Category Archives: Health

Dad’s Treasures – Part 2

As I was helping my Dad do some down-sizing his old doctor’s bag was one of the treasures we found.  Just looking at the bag it is clear it was put to very good use!

My Dad’s medical school graduation photo

My father told me he got the bag shortly after he graduated from medical school at the University of Manitoba.  I was only five years old at the time but can still remember the beautiful dress my mother wore to Dad’s graduation celebrations.

Dad and his fellow interns at St. Boniface Hospital in the late 1950s- Dad is third from the right in the back row

After interning at St. Boniface Hospital and doing a year of surgical practice with Dr. Isaac in Winnipeg he joined a clinic in Steinbach.

Dad with the doctors he worked with at Bethesda Hospital in Steinbach. 

Dad practiced medicine in Steinbach for 38 years.

Dad shows me some of the equipment he kept in his bag

I remember his bag as a fixture in our home because Dad could be called away any time night or day to make housecalls for his patients and he usually took the bag stocked with basic medical supplies and equipment along with him.  I remember the bag coming along with us to our cabin at Moose Lake as well, because many people with cottages around the lake knowing my Dad was a doctor would come to our yard to have cuts and scrapes attended to, to have fish hooks removed from various body parts or to have a quick consultation to determine whether an injury was serious enough to warrant a drive to the nearest hospital. In the article written about my Dad when he became an honorary lifetime member of the Canadian Medical Association, they talked about the many medical students he mentored, the volunteer work he did as a doctor in different countries, and the various professional boards and committees he served on. 

Dad’s work-worn doctor’s bag is a symbol of his dedicated service to thousands of people during his long and respected career as a physician. 

Other posts……….

Dad’s Treasures- Part 1

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Time For Canada’s Senate To Die?

Who would want to block the passage of legislation that protects the health and well being of Canada’s children?

In 2016 former Conservative senator and Olympic skiing medalist Nancy Greene Raine was determined to do something to address the high rate of childhood obesity in Canada. So she sponsored legislation (Bill S-228) that would ban the advertising of products high in sugar, salt, and fat from children’s media programming. It would also prevent grocery stores from displaying items like sugar-coated cereals at kids’ eye level.

The bill was passed by the duly elected House of Commons but now faces a quiet death in the Senate because a group of appointed Conservative senators is being influenced by a powerful coalition of advertisers, food processors, and retailers. Even though Canada’s pediatricians, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Cancer Society support the legislation, if it is not approved by the Senate before it adjourns on June 28th the legislation will die.

As much as 90% of food marketed to kids through television, movies, the Internet, video games, and giveaways in restaurants are high in sugar, fat, and salt. Quebec banned all commercial marketing to children thirty years ago. Their childhood obesity rate for 6-11-year-olds is the lowest in Canada.   Is that just a coincidence?

The legislation has already been amended to try to address some of the concerns of farmers, retailers, and the media. For example, while the initial legislation banned advertising for most of the daytime hours when children are awake, now it is only banned on programs where children make up more than 15% of the audience. The legislation has also been amended to allow food and beverage companies to continue to sponsor children’s sports’ teams and events targeted at children. 

Conservative appointed Senator Pamela Wallin says she is concerned about the impact the legislation will have on Canada’s grain and dairy producers and the baking industry but Nancy Greene Raine is quoted in a Toronto Globe and Mail article saying her bill won’t harm the sale or export of any Canadian products. They can still be sold, but can’t be marketed to children.  

Ms. Raine finds it particularly ironic that she herself is a former Conservative-appointed senator and senators from her own party are blocking the legislation because they are worried that its passage might make Liberals look too good just before an election. In a CBC interview, Ms. Raine said she was hurt that her hard work to cross party lines and obtain Liberal support for her bill is now being thwarted by members of her own party. 

As far as I’m concerned I’d like to see all commercial advertising aimed at children banned and I think it may be time to abolish Canada’s Senate.  Bill S-228 is only one of several important pieces of legislation that have been passed by the House of Commons but the current Senate is blocking.

Canada’s Senate Chamber is currently being renovated. Perhaps we should consider renovating it so it can be used for something else once the Senate is abolished.

Bills to protect victims of sexual assault and to protect the rights of Canada’s indigenous people will also likely die because of the ‘sober second thought’ of our appointed Senate. Perhaps its time to see that outdated institution die so it can no longer cause the death of legislation that protects Canada’s most vulnerable citizens. 

Other posts……

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A Graphic Novel with A Powerful Story

 I was enthusiastically telling my sister about attending David Robertson’s workshop on the graphic novel. Turns out my sister had just been at a lecture on memoir writing given by Kathleen Venema.  Kathleen had suggested they read a memoir in the graphic novel form called Tangles.  So I bought it. What a powerful story!  Sarah Leavitt uses simple pictures and words to describe her family’s journey after her mother is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. Some of it isn’t easy to read or view. Sarah’s family was close but now she and her sister and her Dad are forced into an intimate closeness and care for their wife and mother that crosses boundaries they never wanted to cross.  Sarah tells us a great deal about growing up in a vibrant, protective, loving home filled with books. Her Mom was endlessly supportive of her and now she has to support her Mom.  It’s tough. 

