Letter: The Quiet Guardian

Letter: The Quiet Guardian

June 06, 2019

Late one night, after suffering at home like a typical nurse, I ended up feeling so incredibly ill that my partner took me to our local emergency department.

A new diabetic medication increased my chances of infection, and I had the bad luck of getting a bladder infection that progressed to a kidney infection, despite antibiotic treatment. I was quickly diagnosed with septic shock—a potentially fatal condition—and within half an hour I was intubated and readied for transfer to the first available

ICU bed, which was at Burnaby Hospital. When I arrived at Burnaby Hospital, I had an emergency tracheostomy to help ventilate me. I was critically ill for three weeks. Not only was I on breathing support and medication to support my circulation, but I had a serious kidney infection, severe pneumonia and multiple organ failure.

I had a central line to administer medication and fluids, an arterial line to monitor blood pressure, a tracheal tube to maintain my airway, IV lines, a catheter, and a feeding tube. I think I was attached to every piece of ICU equipment at times!


“Burnaby Hospital is such a valuable resource that we all need to treasure and support. It is there for us 24/7, like a quiet guardian.”


As I gradually re-entered the living world, I felt incredibly weak and unwell, but I quickly started to recover. It was a frightening experience at times. However, the expert care I received from the team at Burnaby Hospital’s ICU helped me enormously.

My two key nurses, Grace and Barb, nursed me like I was family. They were so caring, compassionate and kind, plus they had amazing nursing skills. Mary Tess and Josie were nurses that looked after me in the night. I remember their soothing touch and the warm blankets and their reassurances so clearly. Everyone was amazing. It was simply outstanding care from a high functioning team.

Today, I am back to my full-time work, doing my crafts and hobbies, enjoying my friends and family and travelling. I had some difficulty adjusting to life again, with post-traumatic stress disorder due to ICU delirium, ongoing pain and weakness, and a collapsed airway, which can leave me quickly breathless. BUT! I survived.

I feel lucky to be alive and to have survived septic shock when so many people don’t. Lucky to have come out of the experience relatively unscathed. Lucky to have been transferred to Burnaby Hospital and received the amazing care that I had. I feel grateful for everyone at Burnaby Hospital’s ICU for saving my life.

As a health care professional myself, I know the funding issues faced by hospitals and all I can say is: Please. Give. Generously. Community hospitals like Burnaby are often ‘overlooked’ or ‘overshadowed’ by the larger health institutions, yet they are the places closest to where we live, and they are our first ports of call in an emergency.

I am an experienced nurse of 29 years in the profession, and I was so, so impressed by the incredible, outstanding care I received at Burnaby Hospital’s ICU. Without it, I would not have survived.
Burnaby Hospital is such a valuable resource that we all need to treasure and support. It is there for us 24/7, like a quiet guardian.

Our community hospitals are the places where care is delivered to hundreds of thousands of BC residents, day in and day out. And, as I hope you can see from my story, lives are saved every day.

Warm regards,

Scott Harrison, RN BScN MA CCHN(C)
Director, Urban Health | Indigenous Health
Substance Use | Maternity | NICU
Adjunct Professor of Nursing, UBC