Real CANADIAN Heroes

Reader's Digest Canada|June 2020

Real CANADIAN Heroes
Extraordinary stories of kindness, compassion and full-on bravery
Ali Amad, Emily Landau, Sarah Liss, Rosie Long Decter, Megan Jones and Lauren McGill

Cynthia RennieFaubert screens patients every day for COVID-19.

She Helps Care for COVID-19 Patients

CYNTHIA RENNIE-FAUBERT, 48, CORNWALL, ONT.

The speed of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan worried Cynthia Rennie- Faubert. As an emergency room nurse in Cornwall, she’d seen her share of outbreaks, including SARS and H1N1, but nothing like this. She knew it was only a matter of time before this new virus arrived in her community.

A month later, it did. On February 21, the federal government sent 129 Canadians from the Diamond Princess, an infected cruise ship, for a 14-day quarantine at a Cornwall hotel and conference facility that’s often used in emergency situations. Rennie- Faubert, who works at Cornwall Community Hospital, would help treat any passengers who fell ill. Some were seniors—a population at higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, increasing the chance of medical complications.

The hospital staff jumped into action, increasing isolation measures and stocking storerooms with infectious disease supplies. Thankfully, all of the quarantined passengers soon passed with a clean bill of health. But the virus proved unavoidable when, in March, the region confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19.

Screening potential cases was complicated, not least because it’s possible for asymptomatic people to spread the virus. “We don’t have the luxury of getting it wrong,” Rennie- Faubert says. “We must assume anyone could have the virus.” On any given day, her ER sees a wide range of cases, from car crash victims to heart attack patients, and if a patient is unresponsive, for example, she can’t ask about their history. She can’t know if they’re infected.

As of mid-March, Ontario had tested more than 23,000 people for the virus, and front-line health-care workers remained at the greatest risk for exposure. In Toronto alone, some dozen nurses and doctors had tested positive for COVID-19. Tension was high. But Rennie-Faubert was confident her hospital could successfully manage the virus. After all, they’re a team. Everyone was taking turns working extra shifts, making sure nobody burned out. The trick, she says, is to stay calm. She reminds herself and others that in most ways it’s just another day at work: “We’re looking after sick patients in their time of need.”

They Saved a Life at the Curling Rink

- JESSICA HOEKSTRA, 29, AND ROY PENNER, 53, ST. ALBERT, ALTA.

Neil McKay was in the middle of his usual Tuesday curling game in St. Albert last December when he started to feel light-headed. The 70-year-old retired engineer is typically in good health, but as he stepped off the ice, he collapsed. Jessica Hoekstra was upstairs, working her first shift at the curling club bar, when she noticed him fall. A licensed practical nurse, she bolted downstairs and quickly recognized that McKay was in cardiac arrest. Hoekstra began administering CPR immediately. “The sooner you start, the more likely you are to have a positive outcome,” she says. “Every second counts.”

Firefighter Roy Penner, who was playing on the next sheet, rushed over to assist with compressions, while another patron ran for the building’s defibrillator. After McKay’s rescuers administered a shock, he regained consciousness and was taken to hospital, where he swiftly recovered.

Today, McKay remains friends with the people who saved him and makes sure to stop and chat whenever he runs into them at the club. McKay feels fortunate that so many knowledgeable people were on the scene. “They’d probably say, ‘I was just doing my job,’” McKay says, “But boy, did they ever do a good one.”

She Donated a Kidney to Her Financial Adviser

- KATE KIRKPATRICK, 45, SHUBENACADIE, N.S.

When Scott Giles found himself in need of a new kidney, Kate Kirkpatrick, a customer at his bank, knew she wanted to give him hers.

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June 2020