Of course, there is conflict and drama and guilt but also beauty in Sarah’s story. There’s a marvelous page in Tangles where Sarah and her Mom Midge and her sister Hannah get caught in a thunderstorm and for just for a moment Alzheimer’s is a gift because their mother’s lack of inhibition and worry provides a freeing and joyful experience for the three of them. 

Sarah’s book takes us all the way to her mother’s death.  There are these incredibly moving scenes where Sarah wraps herself in a special shawl she gave her Mom. It is dark blue like the night sky and dotted with stars.  With the shawl over her head, Sarah says the Kaddish for her mother every day. It is a special Jewish prayer that acknowledges a person had good parents who instilled in them a faith so strong they will be able to overcome their grief. 

If you haven’t tried reading a graphic novel before I hope you won’t let that stop you from reading Tangles because Sarah uses the graphic novel form to good effect to tell a story that will resonate with many families.

Other posts……….

The Things We Keep

Feeding My Mother

A Listening Love


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Writing As A Healing Art

Did you know that writing in a journal can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, increase your pain tolerance, help you sleep better, give you self-confidence and make you more empathetic? My second day at the CANSCAIP, Saskatchewan Horizons conference for children’s writers started with a journaling session led by Kristine Scarrow.

Photo of Kristine from her author website

Kristine is not only the author of four novels for teens published by Dundurn Press she is also a writer in residence at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon where she is part of a team that provides services in the healing arts to patients. She works alongside visual artists and music therapists. You can find out more about that program here. 

I learned a new term from Kristine’s presentation ‘narrative medicine’. It is an approach that uses people’s narratives or stories in clinical practice, research and education as a way to promote healing. Kristine told us a narrative medical approach can help doctors to understand their patient’s whole story and not just their symptoms. 

Kristine led us through several healing writing exercises.  One was called Captured Moment where we wrote a short journal entry about a happy, sad or challenging moment in our lives. Kristine encouraged us to use lots of sensory details.  

Another writing prompt was the Character Sketch, where we described ourselves or someone else. It could be someone we admired or liked but it could also be someone that was a difficult presence in our life.

Finally, we did a journal entry called Perspective.  We thought about something that we hoped would happen, or we knew would happen, in the future and wrote about it as if we were already in that future moment. Kristine told us she used this technique to give her perspective when a heart condition had her bedridden for months.  She imagined a future when her life would return to more normalcy and that helped put her situation into perspective. 

Although I have used writing as a tool to help me through some of the most difficult periods of my life, it was great to get Kristine’s ideas for some new healing ways to journal and to learn how the arts are becoming recognized tools for healing by the medical community. Kristine’s workshop provided a nice contemplative beginning to what was going to be a jam-packed day full of learning and networking at the conference. 

Other posts……….

Writing is the Way I Think and Remember

A Pool of Possibilities in Our Own Back Yard

Keeping a Record

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Pro- Life or Anti-Woman?

“It’s not a right!”  Those scary words are what I kept thinking about last week as American state legislatures passed draconian measures to criminalize abortion.  On May 9, 2018, Member of Parliament Ted Falk shouted “It’s not a right” across the House of Commons after the prime minister had made a statement saying, “We will always be unequivocal in standing up for a woman’s right to choose.”

Mr. Falk was technically correct.  We do not have a law in Canada giving women the right to have an abortion, but abortion has been legal in our country since 1988 when the Supreme Court struck down laws against it.

I have a feeling however Mr. Falk was not concerned about legal technicalities when he voiced his bold interruption.  His presence at a March For Life rally exactly a year later, May 9, 2019, along with some dozen other members of the Conservative caucus, indicates his support for the organization’s clearly stated mandate to have legislation passed that recriminalizes abortion.

Abortion rights are essential if we believe in the equality of women. Most women have abortions because they are in untenable, vulnerable or challenging situations. How can threatening them with criminal charges possibly be the best way to help them? It makes me shudder to think we may elect a prime minister again who personally believes women do not have a right to control their own bodies, as the current Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer does. Do we really want to take a chance on going back to a time of back alley abortions and women being second -class citizens?

Billboard created by a woman’s rights group in the Niagara area of Ontario

I wish the label pro-life had not become attached to the movement to recriminalize abortion.  I think of myself as pro-life even though I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I’ve written before about my frustration with people who focus their efforts on trying to recriminalize abortion. If they were truly serious about reducing the number of abortions, they would be advocating for more effective changes. The research is clear. The criminalization of abortion doesn’t stop it.  But there are things that could dramatically reduce abortion rates.

