By Christina Zimmerman
Most people would agree that the job of a paediatric home care nurse isn’t an easy one. There are the night shifts, the emotional challenges of caring for kids with a severe illness or disability and of course being a confident and supportive “rock” to the parents of these children. But what if one of your patients turns out to be your own son? That’s the incredibly difficult dual role Tracy Lafleur, a paediatric community nurse, had to take on when her son Ryan was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of 19.
Since her son’s diagnosis, Tracy has been by Ryan’s side every step of the way, taking care of all his daily living activities. She continues to work full time, caring for other medically fragile children overnight so she can spend every waking moment with Ryan during the day. She finds time to rest when Ryan naps but she always makes sure she is awake to administer Ryan’s medications and often puts his needs ahead of her own. “She even offers to help when professional assistance is in the house and she should be taking a break,” says Sarah Yeomans, who nominated Tracy for the award. “She is always happy and energetic, even though I know she’s running on no sleep. She truly does have a heart of gold.”
Sarah nominated Tracy for VHA Home HealthCare’s Heart of Home Care Award – an award which celebrates unpaid Ontario caregivers who go above and beyond to care for a loved one—and which she accepted in April at Toronto’s Caregiver Appreciation Day Event at Toronto City Hall. Tracy was treated to a lunch with other caregivers, a welcome by Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory and a special performance by R & B singer Jully Black.
“When I first learned that I have brain cancer I thought my life was over. My mother and I cried together,” writes Ryan. Ryan’s cognitive functions have remained but the cancer he has caused him to lose a lot of his physical abilities and most of his speech.
Tracy’s day is a full 24 hours and she typically runs on three to four hours of sleep. But despite the overwhelming challenging situation the family faces, they seem to find plenty of time to laugh and joke with Ryan often sending texts that tease his two sisters or joking with his mom and dad. “We are happy people. We take every day as another good day, one step at time, one day at a time and with lots of humour,” says Tracy.
“Caregiver is an oversimplification of what she is to me, she more than deserves it (the Heart of Home Care Award), writes Ryan. View Tracy and Ryan’s story at http://bit.ly/HLTCTracy .
Tracy’s caregiving tips:
- Find out as much as you can from your doctors. Ask lots and lots of questions.
- Do your research! First get as much information as you can from your doctors and then start investigating on your own as knowledge is power.
- Take as much help as you are offered, because it really makes a difference.
- Make sure to take time for yourself. As busy as you are, you have to remember that you deserve some time too. You have to be able to relax and unwind a little bit.
Thanks to PACE Consulting and Teak Printing, Flashframe Digital Media, BDO, and Home and Long Term Care Magazine for their generous sponsorship of the 2017 Heart of Home Care Awards.
Christina Zimmerman is Communications Specialist at VHA Home HealthCare.