Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed to have been gifted mentors to help me along my way.
My first mentor was my boss when I worked at Alberta Health (oh my) 25 years ago, when I was fresh out of university. Her name was Nandini Kuehn, and she had the unusual mix of graduate degrees in English and Health Care Administration (a combination that I now possess). From her I learned how to write a decent sentence (drop the dangling participles) and to overcome my paralyzing fear of public speaking. She pushed me way out of my comfort zone by sending me around the province to present the new hospital funding formula to audiences of (sometimes hostile) health professionals. This terror was a time of great growth for me. After my mat leave with my first son, she invited me back to work on a costing project, where I learned even more about myself and dispelled the myths of what I thought I couldn’t do.
Zooming ahead, I learned how to be a good La Leche Leader from a number of exceptional mama bears, including my friend Maureen Andreychuk. I summoned up my bravery to dare to be published through writer friends like Melissa Steele. I learned to speak up for myself from Inger Eide, when I lived in Norway with her family. I was saved from single mom unemployment by the very kind Shirley Groenen.
And finally, these two women pictured above introduced me to my current world of patient and family centred care. Laurene Black just won a greatly-deserved Centennial Award from CARNA, her nursing association. She paved the way for the incredible work at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. From her I learned: keep your head down, keep going and don’t give up. Heather Mattson McCrady taught me, by her gentle role modelling, the crucial importance of holding space for families and health care professionals – and the value of active listening.
All these women are a little bit older than me, and a whole lot wiser. The key for me has been to be open enough to accept their gifts, even if they offered hard lessons to bear. Personal growth is damn uncomfortable, which is why most of us take great pains to avoid it. When exceptional people cross your path, say yes instead of no.
In my short time on this earth, I aspire to live up to these words, which were kindly given to me by a mom I knew in Aaron’s old school. Thank you Nandini, Maureen, Melissa, Inger, Shirley, Laurene and Heather – and many others – for lighting my path along my way.