in your Will stems from each donor’s personal experience – the Kaufmans were no different. In 1980, following Hy’s retirement from McGill University where he was a Professor of Mathematics (and where he and Sylvia met and married in 1959), the Kaufmans moved to Ottawa. In 1988, Hy became a patient of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute as a result of a heart attack. In 1995, he underwent double bypass surgery and an aortic valve replacement – the Kaufman’s Endowment Fund and the beginning of their legacy would begin just 5 years later.

The Drs. Kaufman started the Dr. Hyman and Dr. Sylvia Van Straten Kaufman Endowment Fund at the Heart Institute in 2000 and for over 15 years, the fund supported the Institute’s annual Kaufman Grand Round Lecture, enabling medical professionals to learn, grow, and exchange knowledge and ideas. Many esteemed lecturers have participated in this annual event, including specialists from world-class hospitals such as The Cleveland Clinic, and from as far away as Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

In addition, the Kaufmans’ legacy gift supported the creation of the Dr. Hyman and Dr. Sylvia Van Straten Kaufman and Dr. Kwan-Leung Chan Fellowship in Echocardiography. This fellowship honours the Kaufmans’ wishes to transform their legacy gift so that it would have greater impact on research and education in the field of cardiac medicine.

The Kaufmans’ gift also had significant impact on the Heart Institute’s new building, slated for completion in March of 2018. Their gift contributed to the purchase of highly specialized medical equipment, and to development and outfitting of patient-focused care facilities such as the unique and innovative Hybrid Operating Room.

The Kaufmans were academics – Hy held Ph.D.s in Mathematics and Physics while Sylvia’s Ph.D. was in Chemistry – who also shared a deep love and appreciation for art in all forms: music, poetry, painting and more. Four paintings created by the couple, two each by Hy and Sylvia, now adorn the walls of the Kaufman Training Centre at Hillel Lodge, yet another example of the Kaufman’s commitment to leaving a legacy in and for their community.

Both Hy and Sylvia displayed their humanity by impacting others through education and charitable giving throughout their lives. Hy continued to grow the fund at the Heart Institute in her honour after Sylvia’s passing in 2006 and, following Hy’s passing in 2014, the full extent of their gift was conferred upon the Heart Institute and it is our esteemed honour to continue their legacy.


When you leave a legacy gift to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation, you become a member of the Wilbert J. Keon Legacy Society and will become part of providing ongoing support that funds patient care, research, The Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre, the most urgent needs of the Heart Institute, among other initiatives and innovations. Your gift will not only help save and improve the lives of others, but it will help you to leave a lasting legacy you can be proud of. To learn more about including the Heart Institute in your Will, please contact the Legacy Gifts team at 613-696-7251 or wjklegacysoceity@ottawaheart.ca

A Newfoundland couple’s story of strength, compassion, and a new heart.

It is fitting that Donna Connolly hails from Newfoundland, because her strength is like a rock. But even a feisty, determined woman like Donna needed the Heart Institute — and she and her husband Greg urge others across Canada to seek out its services, and to give generously.

On a typical Saturday night, Greg and Donna Connolly sat down to watch Greg’s favourite show, “Mantracker”. After a playful back and forth where Greg mentioned that if he had to watch Donna’s soap operas, she could watch “Mantracker”, the couple laughed, and he turned his head back to the television. Suddenly he heard a loud gasp, “it was like a seal”, Greg said. He looked over at Donna. “When I looked, she was dead. I was sure.”

“I could feel my heart stop and everything slowly stopped down through my body, and I remember falling back, and I don’t remember anything after that, until I was on the ambulance stretcher”, said Donna.  “Then I heard Greg’s voice.” Donna had a defibrillator and a pacemaker, both of which were inserted 12 years ago as a precaution while she was in St. John’s. “If I didn’t have [the pacemaker/defibrillator] that night I would be in heaven now”, she said.

Donna and her husband Greg came to the Heart Institute a few months ago, so that Donna could benefit from a heart transplant. Having suffered for years from heart failure, broken bones due to blackouts, shortness of breath, and heavy coughing, Donna’s heart was at 18% capacity when a doctor in her home province of Newfoundland broke the news to her. “My darling, you’re a lot lower than that”, Donna recalled the doctor saying. “I have to tell you something, and it’s not very nice to tell you, but I don’t give you a year to live.” He told her she needed a heart transplant.

Within three weeks, Greg and Donna had found a temporary home  in Ottawa, and meeting with Dr. Davies and Dr. Yip for a full workup. By the time they arrived, Donna’s heart capacity had dropped to 9%, and she was added to the transplant list. During this time, Greg couldn’t help but think, “I came up here, and I figured I was going home alone.”

