Nurses’ simple gesture turns into tribute for N.S. shooting victims

The quilt as done by Jackie Brymer of Enfield. (Submitted photo)

ENFIELD: Some of Nova Scotia’s frontline workers unknowingly paid it forward thanks to a thoughtful gesture from a creative local woman from Enfield.

Ann MacLean, a nurse in the dialysis unit at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, told The Laker News how a simple gesture to help turned into a touching tribute to those affected by the recent mass murder in the area.

MacLean said when the pandemic began about six weeks ago, nurses had to wear masks and safety glasses for their full 12-hour shifts. The masks quickly left the skin around their ears raw so she turned to Jackie Brymer for help.

“She made headbands very quickly for the entire provincial dialysis program, Nova Scotia Hospital, Magnolia, med Surg, ICU, medical day crew, Corrections, shipping and receiving and educators,” said MacLean.

MacLean and her colleagues bought as many headbands as Brymer could make, providing some physical comfort for the frontline workers.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says these homemade ‘ear savers’ are no longer allowed to be used by staff in health care settings.

“We appreciate it can be very difficult for staff and physicians to wear a mask for 12 hours, especially if this has never been part of their practice,” said NSHA spokesperson Brendan Elliott.

“Infection Prevention & Control and Occupational Health, Safety & Wellness want to support staff and physicians to wear the masks safely and effectively, and so do not endorse the use of any additions to personal protective equipment (PPE),” he said.

Elliott said the PPE staff wear is not intended to be worn with additional clasps or holders. He said adding enhancements of any kind to PPE increases the likelihood of staff/physician contamination when removing, and presents another element that could fail while the mask is worn.

That’s where the story takes a heartwarming turn to a tragedy that has touched many across the province, especially in the Portapique/Debert/East Hants area.

“What she didn’t tell me all through this was the money we gave her for the headbands bought all the materials for a quilt she was making,” said MacLean. “The quilt was being designed to be given to a family affected by the shooting. The pattern for it is called Nova Scotia Hug, so all of us were passing on a Nova Scotia Hug to the family receiving it.”

MacLean said the pay-it-forward gesture meant the world to the nurses.

“This means a lot to me that she unknowingly was putting away the money we were giving her to regift it to someone else in a time of such heartache.

“She was actually lifting our spirits to feel better in our workplace and at the same time putting a smile on someone’s face who lost a loved one at the same time.”

For Brymer, the headbands were a way for her to show her appreciation to those going to work every day to keep Nova Scotians safe.

“Ann messaged me asking if I could help and with a picture of what she’d like to have. I made a couple and Ann was very pleased,” said Brymer. “After Ann returned to work wearing the headband the messages started coming.

“I didn’t think I was a fabric hoarder, but I now believe I was because as the requests came in, I kept finding another piece of fabric to work with. Elastic was quickly in short supply. My sister, our aunt, and my mother-in-law mailed some from Guysborough County to help in the effort. Neighbours and friends dropped off buttons so the sewing could continue.

Brymer said as the headband supply and demand caught up and the sewing slowed down, Nova Scotia Online Quilters posted that a quilt was being designed for members to make and donate, to bring a little comfort to a family directly impacted by the shooting.

“That called my name,” said Brymer. “I knew mine had to have the Nova Scotia tartan, but where was I going to find it? My sister-in-law in Guysborough County ordered some from Antigonish and sent it along.

“With many misgivings and some mistakes, the quilt began. I still have quilting to do and a binding to finish. More to come and I hope this helps.”

MacLean said Brymer’s selfless actions are an example of what makes Nova Scotia strong.

“Because of what she did we are all feeling a little stronger,” she said. “I have been so saddened by the events in our province that took the lives of 22. This is a powerful thing (Brymer) has done.

“This act of kindness is truly off the charts.”