May 13, 2016
Story and Photo by Sharman Hnatiuk
As the Fort McMurray wildfire raged, Louis Doucet, 69, stayed by his wife Emely’s side when she was medically evacuated from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray.
However, when the couple landed in Edmonton, his wife was transferred to a long-term care facility in Leduc while he was brought to the University of Alberta Hospital (UAH) for dialysis.
“In some ways this unit feels just like home,” says Doucet, who has lived in the oil town for 45 years. “I’ve spent time on this unit in the past, and I know many of the girls here. A few have worked in Fort McMurray and others come up to cover when we are short nurses.”
Ashlyn Fahie, a registered nurse on Unit 5B1 at the UAH, says she was devastated when she heard about the fires. Fahie used to live in Fort McMurray and had worked on the dialysis unit at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.
“Although I don’t live there anymore I know a lot of people in the community. Once I started to see the familiar faces of evacuated dialysis patients like Louis, it warmed my heart. It’s nice to know they’re safe.”
Forced to abandon his vehicle at the hospital in Fort McMurray, Doucet was finding it difficult to commute between Edmonton’s Mill Woods neighbourhood, where he’s staying with his sister-in-law, and visiting with Emely a half-hour’s drive south in Leduc as well as getting to his dialysis appointments, a half-hour’s drive to the northwest at the UAH.
A generous solution came from one of his dialysis nurses from Fort McMurray, Chelsey Rayner, who visited him at the UAH, and offered him the use of her vehicle while he’s displaced in Edmonton.
“I had to go pick the car up in Plamondon, near Lac La Biche — but at least I could be independent. Now I can get to my appointments without waiting for a ride, and I can go visit my wife,” adds Doucet. “Chelsey just started in McMurray a month ago, but our unit really does feel like a family up there.”
The biggest challenge for Doucet during the evacuation turned out to be the broken air conditioner on the transit bus used to ferry them from the hospital to the airport at the Suncor Firebag site.
“There were over 20 people on a bus in 30 degree heat for almost nine hours; the road was bumper to bumper. It was horrible,” says Doucet. “But considering how quickly they had to get us out of the hospital they did a good job.”
Doucet says he’s happy to hear that both his home and the hospital were spared by the inferno.
Although he praises both the staff and physicians who are taking good care of him in Edmonton, naturally, both he and his wife are looking forward to the day they can go home.