Back to Top Second Chance: Don’s song for the people who saved his life - The Ottawa Hospital Website scanner for suspicious and malicious URLs


Second Chance: Don’s song for the people who saved his life

Don Wisme

Keith Richards said, “Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.”

And sometimes music is the only way to express your gratitude for a second chance.

Don Wismer and his wife of nearly 40 years, Bernice Wright, composed the song Second Chance to thank the staff and physicians at The Ottawa Hospital for saving his life.

Watch as Don performs his original song Second Chance, a song he and his wife, Bernice, wrote to thank the staff and doctors at The Ottawa Hospital for saving his life.

Don was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CCL) in 2018.  This type of cancer causes the body’s bone marrow to make too many lymphocytes (a kind of white blood cell) and severely weakens the immune system.

When Don got pneumonia in May 2022, he and Bernice were expecting to spend a few days at the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital.  But the day after he was admitted, his condition got worse—fast. 

Don was taken to the ICU where he was sedated and put on a ventilator.  After several days, he was transferred to the General Campus, where doctors described his condition as “tenuous.”  He contracted sepsis, an infection of the bloodstream, and his entire body swelled up.

“Don was virtually unrecognizable at that point; he looked like the Michelin Man,” says Bernice.

He spent the next few weeks in the ICU, unconscious most of the time. It was a dark time for both of them.

Don Wismer [left] and Bernice Wright [right] sitting on some steps
Don and Bernie have been married for almost 40 years.

Thanks to the excellent care and expertise of his health-care team, after 45 days, Don opened his eyes.

“When I first woke up, I was like a newborn infant,” recalls Don.  “I couldn’t feed myself.  I was in diapers.  I couldn’t even sit up.  I had to learn everything from scratch.”

Despite the uncertainty of whether Don would pull through, they both remember special moments with hospital staff.

“In the ICU, a nurse sang Bernice’s favourite karaoke song, Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill, someone Don knew from high school,” she says.  The nurse also made every attempt to get Don outside on the balcony.

Later on, while Don was receiving care in Internal Medicine, one of the people on the Environmental Services team brought him treats from the vending machine.

“He also brought me a newspaper every day because he knew there wasn’t much I could do from my hospital bed,” says Don.

Don had an especially tough time with having to stay indoors for so long.  A lifelong outdoorsman, the 68-year-old and his wife enjoy biking, hiking, golfing, kayaking, and cross-country and downhill skiing.

Don stands behind his bicycle in a forest
Before he got pneumonia and spent more than 45 days in the ICU at The Ottawa Hospital, Don enjoyed many outdoor activities.

In August 2022, Don was transferred to The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre to continue his recovery, and music was a big part of it.

“Thanks to the terrific efforts of the occupational therapists and physiotherapists, Don was eventually able to stand up and play the harmonica and sing,” says Bernice with a smile.  As part of his farewell to doctors, staff and patients, he played a sing-along in the recreation room.  His set included Handle with Care and Heart of Gold.

Don’s recovery at home has been slow but steady.  He beams as he explains that he was out skiing 20 times last winter.

Don Wismer cross-country skiing
Don’s recovery has been remarkable.  Just a few months after leaving The Ottawa Hospital, he is back to doing many of the things he loves.

“It’s hard to find words for people who saved your life,” says Don. “To the people who helped me recover to where I am now, thank you.  I’m just so impressed by the kindness of people.” 


Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You might also like…

A volunteer program that taps into the power of music

Studies have shown that music can benefit the body, mind, relationships and community. Musical Moments is a program where volunteers play live music to support positive outcomes for patients, visitors and staff.

We’ve got you covered: The Ottawa Hospital now offers bandages for a variety of skin tones

Whenever you’ve scraped your knee or had your blood drawn, odds are your bandage was the same colour every time. Peach has been the default hue for over a century — but no longer at The Ottawa Hospital.

Patient gifts a piece of home to Indigenous Cancer Program

Inuit patients can now see and hold a piece of their traditional territory in the Windòcàge Room at the General Campus, thanks to an interactive gift donated to The Ottawa Hospital by a cancer patient.

Watch: NICU babies and staff receive special Challenge Coins from Ottawa Fire Services

This may be the feel-good video of the year! After helping carry our tiniest patients out of harm’s way on October 27, firefighters return to the General Campus NICU to present staff, families and babies with a special gift.

Nursing graduate receives ceremonial pin from her mentor

The Ottawa Hospital is proud to carry on the “pinning” ceremony to mark a nursing student’s transition into the profession. Read this heartwarming story of how one nursing student received a pin from someone very special to her.

A land acknowledgement that honours the land and the medicines it provides

Visitors to The Ottawa Hospital are now greeted by a prominent land acknowledgement, which has been installed by the main entrances at each of our three main campuses. It is paired with artwork by Simon Brascoupé and his daughter, Mairi Brascoupé, both from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg.

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.