September 19, 2022

Gifts from the Sandra Schmirler Foundation Help Ensure our Newborn Care is Right on the Button

Our Women’s and Infants’ Program has the busiest maternity ward in the city, welcoming over 3,650 babies every year (that’s 10 babies delivered every day!). One of the most common conditions babies are born with is jaundice, which causes a baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes to turn a yellowish colour due to excess bilirubin in the blood.

Thanks to a generous donation of more than $40,000 from the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, St. Joe’s will be able to purchase three new biliblankets, a bili meter and a scale that will help our care teams to support and treat jaundiced infants in our Special Care Nursery.

Here’s how!

  • As a safety measure, all newborn babies at St. Joe’s have a bilirubin test to check for jaundice. If a baby’s bilirubin levels are found to be high, some will need a bit of help to reduce it, and that’s where the three new biliblankets come in! These portable phototherapy devices allow babies to receive continuous photo light treatment while being held, clothed and fed. This is a huge advancement as traditional phototherapy methods meant a newborn had to lay in a cot while they received treatment. But now, the portable bililblankets allow families to be involved in the care of their newborn and provide more bonding time too.
  • The new bili meter will help our care teams to measure the strength of neonatal phototherapy lights, like biliblankets, to ensure that they’re providing optimal care, and to indicate when the bulbs might need to be replaced.

“In curling, measurement is key to determining which stone is closest to the button. Similarly, in our Special Care Nursery, measuring devices like the scale, bili meters and biliblankets provided through this gift are helping our care teams to measure and monitor how our tiniest patients are doing, so we can make sure the care we’re providing is right on the button, too,” says Kelly Chinchilla, Nurse Manager of the Special Care Nursery at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

“It is our pleasure to fund new life-saving equipment at St. Joe’s to support babies born too soon, too small or too sick,” says Bernadette McIntyre, Chair of the Sandra Schmirler Foundation. “There is no better way to honour Sandra’s legacy than by supporting the next generation of champions battling in the Special Care Nursery here at St. Joe’s and across Canada.”


Janet Murphy, Sandra Schmirler Foundation Board Member, presents a cheque to St. Joe’s Special Care Nursery team.


Sandra Schmirler, fondly known as ‘Schmirler the Curler’ won the hearts of Canadians in the 1990s as the skip of one of the most successful teams in Canadian curling history. Under Sandra’s leadership, the team won three world championships and Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in curling in 1998. Sadly, Sandra lost her battle with cancer in the year 2000 at just 36 years old, leaving behind two young daughters. The Foundation established in Sandra’s memory raises funds to purchase life-saving equipment for Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) in hospitals across Canada, giving babies born early the chance to grow up to be champions just like Sandra. Over the past 10 years, the Sandra Schmirler Foundation has provided more than $102,100 in funding to St. Joe’s to help ensure the babies we deliver are OFF! to a strong start.

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