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Showing resilience in the face of a disaster

How the lab team at Fraser Canyon Hospital came together to ensure continuity of service during the atmospheric river last November.
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Picture: Liz Soares, lab site supervisor at Fraser Canyon Hospital.

​In recognition of Medical Lab Week, we're profiling lab staff who are making a difference in the lives of people in the communities we serve.

No two days are alike for Liz Soares, lab site supervisor at Fraser Canyon Hospital. Liz's job is to oversee the daily functions of the lab, ensuring lab instruments are running smoothly to produce reliable results, and that patients receive a high standard of care.

For the first few years of her career, Liz worked in the accounting department of a major construction company. After spontaneously shadowing a cousin who worked as a respiratory therapist, she discovered the lab and became inspired to switch directions.

"I quickly realized the monotony of daily office work was not for me. The lab was intriguing. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I really liked the idea of helping patients without being face-to-face or directly at the bedside," she explains.

11 years later, Liz continues to be inspired by the ever-changing climate of the lab.

Finding hope amidst a crisis

Last November, a record-breaking storm caused flooding and landslides throughout the Fraser Valley. The atmospheric river had a major impact on the lab at Fraser Canyon Hospital.

"Our entire community was cut-off from the rest of the province. For a brief time, we didn't have power or cell phone service, and there were over 1,000 stranded travellers to care for. The landslides had obstructed all the major highways leading into Hope, so we had no road access in or out of town for a number of days. Looking back, it was quite traumatic as many decisions needed to be made very quickly to ensure the continuity of service in our lab."

Amidst the crisis, the Fraser Canyon lab team displayed creativity and resilience. With no road access, the team coordinated helicopter transportation for courier runs to deliver supplies and pick up samples for distribution to other labs for specialized testing. "It was all-hands-on-deck," says Liz. Because of the dangerous flying conditions, helicopter service was sparse, adding pressure to ensure supply requests and critical tests were sent out correctly. At the time, many of those critical tests included urgent COVID-19 swabs.

Supply Drop.jpg Picture: Helicopter drop at Fraser Canyon Hospital to pick up critical tests during atmospheric river last November.

Giving credit where credit is due

Often working behind the scenes, the Fraser Canyon lab team came front and centre during the floods, working together to navigate a rapidly changing environment without any issues. While things are still far from normal, Liz is proud of the way her team stepped up.

"I feel very fortunate to work with the team that I have. There were so many unknowns during the floods. We didn't know if our family and friends were okay, if our homes were safe, or if we had enough food. With all the uncertainty, they still showed up to work and gave 100 percent. Everyone was willing to step up when needed, whether that be to drive samples to the airport and wait in the pouring rain to confirm they were loaded, or to come in on a day off to help take inventory and stock up the blood bank fridge. I would not trade the team that I have for any other in the world!"

 
 
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