Health & Healthy Living

Mentally Ill and Homeless
Alberta Views, November/December 2003, pp. 32-39

Heather lies awake at night, worrying whether she’ll keep the roof over her head. All too familiar with the limited housing options for a mentally ill Albertan whose disability pension brings in a princely $600 a month after taxes, she’s determined to hold onto the condo purchased from a distant cousin a few years ago. “I’m trying to stay out of warehousing, as I call it, because that can be very damaging,” she observes on the phone from Calgary, recalling 15 years punctuated by frantic searches for apartments and all-hours visits from neighbours in crisis. “I have a kidney disorder and I’m severely bipolar. Between both disorders, I have to be very, very careful about keeping my environment routine and healthy.”

In truth, the odds seem stacked against Heather…

© 2003 by Cheryl Mahaffy. All rights reserved.
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Meeting the Practice Challenge: It’s a Matter of Ownership
Nursing PRN, Issue 1, Spring 2010, pp. 16-21

Early in her career as a nurse, Jan Schimpf provided a home away from home for a mother–daughter duo while the woman’s husband was in intensive care with a ruptured aneurism. As they agonized over his care, Schimpf learned lessons she still employs as senior operating officer at Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital.

“It wasn’t about the machinery,” Schimpf recalls. “For his wife, it was that he had a gown on, that he looked comfortable, that the nurse acknowledged her presence and asked her how she was. And they would have huge debates about how long they should wait before ringing again when nurses said they would call back but forgot.” The husband later died while undergoing a tracheotomy that his daughter, also a nurse, had reluctantly approved at Schimpf’s urging.

Standing with that family, Schimpf saw firsthand that what nurses say and do dramatically affect people’s lives. Working in critical care at the time, she also knew the challenges that could easily compromise care. The experience solidified her determination to seize every opportunity to grow as a nurse—or, as she puts it, to own rather than rent her career….

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The risks of being young in the workplace: Protecting young workers from injury
Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, May 2009, pp. 17-20

Michelle Colleton’s passion for the safety of young workers took root March 7, 1991, the day her brother Sandy was crushed by five tonnes of metal in a fabrication shop. Her voice still shakes when she describes how the apprentice welder had to climb a poorly designed trolley day after day to unhook rigging from sheets of metal that were hauled inside the shop, and how a crane knocked over that final sheet before he could move out of the way. Studying in Wales at the time, she received the tragic news in a phone call from a friend and had to pass it along to her vacationing parents. Sandy Colleton was so disfigured that the coroner advised the family not to view the body.

Challenged by the health and safety officer involved in her brother’s case to “do something” with her rage at the circumstances surrounding his death, Michelle Colleton set aside studies in political science to take occupational health and safety training at Ryerson and then at McGill. Reached at her work as a safety team leader for BP Canada Energy Company, she says her desire to keep young Alberta workers safe is all the more acute now that she is a mother….

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Your Health
February 2005, pp. 30-41

Seeking the fountain of youth? Don’t look for a miracle. Instead, live sensibly, choose wisely and be content. That’s the prescription offered by Capital Health geriatric workers, who know what life is like among those who have succeeded in living long….

© 2005 by Cheryl Mahaffy. All rights reserved.
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