April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week and we’d like to thank and recognize all the wonderful volunteers who take time out of their daily lives to contribute to the hospital to help us provide better service and care to our patients.
In honour of Volunteer Week, we’d like to showcase one of our volunteers, Noel MacDonald, who has volunteered at BC Women’s for nearly a decade.
Noel was a full time volunteer outreach worker in the Downtown Eastside for almost a decade before he started volunteering at BC Women’s, and his involvement in the community also included portrait photography. On one occasion, one of the families Noel was working with at the shelter asked if he would take baby photos for them at BC Women’s Fir Square Complex Care unit, where the family was having their baby.
“I immediately fell in love with the moms and the Fir Square team,” says Noel. “That was eight years and 500 babies ago.”
Noel shoots maternity portraits throughout the course of a mom’s pregnancy, and he would also follow up with portraits of the mom, baby and extended families. Occasionally, he would follow Fir families into the community to do more portraits as the family grows. Three years ago, a social worker at BC Women’s asked Noel if he would take photos for a family that was experiencing a loss. This began his volunteer work as a demise photographer.
The photos that Noel takes hold significance to our patients and their families. For the moms on Fir whom are working through substance and/or alcohol use, the photos bring them pride and joy of becoming a new mother giving them validation.
“They deserve to be acknowledged and respected for the incredibly difficult task of facing their disease and getting treated at Fir,” says Noel. “The women also need to be recognized as moms and their love for their baby needs to be seen.”
With demise photography, families come to cherish the final moments that are captured of their loss and the space these photos provide gives an outlet for families to focus their grief as part of their healing.
The intimate nature of these photo shoots develops a unique connection between Noel and the families. “I find myself drawn to working in the rewarding, challenging and vital space of supporting families that find themselves in an unbelievable situation,” says Noel.
“I have somehow been able to work around death and dying in a compassionate, caring and productive way. Part of what keeps me working is the amazing relationship I have developed with the nurses, doctors, social workers, respiratory therapists and chaplains supporting families (and each other) in this important work.”
The motivation that keeps Noel volunteering besides the relationships he’s developed is that the saying is true: doing good work makes you feel good.
This article was written by Provincial Health Services Authority Communications.
As a young general practitioner, Abrahams routinely saw women recovering from drug addiction have their babies removed from their care immediately after birth – a practice he found totally unacceptable. In 2003, to address the needs of these women, Abrahams established BC Women’s Fir Square Combined Unit, the first program of its kind in Canada dedicated to keeping moms with their babies as they stabilize and withdraw from substance use.
Since then, Dr. Abrahams has been a key member of an international quality improvement effort, serving as a visionary member of the Steering Committee for the Vermont Oxford Network’s internet-based Quality Improvement Collaborative. Over 200 teams from the US, Canada, and Ireland have enrolled to systematically spread quality and improve outcomes.
Nurture the Mother: Nurture the Child a video produced by the Vermont Oxford Network in collaboration with Dr. Abrahams and Dr. Amy Salmon transported the teams to the Vancouver Sheway and Fir Square Program. Here they learned firsthand about the success of this comprehensive program, and were inspired by the rooming-in model of care.
Teams in this collaborative have universally developed policies and reshaped practices to improve the quality, safety and value of care for this vulnerable population.
Dr. Abrahams will continue the spread and scale of this powerful work and the collaboration with the Vermont Oxford Network’s quality improvement collaborative in 2015.
- Fir Square