ELDER RIVER: ADVOCATING FOR CARE

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Sight unseen, I moved to Campbell River from Vancouver in August 1964 with my late husband, Ed, who had obtained employment at Elk Falls Mill, and our two small children. In 1965 we bought property and started building our house, doing most of the work ourselves.

A lot of our time was spent boating and camping, enjoying the beauty of the surrounding areas. I worked part-time at the Campbell River Library, then for the RCMP, and then as Office Manager for the Crown Prosecutor’s office for eight and a half years. Finally, I transferred to Lakeview Youth Custody Centre and took early retirement after 12 years on the job.

I had fun coaching my daughter’s Pee Wee girls’ softball team, and, to our delight, our team of young girls won the BC Championship. Ed, myself, and my daughter Sandi joined the Campbell River Search and Rescue Society. For over eight years, we spent a lot of time on searches; most resulted in happy endings. I also served as President of the Board of Directors for the North Island Co-op for 13 years.

Opening the Campbell River branch of the First Open Heart Society

Thirty-eight years ago, Ed and I, along with two other couples, the Johnsons and Dohertys, formed the Campbell River branch of the First Open Heart Society. Ken McRann, our long-serving and dedicated President and Financial Officer, was vital in the society’s success. Our mandate is to assist local cardiac patients and their families both emotionally and financially when needed to get to Vancouver or Victoria for appointments or surgeries. We have also contributed over $385,000 worth of cardiac equipment to Campbell River Hospital and toward courses for nurses and lab techs. I am the Secretary and also took over as Walk for Hearts Coordinator from Ed when he became ill. It is our only annual fundraiser—held on the first Sunday in May; this year on May 5.

Joining Citizens for Quality Health Care

Ed and I also joined the Citizens for Quality Health Care group, along with eight other wonderful people 18 years ago. We embarked on an extensive campaign to retain fully functioning acute care hospitals in both the Comox Valley and Campbell River. All previous studies stated a need for both in the largest geographical area of Vancouver Island. However, the government and the VIHA planned to downsize Campbell River’s to a triage centre. Pathologist, Dr. Aref Tabarsi, played a huge role in uniting doctors, and our little group delivered a 20,000-signature petition to MLA Claire Trevena who presented it in the Legislature. The decision for one hospital was reversed in 2011 by the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board led by Director Brenda Leigh.

The group continued with four of us in Campbell River: Ed, Richard Hagensen, Joanne Banks, and me. Richard and Joanne have contributed a tremendous amount to this community, and I am honoured to collaborate with them. Prompted by Heart Society member Les York’s research, we prepared a presentation for City Council to achieve free hospital parking. We had support from MLA Claire Trevena, the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board, Campbell River and Courtenay Councils, as well as North Island Mayors. Today, there is no paid parking at either hospital or at Yucalta Lodge, home of Campbell River’s hospice and palliative care.

Senior of the Year in 2008

In 2008, it was a great honour to be nominated for “Senior of the Year” for Campbell River. As well, Ed and I were presented with certificates for excellence in health care advocacy and community service in volunteering. I was also presented with a Rotary Foundation Paul Harris Fellow recognition that same year, along with Ed being presented with the same award posthumously.

Life in Campbell River has been fulfilling and blessed—brimming with wonderful people, many becoming valued lifelong friends.