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Influential doctor remembered

St. Albert physician delivered more than 2,000 babies

By: Susan Jones

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 06:00 am

FONDLY REMEMBERED  Dr. Marlene Lidkea is credited with pioneering protocols for treating victims of sexual assault.
FONDLY REMEMBERED Dr. Marlene Lidkea is credited with pioneering protocols for treating victims of sexual assault.
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When Dr. Michael Poitras began to read the long list of online memorial tributes to honour his wife Dr. Marlene Lidkea, he noticed that almost every one mentioned how she had been there for her patients in times of joy and sorrow.

"She was a family physician in St. Albert for more than 30 years. She delivered more than 2,000 babies," he said, adding that in some cases, both the mothers and the new generation of babies were delivered by Lidkea.

"Many of the letters said, 'Dr. Lidkea delivered me and she delivered my baby.' She was into delivering the second generation," Poitras said. "She loved delivering babies and she loved the idea of following the family and the kids."

Dr. Marlene Lidkea, who died suddenly on Dec. 23 of undisclosed causes, leaves behind a legacy of caring that went beyond her family practice. She was 58.

Sometime early in her practice, Lidkea treated a young patient who had been the victim of a sexual assault. In the 1980s there was no official protocol for how to examine or treat such patients. The protocol that was later adopted by the Alberta Medical Association, as a standard procedure for dealing with children who have been victims of physical and sexual abuse, was largely developed by Lidkea.

"At the time she was the only physician in the Edmonton area who would do medical exams on kids. No other physician would see them, because it was such a taboo. She would see them right away," said Karen Smith, executive director of the Edmonton Sexual Assault Centre.

Smith went on to say that because Lidkea championed the cause, the Edmonton area has a number of very special services for victims of sexual assault, that are unlike those found anywhere else in Canada.

"Edmonton has got the Cadillac of services for sexual assault victims compared to other places. People from all across Canada come here to learn. Not even Calgary has the services we have here. If we hadn't had a medical doctor championing all of this, it never would have gone anywhere," Smith said.

"There was no structure in place at first but Marlene did a ton of research. She studied courses in San Diego and she took training to learn how to collect evidence. She developed a skill and reputation for dealing with victims of assault, with children being the focus," Poitras explained.

Lidkea's determination led to the establishment of Edmonton's Child and Adolescent Protection Unit and the Child and Adolescent Protection Centre at the Stollery Children's Hospital.

Largely because of her work in this field, in 1998 Lidkea was presented with the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award. In 2005, on the occasion of Alberta's centennial, Lidkea was one of 100 physicians to receive the Physicians of the Century Award.

Yet all through those years of working with victims of sexual assault and working with other physicians to establish procedures and protocols, Lidkeas also studied and developed practices to allow for natural childbirth within the safe environs of a hospital.

"She was passionate about minimal intervention. She studied other birthing practices in the world, for example the research in Britain, and she started to say, 'We're doing it all wrong. Giving birth should be as natural as possible," Poitras said.

Poitras said that his wife's voicemail was a telling assessment of how she lived her life on the run.

"Her answering machine message said, 'If I'm not here, I'm swimming or delivering a baby!" Poitras said, as he explained that Lidkea could seldom sit and do nothing.

"She would swim at Fountain Park pool and for the past three years, she trained to swim 2.1 kilometres in the Across the Lake in Kelowna event," he said.

Lidkea loved to garden and maintained the 1,200 square feet of perennial flower beds that encircled the family's pie-shaped lot as well as flower beds at her parents' acreage home near Leduc.

She loved to travel and one of her goals was to visit every Canadian province.

"She had this thing that if we're Canadian, we have to see all the provinces. She saw them all except for the Yukon and Nunavut. She swam with beluga whales at Churchill, Man. and with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands," Poitras said.

Dr. Lidkea's office and those of her partners will be closed as of Jan. 31, but any patient can still phone that number for assistance.

"Their charts will be redirected to a physician of their choice," Poitras said.

Left to celebrate the life of Dr. Marlene Lidkea are her husband, Dr. Michael Poitras, her sons Andre and Evan, her special granddaughter Grace Bacha, her parents Audrey and Russell Lidkea, and her siblings Harvey, Wade (Joan Garbey), Ross (Marlene), Darlene (Len MacMillan) and Wayne (Larissa Aponiuk).

A memorial service will be held at the Enjoy Centre (101 Riel Drive) on Jan. 11, at 7 p.m.


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