While waiting for a donor heart that was the proper size and matched her blood type, Donna continued to experience the blackouts she had suffered from for years. One night she fell. “My leg went underneath me, and I broke the tib and the fib (tibia and fibula) — both at the ankle”, Donna said. After being rushed to the emergency room, Donna was told that they wouldn’t be able to operate because her heart was too weak. They cast her leg and her recovery lasted over two months, during which time she couldn’t sit or bear weight. Due to the cast on her leg, she came off the transplant list. Donna wondered if she would “get through this”, but with constant check-ins from Jackie Grenon and other Heart Institute staff, she began to feel hopeful. Eventually, Donna’s cast changed to a walking boot, and she was placed back on the transplant list.

A week later, the Connollys got the call. “I was sitting there one evening and the phone rang, it was the nurse practitioner and she said, ‘We have a heart for you, can you come?’ I was there in 15 minutes — I washed my hair first — you can’t go out without your hair washed!” Donna’s strength is matched only by her fun-loving nature, and her deep love for her husband, Greg. The Connollys are exactly what you would expect of a couple in love from Newfoundland — friendly, down-to-earth, and humble.

After a long delay, as the donor’s family was not yet ready to let go of their loved one, a team retrieved the heart and it was time for Donna’s surgery. All of her nervousness went away when she met the anaesthesiologist who would prepare her for surgery. Dr. Sohmer’s jokes about Newfoundland relaxed her immediately. Due to this rapport, Donna ended up with the nickname “Madonna the Newfie”, and promised Dr. Sohmer and her surgeon, Dr. Boodwhani that she would gift them each with a bottle of screech after her surgery.

The Connollys were amazed by the compassionate care provided by the staff, and the humanity they were shown.  Donna sums it up, “well, if you ever met anybody in your life, that could take you from dead to living, it was Dr. Ben Sohmer.”

When Donna was admitted to surgery, her heart capacity had plunged to 7% and it was estimated that she had two hours to live. “They said it was the worst heart they had ever seen”, said Donna, “they didn’t know how it was beating.”

Before the surgery, her kidneys were starting to fail and she says she could actually smell her own heart rotting from the inside. “My heart was enlarged three times as big as it should have been, because it was beating so hard, it was enlarging itself, and the right side was doing the work for both”, said Donna.

Although she had been experiencing signs of heart failure for over 19 years, Donna was not sent to the Heart Institute until the situation was dire. Now she and Greg agree that it should have been sooner. Greg urged, “People have to know that this is available. They have to say to their doctor — what about the Heart Institute? Can you get me up there? Do I need to go up there? The main thing is — ask questions.” Donna agrees, “and you have to complain — it’s something I didn’t do — I was never a complainer.”

The couple may not agree on television shows, but one thing they agree on wholeheartedly is the impact the Heart Institute made on their lives: “The Heart Institute was just fantastic. They were with us every step of the way. It was unreal”, said Greg.

“Oh my God, the treatment I got, was like second to none”, added Donna. “It was like from the time I got in the door, till I came out the door — it was unbelievable.”

“I never saw care, or was given care, like I was given here”, Donna professed. “If I won the lottery today, they would get half of what I won. Because they deserve it. ” Greg added that they truly felt seen and heard by all of the staff, and not treated like a number. When Donna’s surgeon, Dr. Boodwhani called Greg after her surgery, Greg was impressed: “when he called me after surgery, he didn’t just say, she made it, and that’s it — he took the time to talk to me. He had time for me.”

The excellent care did not stop with the doctors. “The nurses have compassion for you — they feel. They’re not just there to do a job”, said Greg.  “They’re angels.” echoed Donna.  “I can’t get over how kind they were to me.” Greg added: “they also looked after me — not only did they look after her, but they never forgot about me.”

“I take my hat off to them, I really do. I can’t thank them enough, even down to the lady who came into the room to clean up”, said Greg. Both Donna and Greg struggle to find the words to truly thank The Heart Institute. “I can’t give back enough to say thank you — for what they gave us”, said Donna.

“They gave me life.”

“They gave us life”, Greg added.

In addition to the doctors, nurses, and staff at The Heart Institute, it goes without saying that Donna’s heart transplant would not have been possible without her donor. “Whoever gave me the chance at a second life — God bless them, because I pray for their soul every night”, she said. Donna credits her faith, strength, and relationship with her husband for helping her through this experience. “I thank God for my faith — next is my strength”, she said. “Even though I went through all that, I never once thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

Donna’s message for others who may be facing what she went through is to think positively: “Don’t ever give up because if you give up — you’re finished. Fight to the bitter end.” She adds,It was my faith, my strength, and my better half here — he was with me 100% of the way. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner if I could invent one.”

