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THE SCOOP | Peter Oundjian “SickKids saved my life when I was 3 months old."

By Michael Vincent on November 25, 2015

TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian Photo: Sian Richards
TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian Photo: Sian Richards

The lives of children are supposed to be full of exploration and play. But when illness affects a child, it is particularly devastating. For Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director Peter Oundjian, it hits close to home.

When he was a baby, his mother took him to SickKids Hospital in the middle of the night. Oundjian had internal bleeding from intussusception – a serious disorder affecting the intestines. “You don’t last long in that condition especially if you weigh less than a large cat,” Oundjian recalled.

Oundjian’s personal debt to SickKids runs deep, and he continues to look for opportunities to support the extraordinary work that the hospital does. In fact, he attests SickKids Hospital was the reason he was able to lead the life he has.

Since its inception in 1875, SickKids has gone on to be one the largest and most respected paediatric academic health science centres in the world. They have helped literally millions of kids with direct care and are also leaders in research in many different areas.

They serve as a lifeline for kids dealing with serious life and death illness.

Peter Oundjian at age 6 months.
Peter Oundjian 3 months after being treated at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital

Since Oundjian’s personal story, other members of the orchestra have stepped forward to offer their own personal experiences about how the SickKids has helped them.

TSO violist Kent Teeple, suffered from a congenital birth defect that affected the use of his developing feet and legs. He received an advanced operation made famous during wartime by Dr. Symes at Sick Children’s Hospital. “I spent a great deal of time at SickKids from 1955 to 1957. It was during this time that Peter Oundjian and I were in the hospital at the same time.”

Kent Teeple with mother, Shirley Teeple. Photo taken at SickKids Hospital circa 1955/56.
Kent Teeple with mother, Shirley Teeple. Photo taken at SickKids Hospital circa 1955/56.

“My daughter has been a patient at SickKids for the past two years,” TSO violinist Angelique Toews said. Her daughter was diagnosed with a hyperthyroid condition called Graves’ disease which requires blood tests every six weeks and regular checkups at the Endocrine clinic. “We are very thankful that we live close to this hospital and that she received her diagnosis before she could have a heart attack.”

Fraser Alexander - son of violinist Ivan Alexander. Born deaf, Fraser received cochlear implants just before age 3, thanks to SickKids. He is now a happy 10 year-old who plays violin, piano.
Fraser Alexander – son of violinist Ivan Alexander. Born deaf, Fraser received cochlear implants just before age 3, thanks to SickKids. He is now a happy 10-year-old who plays violin, piano.

TSO Violinist Ivan Alexander recalls his experience with SickKids after his son Fraser was born profoundly deaf. Fraser received cochlear implants and has grown to be a happy 10-year-old who now names the TSO’s recording of The Planets by Holts as his favourite CD.

The Links to SickKids also relate to TSO Principal Horn Neil Deland, who’s chair is endowed by Dr. Michael Braudo, a former SickKids Physician.

To show support the important work they do, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra are presenting “Peter and the Wolf” tomorrow, on November 26 and will donate proceeds towards the SickKids Hospital. Rick Mercer has lent his charisma to the night and will play the role of narrator.

The concert will feature rising piano star Coco Ma, a young Leaside resident who was honoured in 2013 after being selected to study with international star Lang Lang. Ma will perform Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Concert details can be found here.

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Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is Publisher of Ludwig Van. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
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