Nfld. & Labrador

Beloved Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk of Happy Valley-Goose Bay remembered for compassion, dedication

Ob-gyn who was known for his "magic hands," originally came from Poland and delivered thousands of babies over his career in Labrador.

Ob-gyn, who retired in December 2017 after delivering thousands of babies, died over the weekend.

Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk has died, two years after retiring from a nearly 50-year career, during which he delivered thousands of babies. (Courtesy: John Graham)

Many people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are mourning the loss of Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk, a beloved ob-gyn who died over the weekend.

"It's hard to describe who Dr. Rawluk was. He was a larger-than-life gentleman with a huge heart,"  said Dr. Gabe Wollam, who worked with Rawluk.

Rawluk, who was known for his "magic hands," originally came from Poland and delivered thousands of babies over his career in Labrador.

He began his stint with Labrador-Grenfell Health in St. Anthony in 1989, a couple of years before coming to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and was basically on call for nearly 30 years, until his retirement in December 2017 after a nearly 50-year career. For decades Rawluk was the only obstetrician and gynecologist in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. 

Wollam recalled meeting Rawluk in 2007 when Wollam was a resident at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay hospital.

At Rawluk's retirement party, many people wore vests in his honour. (Submitted)

"When he was in town, he was on call 24/7 and helped bring many babies into the world," Wollam said. 

"I never heard him grumble about whenever it was.… He'd show up at three in the morning, with his vest on, and his pocket watch, and his cup of coffee, and we'd get the job done." 

Rawluk had a special quality, said Wollam.

"it'd be great if we could figure out what it was and bottle it," he said. "He cared about his patients above everything else." 

Wollam's family was also close with Rawluk, who spent time with Wollam and his children. 

Rawluk was close to Dr. Gabe Wollam and his family, including Wollam's son Jack, pictured. (Submitted)

"He loved mushroom hunting," Wollam said. 

Rawluk revealed secret spots for foraging, bringing along Wollam and his kids to share his passion for the outdoors. 

"He took it upon himself to teach me and my kids about mushroom hunting."

Rawluk always took it upon himself to connect with people, said Wollam.

Wollam and his children still go mushroom hunting, a love passed down from Rawluk. (Submitted)

"He was able to find common ground or find some common interest with a lot of people that he met, and then he would remember that about that person and it would always come up in conversation," Wollam said.  

Kayla Lethbridge was a patient of Rawluk's from 2008 to 2013 while she was having difficulty getting pregnant. 

"His care and compassion was constant and encouraging the entire journey, even in times when I was ready to give up," Lethbridge said. 

"I was diagnosed with [polycystic ovary syndrome] in 2007, along with receiving news that I had eight dermoid cysts on my ovaries that needed to be removed," she said. 

Rawluk operated on Lethbridge in 2008.  

[Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk] was well respected and adored by all who knew him- Yvonne Jones

"At that time I was told that the outcome was unpredictable — [that] I may come out with one ovary, no ovaries or even a full-blown hysterectomy," said Lethbridge. "I came out of that surgery with both ovaries intact."

Rawluk encouraged Lethbridge not to give up, even after such an invasive surgery. 

"Five years after my initial appointment with Rawluk … he was just as encouraging as the first day I walked into his office," she said. 

In October 2012, Lethbridge finally got the results for which she was hoping.

Kayla Lethbridge holds baby Tegan in 2013. Lethbridge was encouraged by Rawluk not to give up when she had difficulty conceiving. (Submitted)

"I walked into his office with the news I was pregnant. He gave me the biggest hug and was over the moon with excitement," Lethbridge said. 

She gave birth to her daughter in June 2013. 

"He turned to my husband and said, 'A lot of this is up to medical science but that child in your wife's arms is simply unexplainable.'

"Years later, he would still walk up to me in the grocery store, call me by name and ask about my little girl. His ability to remember so many of his patients and their babies is amazing," she said.

"We are beyond thankful to Dr. Rawluk for his care and compassion over the years. He was truly one of a kind."

Since the news of his death, people have been paying tribute on social media to Rawluk's dedication to his patients.

Rawluk had an uncanny ability to remember his patients' names, says Lethbridge. (Submitted)

"On behalf of all Labradorians I extend deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk," wrote Labrador MP Yvonne Jones on Facebook.

"He was known throughout Labrador for his magic hands after having delivered many babies in Central and Northern Labrador over the past 20 years. He was known for his kind and [compassionate] nature, he was well respected and adored by all who knew him. He will be missed and remembered for his tremendous care and dedication to his patients. We acknowledge his remarkable service and mourn his loss."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.