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Joey, Journey and Jan Salmingo

The Salmingo family has a long history with Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH), experiencing their best moments and their most difficult at the hospital.

Diana Salmingo worked as a registered nurse (RN) at MSH for 30 years. After retiring, she came back to help out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has since retired — again. Her daughter, Joanna, was cared for at MSH, before her tragic death. And her son Joey and his wife, Jan, chose to have their baby at MSH’s The Stollery Family Centre for Childbirth & Children.

“I have so many special memories of my daughter, Joanna,” says Diana. “She was such a caring person who always put others first. She was a shoulder to cry on. On a bad day, she would give me a hug and say, ‘everything is going to be OK.’”

But one night, in the summer of 2018, things weren’t OK.

Joanna had unknowingly eaten a dessert that contained cashew milk, which caused a severe allergic reaction. She always carried an EpiPen with her, and used it that night, but it didn’t work.

“I saw her face as her throat was closing up,” says Joanna’s brother, Joey. “I watched our mom administer CPR while I frantically called 911.” By the time the paramedics got Joanna’s heart beating again, her brain had been deprived of oxygen for at least 15 minutes.

For more than two weeks, they sat by Joanna’s bedside in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at MSH, praying for her to wake up. Joanna passed away 17 days later. She was 30 years old.

“Losing Joanna was one of the most devastating moments of my family’s life,” says Joey. “But we didn’t face it alone. The incredible staff in the ICU had taken excellent care of my sister. They had kept her comfortable while they closely monitored her condition. They had also taken care of us. If I could give every one of them a hug, I would. The staff was there for one of the worst moments in our lives and had become like family.”

After Joanna was taken off life support, her kidneys, liver and heart were donated to save more lives. “I find solace in knowing my sister’s heart continues to beat today,” he says.

But their story doesn’t end there.

Before his sister’s death, Joey received an email from one of Joanna’s childhood friends, Jan, who had heard Joanna was in the hospital and wanted to help.

Joey hadn’t seen Jan for about 15 years, until she came to Joanna’s bedside. “It was the day I met Jan again, and that’s where our journey together begins.”

As the two spent more and more time together, lunches turned to dinners. “Through her death, my sister brought Jan and I together. Our love grew out of memories of Joanna,” he says.

In 2020, when they discovered Jan was pregnant, they all knew the baby would be born at MSH. “After all, MSH isn’t just a hospital. It’s our hospital,” says Diana. “I knew my grandchild would be surrounded by top-notch people and equipment when she came into the world.”

On May 25, 2021, at 11:11 p.m., Jan gave birth to Journey Skye Salmingo — a baby girl with a full head of hair — in the very same hospital where they had said goodbye to Joanna.

“Journey Skye came into the world surrounded by the smiles of every person in the room,” says Joey. “Diagnosed with jaundice, our baby girl got amazing care. And we felt completely safe and comfortable even during the pandemic.

Once again, MSH was there for another of my life’s biggest moments.”

Diana wasn’t surprised by the care her family received. “I was a nurse at MSH from the day it opened until my retirement in 2020,” she says. “I know how deeply the staff care. For every person who works there, the patient always comes first.”

She also knows, as an RN, that donor support is critical. Many people assume hospitals are completely funded by the government, but that isn’t the case. Donor support helps hospitals buy the cutting-edge equipment and technology doctors, nurses and support staff rely on to provide the best possible care to their patients.

This holiday season, MSH is asking for donor support to purchase three new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Central Monitors for MSH’s state-of-the-art NICU and a new C-Arm machine for the hospital’s Interventional Radiology Suite at lifesavinggifts.ca.

Story from Saturday, December 18, 2021Toronto Star.