Dr. Sharon Ryan is a local realtor in St. Albert and area. When her mother, Louise, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer, the Ryan family soon found themselves at the doorsteps of Foyer Lacombe Palliative Care Facility.
Immediately upon entry, the Ryan family was greeted by a cheerful Sasha volunteer who ensured they were attended to promptly by the nursing staff. Whenever Louise needed a drink, a straw, or a magazine, the Sasha volunteers were quick to respond, making Louise’s stay at Foyer Lacombe very pleasant indeed!
And then, without notice, it all stopped. Covid 19 hit our world and the residents of palliative care and seniors care facilities found themselves isolated – without family members or any volunteers. Most Canadians would remember the heartbreaking images of family members waving to their loved ones through windows of facilities.
This abrupt transition from a world of gentle care to an isolated prison marked the importance of people like the volunteers at Sasha. Although the nursing care was exemplary throughout, nothing can replace the simple act of human kindness, like a smile or the holding of one’s hand. The nurses, run off their feet, also missed the presence of these angels.
In a fight against time, Sharon (and hundreds of other families) began their desperate fight to have the government overturn the ‘lock out’ orders. After several weeks of media interviews and a strong social media campaign, their plea was heard by the Alberta government and visitation rights were granted to palliative care patients.
Sharon is releasing her story in a new book – “That’s Not Canadian”: A Search for Human Rights in a Global Pandemic – ready for release (Jan. 2023). In it, she reflects on how Canadians stood up for their values at a critical time in our history and how, in Sharon's opinion, the government overstepped basic human rights. This is definitely a feel-good narrative that would warm any Canadian’s heart and reminds us of our distinct place in the building of human rights and dignity on the world stage.