May 30, 2016
Story by Mikayla Yasinski
EDMONTON — When Naomi Mercer and Lydia Kleppe saw the flames and smoke rising outside their home at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray, they were “scared to death.”
Naomi and Lydia, who met at Northern Lights this past January, have been inseparable ever since. The two women share a room in the continuing care unit and have forged a very strong bond.
“We help each other,” says Mercer, “I am so thankful to have her as a friend.”
When the centre was evacuated, the close friends became separated from each other. “It happened so fast,” says Naomi. “I wanted to know where Lydia had gone.”
The two women left Fort McMurray with only the clothes on their backs.
It was not until they arrived at the CapitalCare Lynnwood continuing care centre in Edmonton that Lydia and Naomi were reunited.
“We jumped up and put our arms around each other,” says Lydia. “It was amazing, I had found my friend.”
At their request, the two women were placed in a room together, just as they had been at Northern Lights. Although Lydia and Naomi have been through a tough ordeal, they now seem more than happy just to be together, and in a safe environment.
“The people here have been absolutely fantastic,” says Kleppe. “Once I saw my family again, I knew everything would be ok.”
“As we were evacuating our home, I managed to grab her Mother’s Day gift, gold earrings, off the nightstand,” says Naomi’s daughter, Vicki Marsh. “We were able to come visit on Mother’s Day to give it to her.”
Thanks to the efforts of emergency and healthcare professionals across Alberta, both women were able to spend Mother’s Day surrounded by family.
The Lynnwood centre has used donations to help provide the women, along with seven other Fort McMurray continuing care residents, with some of the things they left behind, such as toiletries and clothing.
As the women sit side by side smiling, and describe their new home, they seem peaceful and at ease. Though they left Fort McMurray with nothing, their contentment is proof that friendship and kindness can turn a traumatic experience into something positive.