The Heart Institute’s Urgent Equipment Needs: How Our Community is Stepping Up

On January 5, 2015, shovels broke ground on the largest expansion in the history of the Heart Institute.  Fast forward 2.5 years and the building frame, walls, and windows are up which means that 145,000 sq feet of new operating space is nearing completion.  As teams of doctors and nurses prepare for the big move in April 2018, the community is doing everything they can to make sure that essential life saving tools are waiting for them when they arrive.

Donations by phone, mail, and online continue to demonstrate that the philanthropic spirit is very much alive in Ottawa and the surrounding region.  As the community hears about the Heart Institute’s need for equipment, they are responding as only the people of this region would – generously and from the heart.

One man in particular, Jack Keyes, has gone above and beyond to help ensure the doctors and nurses have the vital equipment they need to treat thousands of patients each year.  Jack, a life-long resident of Gananoque, was first introduced to the Heart Institute when his brother, Richard, was a heart patient.  Grateful for the care Richard received and witnessing the care given to so many other patients, Jack decided that he would purchase a new piece of equipment for the Heart Institute each year.

In 2016/2017 alone, the Heart Institute received more than 220,000 patient visits. Jack knows the impact equipment can have for those patients and how crucial these purchases are for the new clinical tower.  This year, Jack gave an incredible $100,000 for the Heart Institute to buy a new Portable Heart Lung System.  These systems, essential to the daily operation of the Institute, monitor important blood parameters including blood oxygen saturation and hemoglobin, as well as arterial and venous blood temperature- essentially these machines are like a guardian angel watching over each patient.  When asked what he hopes his generosity will accomplish, Jack responds, “My chief priority is ensuring the new building is equipped to save as many lives as possible.  Second, I hope my contributions will inspire others to give back as well.”

Although the new clinical tower is nearing completion, this is not where the story ends. In fact, it is after April 2018 when the true work will begin. Thanks to donors like Jack, the Heart Institute is on a path to success. However, there is still much more that needs to be done, so that when the doors open and the lights go on, the Heart Institute is ready for the next chapter.

With just a few months to go, the excitement is palpable – for both staff and the community. With visionary leaders like Jack giving transformational gifts we know that the community is stepping up in a big way.

“We make a living by what we get, but make a life by what we give”. – Winston Churchill

Peter (Petros) Foustanellas

We are saddened by the passing of Mr. Peter (Petros) Foustanellas, one of the Heart Institute’s greatest and most generous friends. His unwavering support has inspired many in our community and can be seen in the legacy he leaves us with here at the Heart Institute.  In giving his name to our state-of-art auditorium, our life-saving cardiac surgery suite, and to the creation of a lectureship in his name, Mr. Foustanellas has made lasting contributions that will stand the test of time.

We will forever be grateful for his support, and for his friendship. On behalf of the entire Heart Institute Family, our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones.


February WAS Heart Month 2017

February is Heart Month and it provided an amazing opportunity to bring people together to raise awareness – and essential funds – for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Our sincere thanks to our sponsors, community champions, partners, event organizers and participants, volunteers, and donors.

Wrap Up Image eblast

Our new building – the Heart Institute’s first major expansion since its founding more than 40 years ago – will be completed in early 2018. This expansion will allow the Heart Institute to address patient needs for the long term, treating more patients on an ongoing basis with an increased focus on specialized cardiac needs. As the building nears completion, our focus is on purchasing the highly specialized equipment it will require.

Thank you for supporting the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation. Your generosity goes straight to the heart of care in your community because we simply couldn’t do what we do, without you!

At the Heart of Heart Month

It is a busy, fun, and exciting time for the Heart Institute Foundation’s  dynamic duo: The Events Team.  Sarah and Lindsay wanted to let you in on what goes behind the scenes as they conduct all that Heart Month magic.

Take a look:
So what exactly are we up to as we head into February??  Where does the fun begin?  It begins months in advance as we start connecting with people from all over Ottawa and the surrounding areas, simply because they want to support the Heart Institute,  either through sponsorship, hosting or attending a community event, by making a donation, or by being part of the Paper Hearts campaigning and selling paper hearts to their clients and customers.

Ah hearts! We are all about HEARTS: paper hearts, poster hearts, online hearts, giving with heart – It’s all about HEARTS!

Every person we talk to has their own idea of how they would like to offer their support and we get to hear all about the fun ideas and concepts – anything from hosting a gala event with a featured performance by a Heart Institute doctor (www.musicfortheheart.ca) to in-store fashion shows with former-patient models (www.shepherdsfashions.com), sales events (www.viensavecmois.ca), and everything in between. We love connecting and helping to make each event a success.

We also work with local businesses, restaurants, and retailers on the Paper Hearts campaign which allows  you to be part of supporting Heart month while you are out supporting local businesses.  Many of the businesses with Paper hearts for sale are listed on our website.

