I’ve always looked forward to spring and summer. Spending time in my garden, extra time with my grandchildren, and travelling to scenic spots in our trailer are some of the typical highlights.
But I’ll remember the summer of 2021 for very different reasons. A pandemic, the tremendous heat waves and an awful wildfire season to name a few.
I few weeks ago I went into Kelowna General Hospital for eye surgery. Despite all the COVID protocols and changes in health care this year, I was overwhelmed by the positive experience I received.
Surgery is nerve-wracking for everyone (even those of us who work in health care) and I had complete confidence in the care and safety of my health going in. One thing that put me immediately at ease was how everyone took the time to tell me who they were, their occupation and what they were going to be doing with me. I’d read about #HelloMyNameIs campaign before in our hospitals, but this was the first time I’d experienced it myself. I think it was a great example of their focus on people and what we need.
The day after I returned home from the hospital the Mt. Law wildfire began. Although we weren’t on alert, we had a good view of the fire from our backyard and those living across the ravine from us were on alert. It was a tense night as we were ready to leave at a moment’s notice if necessary.
But many people weren’t so lucky. My mom lives in Brookhaven long-term care home in West Kelowna. Because the home was so close to the fire and many of the people living there have complex health needs, a decision was made early on to evacuate everyone to another home in Richmond, B.C.
My mom lives with advanced dementia and even though I wasn’t able to physically help out with the evacuation, I wasn’t worried about the move. A week prior to the evacuation she said she wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, it really didn’t matter. I heard from the staff that mom was quite happy her wish had been granted!
Moving that many people several hours away in the middle of a wildfire sounds like the plot of a suspenseful movie. So you can imagine how surprised and impressed my sisters and I were with how organized the process was. The staff and doctors went to great lengths to make everyone comfortable before, during, and after the journey. Knowing my mother’s care team travelled with mom made the event much less stressful for her, and really eased my mind that she was getting the best care possible.
I’ve since learned that since June 30 (the night of the devastating fire in Lytton), more than 1000 people were evacuated from Interior Health hospitals and long-term care homes. Whether transferred by ambulance, by air or by bus, I continue to hear stories that mirror my own, about the care and dedication involved.
I know I’ll always remember this summer. A global pandemic and wildfires have certainly made it memorable.
But I think what will stay with me the most is those experiences of kindness and caring during challenging times. I’ll remember that even though I couldn’t see people’s smiles behind their masks, I saw it in their eyes and the way they introduced themselves to me. And I’ll remember my relief in seeing mom over FaceTime after her night-time evacuation by bus and hearing that she was well looked after and comfortable despite the unusual circumstances.