Ann Bason and Brandon Hunt followed different paths to the same destination – careers as nurses working at Langley Memorial Hospital (LMH).
Bason, known as “Mother Ann” to many of her colleagues at LMH, got into the profession on a whim, applying for admission to a nurse training program.
“I just did it as a lark,” she recalled.
“Just for a joke, I applied.”
Much to her amazement, she was accepted.‘“I was shocked.”
That was in 1967. Now 75, the registered nurse, who still works full-time, isn’t sure when she will retire.
Meanwhile, Hunt, a licenced practical nurse, was inspired to switch careers after seeing the care his mother received while she was dying.
“I became a nurse after my mom passed due to cancer,” he related.
“I was a high-rise construction foreman and it changed my life. I went back to high school, got my Grade 12. I went to college and I became a nurse.”
During the pandemic, their jobs have changed, and it is more than just wearing masks and gloves.
Hunt, who worked on the ward where COVID-19 patients are treated for awhile, rented separate accommodations in Langley so he could isolate from his family when he needed to.
And he did. Hunt was one of several nurses at LMH who contracted the virus while treating its victims.
“We had six nurses fall to COVID, including myself.”
He ended up spending Christmas away from his family, in his apartment.
“It was an interesting experience,” he said. “It was relatively mild.”
It’s the emotional impact that hits the hardest, he observed.
“We see how COVID affects our patients, we see how it affect their families, and we go through the same thing.”
“There’s nothing that prepares you to stand in front of a patient with COVID and hold up an iPad so family can say goodbye. It leaves a mark.”
Bason, who works with older patients who are especially vulnerable, has a personal perspective as a senior herself.
When she isn’t working, “I go to the grocery store, I go to the bank, that’s about it,” Bason confided.
She and her husband can’t have her grandchild over for a visit.
“It’s very frustrating” Bason said.
“We have a farm [in Aldergrove], so I can walk about the property and I can wave to the neighbour across the street,” she added. “I’m glad I don’t live in an apartment.”
Demonstrations of support during the early days of the pandemic made a big difference, Bason and Hunt said, calling it a huge boost to morale to see people banging on pots, and fire trucks and police driving by with sirens sounding.
“That amount of support carried us so far,” Hunt commented.”
“It felt like the public was right there behind you, and it was good,” Bason added.
There hasn’t been much of it lately, something she ascribed to COVID fatigue.
“I think people didn’t expect the pandemic to go on as long as it has.”
COVID has made their jobs more demanding and less certain as variants pop up and patients numbers rise, they said.
“That’s what we all fear, the unknown,” Hunt said.
“You get that drop in your stomach because you don’t know what’s next. We never really know what changes are coming. We are constantly trying to adapt to the flow of patients who come to the hospital.”
Bason called COVID “unprecedented” in its impact on the hospital.
Often, she said, the nurses are short-handed, which means they can’t spent as much time as they would like with individual patients.
“If you have to pick up another patient, it only adds to your workload,” she said. “You do your best.”
Hunt said the fact that LMH is a relatively small hospital is a positive for the nurses.
“We’re very close-knit, a very united nursing front. We know everybody there. There isn’t anybody who doesn’t know everyone.”
When COVID arrived, it was “unsettling,” Hunt recalled, but it wasn’t completely unfamiliar territory for medical professionals who have battled other viral outbreaks, he said.
“We’ve been through this before with SARS, with MERS. We’re kind of battle tested in that respect.”
Bason said the patients are what keep her on the job.
“I have met some very interesting patients in my time,” she remarked.
Like the man who was dying yet maintained a wonderful sense of humour to the end.
“He was so funny,” Bason remembered. “When he was alert, he just made you feel good.”
She recalled a moment with a woman who was unresponsive and close to passing.
“You’re going to meet my mom in the next world, and I hope when you meet her, you’ll tell her I was a good nurse,” Bason recalled telling the woman, “even if you have to lie.”
At that, the woman smiled.
“I think if I retired, that is one of the things I will miss,” Bason said. “I couldn’t imagine sitting down and doing an office job.”
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