We are so thrilled to be working with strong corporate supporters again this year AND, if you visit www.FebruaryIsHeartMonth.ca to make a donation, you will see that your donation may be matched by one of our generous corporate match sponsors.

You have probably heard or seen Heart Month on Bell Media radio and TV stations including: Majic 100, New Country 94, 580 CFRA, and CTV Ottawa.  We have been working with them, and our sponsors, to showcase what we have in store for you all month long. PLUS the Bell Media group will host our Heart Month Wrap Up Celebration, honouring our community’s success.

And all this is just the beginning!

We are so fortunate to be able to connect with so many amazing community champions.  This is a special time of year when we are reminded, time and time again, how the Heart Institute has touched the lives of so many.  In our role, we have a unique opportunity to connect with so many people all over the city – from our many service clubs, retirement homes, local businesses and corporate partners.  We hear wonderful stories about how the Heart Institute has saved loved ones and we also hear from grateful patients.  What better way to keep us all connected?

We can’t wait to attend the many Heart Month events in February and make this Heart Month a great success!

– Lindsay Firestone and Sarah Maclaren

Maxime Lê Knew He Could Help

We secured 26 treatment carts thanks to you, and two of those carts were purchased through Maxime Lê’s crowdfunding campaign!

Maxime is a second-year university student at the University of Ottawa. If he is not busy with assignments or hanging out with friends, he is with his grandfather, a patient at the Heart Institute. Every Thursday, Maxime drives his grandfather to the Heart Institute for his weekly check-up.

One day as Maxime was waiting in the patient outclinic for his grandfather, he picked up the September issue of our Foundation Connection. In it, we listed a number of the pieces of equipment our doctors and nurses desperately needed before the end of the year.

Maxime looked at the mobile treatment cart and believed he could manage to get two for the Heart Institute. In mid-November, Maxime set up his crowdfunding page and within a matter of days, he had reached his goal!

We want to sincerely thank Maxime for giving with heart and everyone who contributed to his campaign.

Watch his story!

26 mobile treatment carts

Treatment carts are used in all areas of the Heart Institute to house and store the everyday supplies that clinicians need to provide, prompt, safe, and effective patient care.

Read the 2015-2016 Annual Report.

The Life You Touched: Helen’s Story

Helen attended her first meeting with the Women@Heart program in July. “At first, I didn’t feel like I belonged there,” she says. “But after attending a few sessions, I began to learn more about heart disease and its impact on women.”

Helen wasn’t aware that she had “SCAD”. SCAD stands for Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, which is a rare condition that occurs when a tear forms in one of the blood vessels in the heart.

“I felt fine in the morning. I was heading to take a shower when I started not feeling well,” she says. “It hit me very fast. I even cancelled a couple of appointments because I wasn’t feeling well at all. And then the chest pains started.”

Helen called her husband who immediately advised her to call 9-1-1. She was having a heart attack. While doctors knew she had had a heart attack, they couldn’t determine what had triggered it. Then they did an angiogram and discovered she had SCAD. She was cleared to go home the next day and provided medication and a referral to cardiac rehab to support her recovery.

Doctors and the team at the Prevention and Rehabilitation clinic encouraged Helen to join the Women@Heart program, but she was hesitant at the beginning. “I didn’t want to go. I’m a problem solver and I am curious by nature, but everyone kept saying to just try it so I did.”

Less than 20 per cent of women go to the Rehab clinic at the Heart Institute and yet, statistics show that women are more at risk of dying of heart attack following their initial medical intervention. Helen says that women are often overwhelmed with the information they receive once they leave the hospital. Others simply choose not to seek assistance, and return to their daily routine.

Helen participated in her first Women@Heart meeting in July. She liked it so much that she did her training to become a Peer Leader and graduated last November.

“The Women@Heart group is not just about sharing information. There’s a whole self-management process that needs to take place once a patient is out of the hospital. Unfortunately, women just don’t have the time to take care of themselves. The Women@Heart program allows women to absorb information and what’s great about it is that we convene every two weeks.”

Luckily, along with the Women@Heart program, the Centre offers various tools to help women take control of their heart health, like the CardioPrevent program and now the Virtual Care Program. Since following the program, Helen feels like a changed woman and is more confident about her health. More importantly, she’s made some lifelong friends who meet regularly for tea outside of meeting hours. Helen is eager to spread the word and encourages other women to educate themselves on heart disease.

“This program is absolutely worth it. It is a strong program that combines education, coping tools, knowledge and builds confidence. It links the mental with the physical which is so important for heart patients. Best of all, every participant contributes just as much.”\

Watch her story:

Read the 2015-2016 Annual Report.