A place to find your voice. A place to call home: A volunteer’s extraordinary experience with Burnaby Hospital
February 02, 2021
At a passing glance, Sally Ou is a young lady volunteering at her community hospital, just as many others do. But for all the physicians, nurses, technicians and clinicians at Burnaby Hospital, there may be very few as meaningfully connected to the aging facility as the 27 year old STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Design and Math) student.
Sally’s interest in Burnaby Hospital is both professional and personal. At the age of 15, she was often brought to Emergency at Burnaby Hospital due to a series of reoccurring health problems, and over that time she always felt well taken care of. But it was later when her grandmother was admitted to the hospital that Sally’s relationship with the place really began to blossom.
“My grandma was brought into Burnaby Hospital early on during my secondary school career and she stayed within the hospital for a number of weeks before staff was able to find her a placement within Fellburn Care Centre,” notes Sally. “During that period of time, I was very grateful and appreciative of what all the staff did to help my grandma, but it was the second time my grandma was brought into the hospital that made this place more of a home than it already is.”
Faced with the terrifying prospect of losing her grandma, and battling some cultural and social stigmas that can come with being an Asian-Canadian woman, Sally struggled to communicate with her family about her grandmother’s care. But it was through the compassion and wisdom of her grandma’s care team that she found her voice.
“I always had a hard time speaking up for what I thought was right, but the doctors and nurses during that time were my heroes. They empowered and helped me, telling me to take a stand for what I believed strongly in. They gave me the courage to have an active voice in my grandma’s care. The staff not only cared for my grandma, but they also took care of the people by her side. The active listening, communication, empathy and compassion that they showed not only to my grandma, but to my family as well, is something I try to practice every day, no matter what I am doing. Because of that encouragement and support, my family and I were able to gain an additional three years with our loved one.”
Today, Sally is passionate about her studies in medicine and forestry, and hopes to combine those interests into a career in the healthcare field. That same passion, and her experiences at Burnaby Hospital, led her become a volunteer.
“Since I was in high school, I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career within the healthcare field, specifically in medicine,” she says. “As soon as I was of age to volunteer within Burnaby Hospital, I applied right away. Of course, Burnaby Hospital and Fellburn Care Centre have a very special place within my heart.
“My first volunteer role was within the Emergency Department and I still remember the first question most of the physicians and staff asked me: ‘why do you want to volunteer here? Do you want to become a nurse?’ I always laughed and I would respond proudly saying, ‘I want to be a doctor!’ Ever since then, all the nurses and doctors have kept tabs on me and have been some of the best mentors I’ve had. It has been eight years, and most of them have watched me grow up within this hospital.”
And so a decade later, the doctors and nurses at Burnaby Hospital who showed such empathy and support to Sally and her family throughout her grandma’s care are now her friends and teachers. Perhaps one day soon they will be her colleagues.
“The 20 year old me would have never thought she would be volunteering at Burnaby Hospital for this long, nor did she know she would be gaining this many life changing experiences. This place I now call home has given me more than I ever thought; a place of many memories, a safe place to come to, and a place where I belong.”