How medical professionals, bakers and florists are making an impact during the COVID-19 pandemic

CBC Toronto wants to introduce you to all the people making a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic through a series we’re calling Front-line Heroes.

Each day, we introduce a new face on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages, giving the person a shout-out for their important work. At the end of the week, you can find their stories here.

This week’s heroes range from dedicated medical professionals to a florist aiding engaged couples, to a baker with a sweet proposition to thank front-line workers.

We want to hear your stories, too.

If you’d like to tell us about your front-line hero, send us a video explaining why they’re a hero to you. Or you can send a short description to [email protected] Be sure to include a few photos of the person either way.

Dr. Nour Khatib

Dr. Nour Khatib also shares information and data on COVID-19 on her social media pages. (Submitted by Yasmine Hassan)

Even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Nour Khatib couldn’t imagine being anywhere other than the hospital, says her friend Yasmine Hassan.

Khatib is an emergency room physician in Oshawa, Ont., and “in the 13 years I’ve known her, she’s always been the bravest person I’ve ever met. She’s facing this head on and never ever reveals how nervous she is,” says Hassan.

“She’s always in high spirits when I call her after a shift and always tries to reassure myself and everyone around her that we’re going to be okay.”

Khatib’s constant reminder, Hassan says: Stay home, and you can save lives too.

Laura Kelly

Laura Kelly is ‘smart, kind, compassionate and possesses a gentle spirit of calm, especially now,’ according to Liz Loftus, the district executive director of the Victorian Order of Nurses. (Submitted by the Victorian Order of Nurses)

Sitting in self-isolation after a trip to Mexico in early March, Laura Kelly worried about not being there for her patients and fellow nurses, says her “mother-in-love” Susan Taylor. 

Kelly works with the Peterborough division of the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) for Canada, a non-profit organization that provides health care to Canadians in their own homes.

“With growing concerns about the lack of [personal protective equipment] … she and other VON’s are literally risking their own health to help others,” Taylor says.

“She’s an absolutely incredible nurse.”

Thankfully, Kelly is back on the front line after completing her two weeks of quarantine and testing negative for COVID-19. With one obstacle down, Taylor says there’s another life-long task she wants to see completed.

“We’re hoping she will be our daughter-in-law in the not too distant future. We absolutely adore her!”

Andrea Johnson

Andrea Johnson is the owner of Andrea Johnson Floral Design in the Beaches. She wants to help couples who’ve had to re-arrange their wedding plans create floral arrangements at home. 1:33

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of many weddings, Andrea Johnson wants to ensure couples who do go ahead with virtual ceremonies can still have a beautiful backdrop.

That’s why she’s offering free consultations on how to create do-it-yourself floral arrangements through her business, Andrea Johnson Floral Design.

Johnson’s mother, Krystyna Kwiecinski, says her daughter is finding ways to spread “love, kindness and joy” during the pandemic, despite her own struggles as a new business owner.

Last month, Johnson also attached notes of positivity and love to bouquets of flowers, leaving them out for others in The Beach community in east-end Toronto to take for free. 

Dr. Effie Fanaras

Dr. Effie Fanaras is a respirologist at Markham Stouffville Hospital and according to Bonnie Brazier, she often goes above and beyond the call of duty. (Submitted by Bonnie Brazier)

Bonnie Brazier credits Dr. Effie Fanaras with being her husband’s “life saver.”

Fanaras — a respirologist at Markham Stouffville Hospital — treats Brazier’s husband, Tom, for asthma. In late March, he became ill, and Fanaras suggested they go for blood work. It showed he had very low hemoglobin levels, and he needed a blood transfusion, Brazier said.

Within minutes, Fanaras had contacted the necessary doctors and set-up the appointment.

“Needless to say we were extremely nervous about going to the hospital with this virus and Tom’s suppressed immune system, but there was no alternative. The hospital was so organized, clean and efficient. We were checked three times with hand sanitizers, masks and then our temperature taken,” Brazier says.

“If Effie hadn’t been in constant contact with us we would not have checked his blood as we were self-isolating and the last thing we wanted to do was visit a lab or the hospital. It is truly a remarkable hospital … but Dr. Fanaras is our absolute hero.”

Trisha Bower

Oshawa business owner Trisha Bower wants to thank front-line workers by sending them donated baked goods from her company, Eat My Shortbread. 0:59

As the owner of Eat My Shortbread, Trisha Bower wanted to find a way to thank all of the workers risking their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She’s offering stash boxes containing free baked goods to all essential workers.

“One thing you can always count on is that people find comfort in baked goods,” Bower says in an email. “This is a free thank you.”

Dr. Amy Nolen & Dr. Quang Ngo

Assisting the elderly and reassuring sick children — two jobs made extremely challenging by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Mai Ngo wanted to recognize two doctors handling each task with care.

Dr. Amy Nolen is a palliative-care doctor at Sunnybrook Hospital. (Submitted by Mai Ngo)

Dr. Amy Nolen is a palliative medicine physician at Sunnybrook Hospital and throughout the pandemic she “works tirelessly to make sure her palliative patients are dying with someone by their side, especially since the ‘no visitors’ policy has been implemented,” saiys Ngo of her friend.

Dr. Quang Ngo is an emergency physician at McMaster Children’s Hospital and Ngo’s brother. She says he works day and night to make sure children experiencing emergencies are safe.

Dr. Quang Ngo is an emergency physician at McMaster Children’s Hospital. (Submitted by Mai Ngo)

“His endless patience allows him to reassure patients and parents — equally as important he brings the same love, care and patience back to his own children, nieces and nephews after long night shifts at work.”

Kingsley Kwok

Justin Kong speaks about his friend Kingsley Kwok and the work he’s doing to fight COVID-19 at Scarborough General Hospital. 0:36

COVID-19 is known to cause breathing difficulties, making the job of respiratory therapists all the more important during this pandemic. Kingsley Kwok is one of those therapists. 

He works in the critical-care and emergency departments at Scarborough General Hospital.

His friend, Justin Kong, says “while I worry about Kingsley and his coworkers in Scarborough and medical workers across all of Canada, I know they … work hard and tirelessly to protect the diverse communities of Scarborough and all of us in Toronto.”



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