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Who is Harrison?

William Harrison Copeman 2003

By Don Copeman

Harrison is an exceptional young man.

He is my second son, born in 2002. Everyone knows him as “Will” (William), which is his first name. Harrison is his middle name. Some of his friends call him Bill, which is relevant as the story unfolds.

In 2005 I created a company called Copeman Healthcare. It was truly an immodest choice for a name. I really didn’t want it to be associated with me personally. However, after several attempts to secure a name based on inspirational Canadian physicians, I was counselled to do otherwise. The most recognizable names were unavailable due to trademarks. I was determined to have a personal name versus a corporate name, because that embodied the spirit of what I was doing. I wanted people to feel like they were getting a family doctor in the “old school” sense. This would be a doctor that would be with them for life. It would be a doctor that knew their family well and cared about that family deeply. Although I believed we would have many doctors in the long run, I didn’t want to become “Doctors Inc.” That didn’t feel right.

By an amazing coincidence I discovered that I had a cousin who was a truly remarkable physician. His name was Dr. William (Bill) Copeman. He spent his career doing exceptional things, notably managing the “Underserviced Area Program” for the Ontario Ministry of Health from 1969 until 1988. He spent his career helping remote families in need. In short, he was a man of compassion. As soon as I discovered him and our shared values, I thought using our common surname was fine, and so Copeman Healthcare was born.

I am very proud of what Copeman Healthcare accomplished. We saved many, many lives. And we made many more lives better. There is no doubt. I have personally sat in front of the people whose lives were affected, and their stories moved me in a way that I can’t describe.

For family reasons I had to leave the business in 2014. I spent most of these interim years longing to be back. I could not imagine anything more rewarding. When I was able, I leapt back in, and following my original thoughts in 2005, I wanted to continue under a personal name and not a corporate name. Unfortunately, I could no longer use my surname because of my legal obligations, but it soon dawned on me that my son’s health journey was a compelling story. This, combined with the fact that he bore the same first name as the doctor who inspired me in 2005, resulted in the name Harrison Healthcare. Not surprisingly, “Will Healthcare” didn’t get many votes when looking for name suggestions.

Will (Harrison) was born 3 years after his brother Max. Max is severely autistic and at the very low end of the autistic spectrum. He is unable to speak or communicate in any way that we have discovered to date. He is a handsome and charming young man but requires constant care. He cannot make a sandwich or tie his shoelaces at the age of 22. He cries and gets angry, but we don’t know why.

Max’s diagnosis of autism actually marked my initial entry into primary healthcare, but that is a different story for a different time.

When Max was diagnosed with Autism, his sister Bella was only 18 months old, and Will was in the womb. As Bella was approaching the age when autism could be detected, and Will was waiting to greet the world, Mom and Dad were understandably on edge. Thankfully, Bella progressed as well as any child her age and some of our fears were assuaged. Will was born and we immediately began to observe his behavior, on constant watch for any signs of Autism.

Will Harrison Copeman Young Man at GraduationAround the age of 6 months, Will developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. He had absolutely outstanding primary care from the nursing staff of the hospital in which he was born, including at-home visits. They were very attentive, but his health deteriorated rapidly. It was soon discovered that he had no less than 3 major heart defects. I cannot adequately express my appreciation for the care that followed. It is a shining example of the public healthcare system at its best – and also the importance of excellent primary care. There were some interesting moments for sure, but after 2 major heart surgeries before the age of one, he recovered completely. The child beside him at the hospital wasn’t so fortunate. I’ll never forget the day I came home after seeing that empty bed next to him, wondering if my son would make it to the next day. He did, and he also progressed as well as any child over the years. I am happy to report that at the age of 20, Harrison is in his second year of an economics major at Queen’s University and having the time of his life. Whenever I see the picture of him here at 8 months old, I am inspired. He had such a positive spirit and smiled through most of his ordeal.

Keeping people looking forward with optimism, laughter and greater longevity is what Harrison Healthcare is all about. I am very proud to name this important organization after him.

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