Nova Scotia

Cystic fibrosis patient's family warmed by Nova Scotia hospitality in Toronto

A family from Lunenburg County moved to a downtown Toronto apartment to await a double-lung transplant. But their homesickness was soon washed away when they learned how many other Nova Scotians were living in the same building.

Jennifer Crouse moved to Toronto with her mother and daughter in April to await double-lung transplant

Jennifer Crouse (right) moved to Toronto in April with her mother and her 11-year-old daughter Taylor to await a double-lung transplant. (GoFundMe)

Within hours of arriving at a towering Toronto apartment building on April 2 — their lives packed into 10 suitcases — a Lunenburg County family began their wait for a double-lung transplant just as Nova Scotia hospitality knocked at their door.

Vicki Crouse had just moved in with her daughter Jennifer Crouse, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

In the doorway of their new apartment stood a man from Cape Breton offering two end tables, a coffee table, a flatscreen television, a single bed, silverware, dishes, pots and pans.

"They just brought it [all] in, knowing we were coming with nothing in our apartment but a chesterfield and a chair," she said. 

The Crouses have since met a slew of Nova Scotians in their 77 Gerrard St. West building since moving from Pinehurst, N.S. Most of them are there to be close to Toronto General Hospital for their own medical needs. 

"As they go home, they donate the stuff to people that need it," Vicki Crouse said. "It doesn't make us so homesick … We could not have picked a better building." 

'Very weird' crowdfunding problems

"It would be devastating" without that reminder of home, Crouse said.

Earlier this year, Jennifer Crouse's health was declining faster than their GoFundMe campaign could raise money. But when it came time to move to Toronto in April for a crucial appointment, depositing the raised $8,000 became "very weird," her mother said. 

They'd received emails from the service as unknown attempts were made to deposit the money into a bank account "that wasn't any good."

"We weren't sure what was going on there," Vicki Crouse said. 

They got the money in time for the move but the money raised was more than $10,000 short of their goal.

Crouse says she's met at least five Nova Scotia families who are waiting for medical treatment at this building at the corner of Gerrard Street and Bay Street in Toronto. (Google Maps)

'Jen had a terrible flight'

Their troubles continued, but Vicki Crouse says the warm welcome from fellow Nova Scotians made the first few weeks bearable.

"I don't know — without meeting the people, without having so many friends that we've met here, I don't know how I would handle it. I would be very depressed," she said.

Upon their arrival, her daughter's weight was below the transplant wait list requirement of 92 pounds and her lung function was down. Jennifer Crouse spent three weeks in the hospital to "build her back up." 

"She's doing much better now," her mother said. 

Home away from home

Vicki Crouse says she cries when the Nova Scotians they've come to know pack up and head home. 

"It's Maritime hospitality. Come on, right? You can't beat it," she said.

June 7 is the day Jennifer Crouse is scheduled to meet with doctors and hospital staff. Her family is hopeful she'll then be put on the waiting list for new lungs. 

During what could be months or years waiting for the surgery, Vicki Crouse said the downtown apartment building will be a home away from home.

"You form a friendship," she said. "When we go home, they're all within an hour and a half to two hours away from us. So, we've all exchanged phone numbers and addresses." 


David Irish


David Irish is a producer and digital editor for CBC Nova Scotia.