This year’s Valentine’s Day gift from Mother Nature was a fierce winter storm. In fact, it was a full-scale blizzard that went on for almost two days. Snowfall amounts in some areas of the Eastern Health region were over 60 cm, with wind gusts in excess of 100 km/hour.
While most of us were snug at home enjoying the proverbial snow day in front of a roaring fire, drinking hot cocoa, work in health care continued. And for staff at Eastern Health it was business as usual…with a twist.
Employees from across the entire region braved the storm to get to work and many would have a story to tell afterwards! I got wind of a few of them, and followed up with several employees from Bonavista, Carbonear, and St. Lawrence who shared their adventures.
Infrastructure Support Manager Ian Green, who has responsibilities for projects, contracts, and preventative maintenance at the Carbonear General Hospital, took one look at the unplowed road at the end of his freshly cleared driveway and knew his car wouldn’t go far that day. “I figured the only way I was going to make it [to work] was to take my snowmobile.”
On snow days, he often picks up co-worker Patty Keough. “When she texted, I said I was on my way – with the snowmobile. When I pulled up at her house, her husband was out shoveling. I said, “Is Patty ready?” He just laughed and said: “I didn’t think you really meant it when you said you’d pick her up on your snowmobile.” But Patty was ready and out she came with her helmet on. We got to work safe and sound.”
Registered Nurse, Luke Redmond, had a similar experience, minus the passenger. Luke lives in Bonavista, in a house almost surrounded by ocean. He was scheduled to work in the dialysis unit that day. “I knew our dialysis patients would be doing their best to make it in, and so would I. There were six-foot drifts around my house and the wind was howling,” Luke added. “I got out my snowmobile, took my time, and made it in. When I walked in with my helmet on, one of my co-workers said I looked like the Great Gazoo, the little green Martian from the old Flintstones cartoons. I had to look it up on Google!”
Our final story comes from St. Lawrence and shows what can happen when community members and employees step up during a time of need.
Jennifer Slaney, administrative officer with Medical Services, was driving to work at U.S. Memorial Hospital when she came across Dr. Saad Al-Mehiawi, whose vehicle was stuck in a snow bank at the end of her road. “My husband and I worked with Dr. Al-Mehiawi for over 40 minutes, but we just couldn’t get his car out.”
That’s when good Samaritan Tom Rennie, a local resident, appeared with his big diesel truck. He made short work of moving Dr. Al-Mehiawi’s car from the road to a safe area. He then offered the doctor a ride to work.
“Not only did he bring me to work, he gave me a pair of orange glasses to wear during the drive. When I put them on, I could see every snow bank!” laughs Dr. Al-Mehiawi. “It’s too bad I didn’t own a pair. Maybe then I wouldn’t have gotten stuck.”
At one point, even the snow clearing equipment was pulled from the roads, but that didn’t deter Tom!
He ferried nurses and doctors back and forth from U.S Memorial throughout the day. “I got something to eat and drink, food on the table. What else can I do but help during times like this?” he says.
We have a saying at Eastern Health when we’re called on to rise to a challenge: “Together We Can.” Our Valentine’s storm proved just what can happen when challenge meets determination – and ‘face to the gale,’ our staff and community partners exhaust all opportunities to work together to make sure health care is delivered to those who depend on us each day though the year. ■
This story was written by Robyn Lush, a communications specialist with Eastern Health’s Corporate Communications Department.