Tag: Health

This Year…

Lifestyle Blog January 17, 2019

I look back with so much gratitude for 2018, I still can’t believe that I could ever say that about any other year in my life. It was the most transformative months of my life and I owe a lot of it to someone I let go in that year. In 2018, I was given the opportunity to be in complete control of every aspect of my life and through the many mistakes, I learned more about who I really want to be.

Love: When I met Tyler, I kept him as my little secret for a while fearing that it may not work out. Now that we’ve separated amicably, I can’t say there’s been a single person in my life that I valued more. He set the bar so high and not in the traditional way for all future relationships. He is the most sensible man I have ever met, who supports and loves without condition. I felt cushioned in his embrace, I knew that he would never let me delude myself into believing I was always right. He helped me see myself with clarity and kindness, something I struggled with for years. We are still friends and his family continues to be a very important part of my life. They represent love in every sense of the word and I will never forget it.

Friends: Following my move to St. John’s, I made a deliberate effort to make many new friends with anyone who wanted to. Through the many adventures and misadventures, I found strong, caring and compassionate women who became my tribe. I also met numerous women, who were wonderful but that I had to choose to distance myself from. It was liberating to say to myself, that I did not need a certain type of energy or personality in my life and that I was okay with not being friends with everyone or have the need to be liked by everyone I met.

Work: My job has been the biggest gift of 2018. I can’t stress this enough and can’t stop from feeling an immense amount of gratitude that the universe handed me this incredible opportunity. I don’t feel I deserve it, but I wake up every day wanting to prove that I am worthy of it and worthy of being in the company of some of the smartest folks in NL. I can’t wait to contribute more to both PHAC and NL, because they have both given me more than I could have ever dreamed of.

Health: In 2017, I took part in every community event in Labrador. I wanted to be outside and enjoying the wilderness and taking in every bit of it. I feel extremely lucky that I was able to hike a few of the trails of the ECT. It’s something I want to continue to do every chance I get and take in the scenic beauty of this Island. In my new apartment I have a yoga studio, and it’s my favorite room. I love being able to do yoga in the comfort of my home but still have the option to do hot yoga in town.

Family: I miss them so deeply but I am grateful for what this year gave me. A chance to build new bridges with respectful boundaries. I can safely say, that shame and guilt are experiences I can recognize and respond to appropriately. I feel a complete self of freedom knowing that I no longer hide anything and feel at peace.

2019: This year, I’d like to work on being early because I struggle with being late to everything. I also want to bite off smaller things and not add too much to my plate. I know that I’ll be busy volunteering lots with Let’s Talk Science, RIAC teaching English and training folks on how to administer Naloxone with the Take Home Naloxone program. I’d like to be able to save for a house this year and also complete my Yoga Teacher Training this year. Getting a solid MCAT score is definitely high on my priority list. Spending quality time with friends, building my relationship with family and working out consistently are part of my daily priorities that I’d like to achieve some consistency with. Aside from that, I just want to spend every day with deliberation and to fill them with all that’s good so that when those inevitable bad ones come, I have the skills and mechanisms to see through the darkness.

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Lessons from Tuberculosis in Labrador

Lifestyle Blog April 12, 2018

With the tragic news of 14 year-old Gussie Bennett’s death in Nain, Labrador I am reminded of the work I was involved at Labrador-Grenfell Health in Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HVGB) most of which dealt with Tuberculosis (TB). Now that I’m removed, I’m able to reflect on how little I knew about our Indigenous Peoples, health inequity, the colonial nature of research/health all topped with my naïve approach to epidemiology within the sphere of northern, remote and rural health.

My role was a collaborative one with the public health nurse who managed TB clinics for a physician that lead TB treatment for all patients in HVGB and those from coastal communities. I collected patient level information for each outbreak, including laboratory results, treatment plans, contacts, transmission, and adherence to treatment. TB is rampant in some of Labrador’s remote coastal communities where resources are scarce, health facilities and their staff are spread thin and access to a primary care physician requires a chartered flight to HVGB. Everyone, from doctors and nurses to janitors and receptionists worked well beyond their means. That was what struck me most about Labrador, everyone always did more than just their part. As you can imagine, when you are involved in an area of health care that has so very many ties to the social determinants of health, you naturally become personally invested in the cause and the patients that are affected. I can remember countless nights thinking about what I could do as an epidemiologist that could potentially help reduce the burden of the workload for my colleagues. Tracking treatments more effectively, identifying gaps by conducting a needs assessment, evaluating current services and operations, learning about transmission patterns using software like pajek, all in an effort to be of some use to the staff on the ground. With it, however, came a sense of entitlement and ownership of the work I did, I wanted to be able to share it with the research and academic world to potentially have some positive impact. There was no malice or ill-intention in wanting to share my findings within the realm of academia; it was what I knew best. Publications, academic conferences, reports and presentations were the fruit of the endless hours of researching.

When we’re young, we are sold on the idea that we could be the next revolutionaries. We worship stars, world movers and shakers and are bent up on wanting to have the same positive impact on the world. For me, I dreamt of being with Doctors without Borders, being a sort of Dr. James Orbinski. While this is a noble thought and very well intentioned, it’s not needed or right. Someone else’s world is not mine to provide suggestions for and I most definitely cannot under any circumstances solely choose to present on any findings that I happen to stumble upon thinking I have the solution.  These startling realizations came during the opening remarks at the Northern Remote & Rural Health Conference in Labrador (October 2017) by Natan Obed (President of ITK). I remember sitting in the audience with the feeling of a spotlight shining above my head, my face flushed and fists clenched in disbelief because all I had ever wanted was to help be part of the solution. But it was clearly indicated that I was on the side that was part of the problem. I felt ashamed, a feeling I never associated with wanting to help, which led me to feel defensive.

As the day wore on, I reflected on the underlying root of my anger. I identified with, stood in solidarity with and supported the rights and freedoms of our Indigenous Peoples. I appreciated that there were long-lasting impacts due to colonization, trauma and discrimination that I could never understand, feel or experience. There is a shared sentiment amongst both refugees and immigrants with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. We share histories of being colonized, brutalized and told our way was the wrong way. It’s as if I could say, I understand your pain because it’s in some sorts, it’s a pain I recognize and feel quite frequently. Yet, I failed to recognize that I, despite my personal will to understand, could never undo the damage of the past that Indigenous Peoples experience no more than anyone could undo the damage the Russians and Americans did in Afghanistan. I was ironically in a position that represented the oppressive system that collected, analyzed and made decisions for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. I came in the form of those researchers that took first and never asked. I wanted to be a solution when in fact, I was part of the problem within the system that created injustices in not just healthcare but also in civil, judicial, social and cultural arenas.

The biggest pitfall of our system is that its an institution that was built on the principles of routine and hierarchy: do as you are told and do not question the legitimacy, intent and ethical code of our institutions practice because that’s how it’s always been and that’s how everyone else does it. Change isn’t easy and for large institutions and long-standing practices, it’s daunting to consider where one might begin. I don’t claim to have answers for our governments, our institutions and our research practices but there is a dialogue now with expressions of deep pain, suffering and a need for acknowledgement for the endless suffering of our Indigenous Peoples. This dialogue helped me realize how erroneous my own practices were and how much I needed to learn and grow. I hope it’s a conversation I continue to hear, learn from and implement.

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North West River, Labrador  Sunset