Nfld. & Labrador·Critical condition

What I have learned about people while my mother is sick

From the friends who filled her fridge to the nurses who are as kind as they are capable, contributor Candice Walsh has been buoyed by the support of others.

Inside the sterile walls of a hospital, my family has been embraced with warmth

Candice Walsh has found comfort from friends and strangers alike as her mother Myrtle recovers. (Submitted by Candice Walsh)

In January, my mother Myrtle underwent a fairly routine ileostomy surgery at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand-Falls Windsor.

After several post-surgery complications — including sepsis and multiple organ failure — she was moved to St. John's, where the Health Sciences Centre had the specialized facilities to care for her.

She's still there … four months later.

But this story isn't about the horror of the last few months.

It's about the people who stepped up along the way.

I'm fortunate to have a job that allows me to work from any location. So when Mom went into surgery, I packed my bags and my laptop, and headed to Grand Falls-Windsor expecting to stay a few days.

Candice Walsh's brother, Adam, enjoys a slice of pizza, after friends surprised the family with a hot meal. (Submitted by Candice Walsh)

My family is from St. Alban's, but I have very little support beyond Bay d'Espoir. The hostel attached to the hospital closed years ago, and the other most affordable option is a nearby efficiency unit.

But as the weeks ticked on, there was no way I could afford a $90 room per night.

Instead, a colleague working in tourism — with whom I had only ever chatted on Facebook — opened up his home to me. He and his fiancé (and their lovely pets) welcomed me, cooked for me and even offered rides to and from the hospital. I had never met them before. 

Their home was in Windsor, which wasn't a quick walk in the dead of winter. I often took taxis home in the evening, not wanting to bother my hosts too much.

Being a small town, the drivers at ASAP Cabs got to know me fairly quickly, and they were warm and chatty and full of sympathy each night as they shuttled me away.

One evening, the owner of the company offered me a free ride, which I declined. When he offered me that ride again weeks later, I happily accepted, bone-weary and grateful for the kindness. I'll never forget that.

Later, a man from St. Alban's who owned property near the hospital gave me the keys to his home. Again, he had never met me. He just worked on blind faith.

They filled my fridge

When Mom ended up in the ICU in St. John's, I was lost in a world between hope and despair.

Sleep came rarely, my bank account was dwindling, and I didn't have time to eat. I choked down my own pride and put out a tentative plea on Facebook — please, won't someone bring me and my father and brother some food?

Nurses at the Health Sciences Centre attend to Myrtle Walsh. (Submitted by Candice Walsh )

That evening, I came home to a kitchen loaded down with groceries, and three trays of sandwiches dropped off on the front step. My fridge was filled with moose roast, spaghetti, soup, and chili. All I had to do was ask.

While Mom regains her strength at the Health Sciences in preparation for another surgery, and while I still spend most days at the hospital, we've gotten to know the nurses and doctors quite well along the way.

Every day they answer my questions with stoic calmness. The nurses care for Mom with an admirable level of professionalism, but with a genuine kindness that's impossible to miss.

On Mom's first walk in the corridor, the nurses beamed and congratulated her as they scurried off to attend to their patients.

No task is too big or too small for them — whether it's digging through Mom's overnight bag for a pair of socks, or providing a little bit of optimism to carry her through these tense weeks.

I remember a nurse hugging my tiny mother when she was able to stand for the first time, and I thought, her life is in their hands. And they are very capable hands.

Embraced by the warmth of others

Hospitals are dreadful places for recovery.

Inside those sterile walls, people rely on the warmth from others.

And so do their families.

I've carried these acts of kindness with me since January — they're wonderful reminders of how Newfoundlanders come together in times of need.

The smallest gestures can mean the world, and believe me, they don't go unnoticed.


Candice Walsh


Candice Walsh is a freelance writer and travel blogger in St. John's.