HHA 2018 Changemaker of the Year Nominee:
Written and Submitted by Terri-Viola Wilson
When Sue Balaz was told, “I think you’re the right person for the job” the first thing she thought was, “No, I’m not.” The “job” was to help develop the Infancy and Pregnancy Loss Doula (IPLD) training program for Home Hospice Association at a time when the only IPLD training was in the United States. Next thing she knew, Sue was part of a team that not only developed the program, but teaches it on weekends, three times a year.
Sue started her journey volunteering with HHA after a chance meeting with a childhood friend who just happened to be one of the co-founders of HHA. Sue shared the fact that she was a birth doula and that’s where they found common ground. There was a great opportunity for her to work with HHA, she was told. Fast forward… professionals in the field audited Home Hospice Association’s IPLD program and Sue and the team started teaching it 2 years ago.
“No parent or family should face the journey of an infant or pregnancy loss alone,” Sue explains, having gone through a pregnancy loss herself. That’s why it’s so important to her that she not only serves as an IPLD, but also helps train others to deliver this service, as volunteers. The benefits to communities throughout Canada are exponential. People have come to Toronto for HHA training from other provinces. They go back home, spread the word, and from that, not only are there more people signing up for the IPLD course, but some have gone on to start new HHA Chapters.
When reflecting on her volunteer role within HHA, Sue recognizes that: “I am part of an HHA community or village that is joining forces to bring
home hospice care and pre and perinatal hospice care to our
communities and across Canada. It means that I am part of
something big!” Sue has brought knowledge to her own
community about the need for hospice care outside of the brick
and mortar buildings. She actively encourages people to talk
about infancy and pregnancy loss and emphasizes the
importance of providing a safe space for families to “come
together to say their baby’s names and
support one another.”
Sue credits her volunteer work with HHA as having
helped her this past year when her own mother was travelling
the hospice care journey. Her mother was in a nursing home
and the family wanted their mother assessed for palliative care
as she was having difficulty swallowing. The nursing home was
reluctant to comply and this left the family wishing that they
had more control, for their mother’s sake. Sue was able to
reach out to her peers at HHA for resources and later, for love
and support as she grieved the loss of her mother. This past year, while serving as Chair for the Moonlit Memory Walk, Sue walked in memory of her mother.
Her own personal experiences, coupled with the education she has received by being affiliated with Home Hospice Association, continually provide the energy Sue puts behind her work with HHA. But her inspiration primarily comes from her parents. Back in 1956, they left the life they knew in England, took their two toddlers, and headed for Canada in order to provide better opportunities for their family. Sue’s father always taught her that “If I wanted to make a change or I was not happy about how something was being done, I needed to get involved to help make the changes I wanted to see.” Her parents were strong-willed and strong-minded individuals who supported Sue in all of her endeavors, inspiring her to always be the best that she could be in whatever she does, including volunteer work. Their words of encouragement are always close to her heart.
Volunteering with HHA has meant that Sue has had to step out of her comfort zone. It has taught her to challenge herself and push herself, especially as it has required her to get up in front of people to speak and to pass on her knowledge through teaching. These are things that Sue never imagined that she would be capable of doing. As a result, she says that now when someone tells her “I think you’re the right person for the job”, she no longer says “No, I’m not.” She pauses and thinks about it. Maybe, just maybe she has the ability to make a change she’d like to see in the world.