TRURO – A box of tissues quickly made its way around those gathered in the lobby outside the diagnostic imaging department at the Colchester-East Hants Health Centre.
Jenna Delaney’s friends and family members wiped away tear after tear that fell as they listened to stories about the late woman. Her family, including mother, Jean, and father, Brian, made a significant donation to the health centre’s foundation and the department now bears Jenna’s name.
“I was the first one to see her when she was born in an emergency C-section, and I was the last one to hold her hand,” said Dr. Brian Delaney, about his daughter who passed away from cancer in 2007 at the age of 20. “She packed a lot into her 20 years. It wasn’t uncommon for me to pick her up from one activity and take her straight to the next.”
Sharon Crowe, the executive director of the health centre foundation, said the family wanted to keep the size of the donation quiet, but called it ‘significant.’
“The Delaney family has been extremely generous, not only in their financial contribution, but in their spirit and their reasons for giving,” Crowe said. “In our conversations, it was conveyed the significant financial need of our diagnostic department, and this is something that’s very near and dear to the Delaney family’s hearts. Their contribution helped put a dent in the funding that’s required here.”
Members of Jenna’s family travelled from throughout Canada to attend the ceremony, many of whom also made a financial contribution after Jean and Brian made theirs.
With a framed black and white photo of Jenna off to Brian’s right, he said his daughter went almost two years without a diagnosis. When she was finally diagnosed at the age of 12 and began undergoing treatment, there was a piece of equipment not working.
“There may have been a different outcome otherwise,” said Brian.
“We had a lot of people come talk to us afterward,” Brian said, of Jenna’s passing. “And what an affect she had on people. She loved life and she enjoyed every day. When things are going well, it’s easy to do well. But it’s when adversity hits when you can really tell what a person is made of.”
Ed MacDonald, the foundation’s board of directors chairman, knew Jenna and said he was “stunned” when he heard the Delaney family wanted to make such a contribution. At first, there was no name attached to the donation, at the family’s request.
“When that happens, we never have the experience or the joy of ability to thank the family for their donation,” said MacDonald, whose children knew Jenna through schooling and figure skating.
“The years have gone by but her legacy has not. Jenna was dynamic, she was engaging, and she always put herself out there. Her spirit lives.”
During her time in palliative care, Jenna made decision after decision.
“Her palliative care doctor took me aside one day and said, ‘you know what she’s doing, right?’ She was making all the important decisions to take the load off me,” said Brian. “That’s the kind of girl she was and we miss her every day.”