Manitoba

Pizza tycoon donates $2M for children's epilepsy program

A $2 million donation from the head of Domino’s Pizza in Canada has ushered in "a brand new era in medical care" for pediatric patients in Manitoba.

New pediatric epilepsy program will enable patients to stay in Manitoba rather than travel out-of-province

The $2-million donation will create a pediatric epilepsy and pediatric neurosurgery program at the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg, which will include specialized robotic navigations systems (ROSA) allowing surgeries in children with epilepsy. (Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba)

A $2 million donation from the head of Domino's Pizza in Canada has ushered in "a brand new era in medical care" for pediatric patients in Manitoba.

The money, announced on Tuesday, will go towards creating a pediatric epilepsy and pediatric neurosurgery program in Winnipeg, said Lawrence Prout, president and CEO of the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba (CHFM)

"Today marks a brand new era in medical care that our children's hospital will be able to deliver," he said. "Today, we start the process that will change the lives of potentially thousands of patients."

The donation comes from Michael Schlater, CEO of Domino's Pizza of Canada, and his wife Lilibeth, who lived in Winnipeg in the 1980s as Domino's franchises were being established outside of the United States. It's not the family's first donation to the Children's. 

Winnipeg was the location of the company's first international restaurant in 1983.

When he learned Manitoba lacked an epilepsy program, Michael Schlater said he wanted to help. (CBC)

The Schlaters' oldest daughter was born in the city and Schlater, who calls himself a big Jets fan, said he has many good friends here still. When he learned of the province's lack of an epilepsy program, he said said he wanted to help.

"We're blessed to have enough to give a few extra bucks and to go do what we do," he said, noting someone else now runs Domino's so he and Lilibeth focus on charity work.

Schlater has also been impacted by epilepsy. One of his daughters experienced her first seizure when she was five, while Schlater has also had them, eventually requiring surgery. 

Epilepsy affects more patients than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson's disease combined, and is as common as breast cancer, according to the CHFM.

The difference Michael and Lilibeth's donation will make is outstanding. They are going to change the lives of many kids in Manitoba.- Terry Klassen

The province says there are currently 9,000 patients with epilepsy within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority alone.

Despite that, Manitoba has no formal epilepsy monitoring unit or epilepsy-trained neurologists, said Terry Klassen, CEO of the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba.

About a year ago, the province lost its one and only pediatric epilepsy doctor to Calgary and also lost one of its two pediatric neurosurgeons.

The children's hospital "was in a tough spot at that time," said Klassen.

"The difference Michael and Lilibeth's donation will make is outstanding. They are going to change the lives of many kids in Manitoba."

The new pediatric epilepsy program will enable patients to stay in Manitoba rather than travel out-of-province for surgeries and testing, potentially reducing their hospital stays and changing their lives forever, the CHFM stated in a news release.

The process has already started with the hospital recruiting a second pediatric neurosurgeon, who specializes in epilepsy surgery, from Little Rock, Arkansas.

"With the new people that are coming, with the new equipment, with the new program, kids with epilepsy in this province — those that have drug-resistant epilepsy — now will have the option to stay here and receive definitive treatment," Klassen said.

A $2 million donation from the head of Domino's Pizza in Canada has ushered in "a brand new era in medical care" for pediatric patients in Manitoba. 2:11

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