Thursday, August 3, 2017

Are you a kid? Cliff wants to talk to you

By Louise Kinross

Cliff Lee first came to Holland Bloorview as a seven-year-old, when he was hospitalized for a brain injury following a school-yard accident.

Nineteen years later he’s back as the hospital’s kids’ feedback specialist, here to interview children and youth about the care they’ve received.

“What’s important about what we’re doing now is that we’re giving kids a voice,” says Cliff, who works as a medical secretary and studied psychology at the University of Toronto. “Growing up, at my appointments, the doctors and clinicians always talked to my parents a lot and I felt like I didn’t have a say in my own health decisions.”

Cliff is actively seeking inpatients and outpatients to participate in a 30-minute survey that asks questions like “How safe do you feel at the hospital?,” “Does your care team speak directly to you?” and “Is the care you’re getting helping you meet your goals?”

Cliff says he wants to interview a range of clients, including children who don’t communicate in conventional ways and those who need an interpreter. Parents are able to sit in on interviews.

Cliff hopes to do 50 interviews this summer, and another 50 in the fall. To participate, kids or parents can e-mail Cliff at to set a time.

In addition to being a client, Cliff has volunteered in recreation therapy with our inpatients, acts as a youth mentor and also participated in our Youth To Work program. “Holland Bloorview feels like home,” he says.

When Cliff was an inpatient, he says his primary emotion was one of frustration. “I wanted to go outside and do everything other kids were doing, but I was confined to a hospital bed, then I progressed to a wheelchair and then a walker. I had a bit of cognitive delay that made things like math difficult later on.”

At the time, Cliff says he wanted “to be normal, like other kids.”

Now, he sees his differences as part of who he is. “I need to learn to adapt to what I’m good at and to the things I might struggle with physically or cognitively. But everyone has strengths and weaknesses.”

As a former client, he’s “excited to help give kids here a voice in terms of how we’re doing and, most important, how we can improve.”

Cliff can be reached at or, if you see him in the halls with his iPad, introduce yourself.