On May 9, the very day Mr. Falk and his colleagues were participating in the March for Life rally in Ottawa, the Canadian Paediatric Society released its official position on the accessibility of birth control. They’ve compiled a list of reasons why it would be in the best interest of Canadian society as a whole, to provide confidential access to free birth control to everyone under the age of twenty-five. This would help to reduce the estimated 58,000 unplanned pregnancies in that age group each year, including 21,000 that end in abortion.  Could Mr. Falk and his colleagues turn their attention from trying to make desperate women into criminals, and instead, focus their energies on making sure the pediatricians’ well-researched proposal to effectively reduce abortions becomes a reality?

There are so many other things we know will lower abortion rates. Since women primarily have abortions for economic reasons free daycare, lower post-secondary tuition costs, a guaranteed minimum income, and more affordable housing would decrease abortion rates, as would comprehensive mandatory sex education in schools, that introduces young people to many kinds of birth control, not just abstinence.             

These would truly be pro-life initiatives and far more effective ones than recriminalizing abortion as some American states have decided to do. I have the utmost respect for people who are serious about lowering the abortion rate in Canada.  That’s what I would like to see too.  But as far as I’m concerned if you want to make abortion a crime you are anti-woman, not pro-life.


Filed under Canada, Health

Vaccinations Aren’t Just For Babies

I had a whooping cough vaccination last month. At the beginning of April we became grandparents to a beautiful little girl. As we made plans for a visit to meet her in Saskatchewan her mother who is a pediatrician made a request.  Could we get whooping cough vaccinations before we came to see the baby?

I checked our vaccination records and although we’d had various childhood vaccinations updated for travel reasons we had never had a whooping cough booster.

I did a little research and found that there are around 30 million cases of whooping cough worldwide each year resulting in some 400,000 deaths. A Canadian government website reported an increase in cases in recent years in a number of provinces. It informed people that whooping cough can cause severe illness or even death in infants. Grandparents might be carrying the disease and not even know it. Since babies don’t get their first whooping cough vaccinations till they are two months old and their last when they are eighteen months old they are the most vulnerable.

It was recommended that grandparents of newborns should be sure their childhood vaccines had been updated in order to protect their grandchildren.  I checked with my nephew who is a pharmacist and he assured me there shouldn’t be any serious side effects for us from the vaccinations.

I made a quick call to a local pharmacy and found out that in Manitoba people over 65 can get a whooping cough shot free of charge, so there was really no excuse not to do so.

There has been a surge in whooping cough cases recently, partially as a result of more people choosing not to vaccinate their children, but also because so many adults like me who had their first shots in their childhoods in the fifties and sixties are not getting booster shots when the effectiveness of their initial vaccinations has worn off.

On March 19thof this year the British Columbia health minister made it clear in an interview with the Vancouver Sun that lower rates of immunization are the culprit for an increase in cases of whooping cough in their province. He emphasized how dangerous the disease can be for babies. An Angus Reid poll noted that some people choose not be vaccinated or choose not to vaccinate their children for philosophical, religious or personal reasons or because they believe in more natural alternatives to vaccination.

Although I am all for freedom of choice it is clear vaccinations are definitely in the best interest of society as a whole. In this article the Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all adults 65 and older be immunized against whooping cough.

Many grandparents of newborns have not updated the whooping cough shots they received in childhood. I’m hoping that after reading this they will check with their pharmacist or physician about getting a whooping cough vaccination. It’s easy and it’s free and what grandparent wouldn’t do anything they could to protect their grandchildren?

Other posts………

Retirement Advice From New Zealand

Healthier Kids

A Kiwi A Day



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In The Footsteps of Tom Thompson

hospice erie shoresThe day after my brother -in-law John’s funeral in Leamington, Ontario we toured the hospice where he had spent the last days of his life.  What a beautiful place!  Spacious light-filled rooms with private patios, fireplaces, desks and every amenity a resident or their family might need.  A grand piano to bring music into the building, a sunny garden room, a play area for children, a diningroom and kitchen where staff provided snacks and made to order meals to residents and their families, a library, and a special room for loved ones to rest or sleep or gather to talk. The morning we were there a group of women was busy creating the handmade quilts they stitch for every person who spends time at the hospice. 

children's art leamington hospiceThere was lots of beautiful art on the walls but I was particularly drawn to a display of work by middle school students.  They had studied Canada’s famous Group of Seven artists and then created their own paintings in that style to display in the hospice to cheer those who came there. group of seven kids projectA plaque on the wall explained their project and its name In The Footsteps of Tom Thompson.  Thompson was the founder of the Group of Seven art collective. 

art by kids leamington hospiceI love children’s art and the work at the hospice was especially meaningful because I knew how much my brother-in-law John had enjoyed art too. footsteps thom thompson

Other posts…….

Stopping By Woods

Through the Eyes of a Child

Oh To Be A Kid At the Fringe Festival 

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