Salmon Arm Observer editor Tracy Hughes

Column: Looking for a parting gift

Tracy Hughes’ final column asks readers to help Maureen Hafstein get the government’s attention

Journalists are often portrayed as cynical or mistrustful.

But I would argue that’s an image, not the reality.

I think most journalists are idealists at heart.

We want to believe that by doing this job, we can make a difference, that we can help people, that by sharing stories, we can inform and enlighten and possibly change things for the better.

It’s part of the lure of the job. It’s what keeps many of us going despite long hours, tight deadlines and a whopping dose of stress. I think most of us, myself included, want to be able to leave something behind that was better than what came before. It is one of the things I will miss most about being a journalist. (In case some of you missed last week’s column, I am leaving the Observer later this week to take a new job at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.)

I have so appreciated the many well-wishes that have come my way since I made the announcement of my departure last week. I know it is rude to ask for gifts, but that is exactly what I am about to do.

Last week, I wrote my final front-page story for the Observer, with a follow up story also in this edition. It’s about Maureen Kennah-Hafstein, a supremely brave Salmon Arm woman with Parkinson’s Disease who has begun lobbying for the government to fund an additional operating room to cut the waiting time for a surgery that could dramatically improve her symptoms and those of many others in B.C.

Currently this province only has one doctor funded to do the procedure, creating one of the longest wait times in the country for this Deep Brain Stimulation procedure. You can read last week’s article here for all the details.

Maureen’s story, like many others over the years, really touched my heart. She is a kind, lovely woman being held hostage by a cruel disease and a medical system which isn’t responding to her needs. I would not want to be kept waiting for a surgery that could give me a good quality of life, all the while knowing that with every day that passes, the window of opportunity for the procedure is closing. If Maureen’s symptoms progress too far, she will no longer be eligible for the surgery.

Related link: Health minister offers no remedy for surgical wait time

And so, since it is my last chance to share my voice through this column, I decided to ask for a present from my readers. While I appreciate every kind comment, I would dearly love for you to write something else instead.

Maureen has started a letter-writing campaign to government to lobby for increased access to this surgery and I would like to ask readers to consider joining in. Please send a letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix at HLTH.Minister@gov.bc.ca and Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo at greg.kyllo.mla@leg.bc.ca.

It doesn’t have to be long or involved. Just a quick note or email to show that you think Maureen’s quest is worthwhile – a little something to hopefully make the powers in Victoria take her concerns seriously.

And if you do that, please also send a copy to the Observer at newsroom@saobserver.net or comment that you have done so in our Facebook post.

I can’t think of a better way to end my career at the Observer.

And to all my readers, thank you for your time and attention for so many years. It truly has been a gift to serve you with stories and information about our region and its people.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

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Maureen Kennah-Hafstein uses the speed bag as therapy to try and control the symptoms of her Parkinson’s Disease. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)

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