Changemaker January 2019 - Tracy Curtis
Written and Submitted by: Terri Viola-Wilson
“This is my chance to give back. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Like so many of us, Tracy Curtis considers herself fortunate to have benefitted from the support of others when she has been most vulnerable and so she dedicates her life now to giving back. She wouldn’t have it any other way. While she sits as Chair of the National Capital Region Chapter of HHA, she is also on many other Teams. You have to be extremely well organized to be involved in HHA as much as Tracy Curtis.
“Right now, we’re (HHA) still in the starting stages and we’re still building the knowledge about HHA and what we do,” Tracy explains. “Being part of these committees gives me a better understanding of the processes and that gives me knowledge to share with others.” Her other responsibilities include secretary for the main HHA Board, Development Team, Grant Team, Marketing Team, Fundraising Team, Volunteer Engagement Team, the “Human Side” of Referral Pathway, Professional Development Training, and C.A.N.D.Y. Club. Needless to say, she has to keep a very organized calendar.
Tracy grew up in British Columbia. She quit school in Grade 8 and went back at the age of 27. She took business administration, completed it with honours but hated that line of work. She was a single mother of 2 girls living in Mackenzie, a mill town, when she fell and shattered her kneecaps. She had to move herself and her girls to Prince George in order to get the physiotherapy she needed.
In Prince George, Tracy worked for an automotive company doing their bookkeeping. She applied for and was accepted into a nursing program that started in the Fall but couldn’t apply for a student loan until the January after classes started. All would have been lost if it weren’t for the couple for whom she was working. After overhearing Tracy’s phone conversation with someone, explaining why she couldn’t take the nursing program, the couple went out and paid for her tuition. That incredible act of generosity and support allowed Tracey to take the 18-month program and once again, she graduated with honours.
Tracy nursed fulltime for a long-term care facility in northern B.C. and offered additional assistance in the surgical department at the hospital and volunteer work in community care. Between work and her two girls, life was full. And then she was in a car accident. This accident left her in so much pain she was unable to continue her nursing career with its physical demands. Once again, she found herself moving, this time to Ottawa. At this point, life didn’t seem to hold much promise. Then one day, while on Facebook, Tracy saw an advertisement for Home Hospice Association’s Death Doula and Infancy and Pregnancy Loss Doula courses. Once again, serendipity had its own plan for her. Tracy has completed both courses, having written her most recent exam in November 2018.
During her time as a nurse, one of the things Tracy found difficult was that “I always had to watch my patients die but as a nurse, you’re not allowed to contact the patient’s family after death has occurred.” Usually, a bond is created with the patient’s family over the time they are in long-term care. She found that she wanted to still reach out to them to provide support. What Tracy likes about her role as a Death Doula is that she can continue her relationship with the family because care continues through to bereavement.
While taking the courses with HHA, Tracy was struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of the instructors. The courses made her think differently about death and that’s something she is inspired to share with others as they go through that journey. Tracy considers HHA her “family”. She knows that, should she ever need the services of HHA, she will be in the hands of caring, compassionate people. She will be able to tailor the end-of-life journey to suit the loved one who is dying.
As a volunteer with HHA, Tracy continues to see herself grow in many ways. However, one of the critical changes she is very cognizant of is how she communicates with others. Tracy grew up in an environment where it was easier to be edgy and gruff. She had great compassion for her patients in her care or customers in retail but often lacked professionalism when dealing with her peers. Tracy spends a lot of time observing how people with HHA speak to one another and compose written communications. Learning these skills is something she values greatly.
As for developing the presence of HHA in her Chapter, Tracy points out that, among other events, there will be a volunteer/Board of Directors Meet and Greet coming up in February, two Death Cafes: one in the LGBTQ Community and the other in the Military Community, and the Moonlit Memory Walk in September.
With all of the ways that Tracy “gives back” through HHA, she generously serves the greater good.