A mom’s shoes are hard to fill

May 4, 2016

Rei Calisin followed in his mother Olivia’s footsteps and trained to become a respiratory therapist. He now works alongside her in the Stollery Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

A future in healthcare is a family affair

Story by: Sharman Hnatiuk

Rei Calisin knew he wanted to become a respiratory therapist (RT) when he job shadowed his mother, an RT on the Stollery Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), for a day in high school.

Now Rei, 25, works side by side with this mother as RTs in the PICU.

“I heard stories from my mom about working at the hospital, but it wasn’t until I spent the day with her at work that I really opened my eyes to her profession,” explains Rei. “Everyone thinks about doctors and nurses working in a hospital, but RTs have an important role as well. RTs help people breathe.”

Olivia worked as a respiratory therapist in her native Philippines, but when her family immigrated to Winnipeg in 2000, she went back to school to meet the Canadian credentials for her profession.
The family moved to Edmonton once Olivia was hired at the Stollery; giving her an opportunity to work with some of the sickest children in western Canada; she has been working on the PICU for the last 10 years.

 “Working in pediatrics can be very challenging at times, but you get to help a child breathe. We watch as they get stronger and eventually leaving our unit,” explains Olivia. “I find my job very rewarding.”

Once Rei completed his RT education at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, he worked casual shifts at the Royal Alexandra Hospital before applying for a full-time position on the Stollery PICU.

“My mom is the main reason I wanted to work on this unit,” says Rei. “When my mom works, everyone trusts and respects her. She has big shoes for me to fill, but it is comforting to have such a great resource next to me.”

It warms Olivia’s heart to hear the admiration and respect that her son has for her as a professional. 

“I have so much pride when I see him at work,” expresses Olivia. “When our family came to Canada, we had nothing. To see him now, next to me as a front-line staff on the PICU, I couldn’t be more proud as a mother.”