'You just do the best that you can': Red Cross nurses share stories from front line in Red Deer

Two nurses with the Canadian Red Cross were deployed to the COVID-19 testing site in Red Deer to help provide relief for their colleagues who have been working around the clock to ensure public safety.

“I feel fantastic being able to come into my own province,” Shelby Bay, a registered nurse and clinical health specialist from the Red Cross, said. “Being able to help out which is going to relieve other staff to not have to be redeployed to the testing centre, pick up extra hours, or get that call for more overtime because they’re short staffed.”

According to George Rudanycz, the second registered nurse and a clinical health specialist with the Red Cross to land in Red Deer, said health-care workers at the site test up to 500 people per shift for COVID-19.

“I do let them know I’m a registered nurse and that often makes them feel more comfortable and a little less tense.”

“Not everybody wakes up in the morning being like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to have a swab,’” Bay laughed. “There’s lots of fear around the action of being swabbed – but we want to help them breathe a sigh of relief.”

Bay said they’ve been welcomed with gratitude by both staff and patients.

“You have to keep it light, you need to keep it light,” she explained. “Things get really, really heavy and you do get exhausted and it’s emotional this many months in. I’m emotional, everyone’s emotional but you just do the best that you can.”

“Nurses are trusted and respected. We are a major cog in the wheel of healthcare,” Rudanycz added.

“I think Albertans and all Canadians get the impression now that really nurses work fairly hard. They’re working long hours and long shifts and they’re remaining on duty.”

Rudanycz has been a nurse for more that 40 years and still takes great pride in the work he provides and the team he gets to be a part of each day.

“I’m glad to know that I can make a difference. That’s why I’m here: to make a difference, and today, it’s Alberta and somewhere else maybe when I’m finished here.”

As for Bay, she maintains a positive attitude in her day-to-day life and is supported by a “unicorn” partner who helps ensure the moving and heaviness doesn’t overwhelm her.

The patients she helps help her, too.

“It’s really those quiet moments with patients. It’s not the big grand glorious heroic things that make me get up in the morning,” she said. “It’s those tiny conversations of appreciation.”

Bay told CTV News Edmonton she will be in Alberta for at least two weeks but will make herself available as long as she is needed.

“Wherever I go, I just bank on an open-ended ticket,” she laughed.

Bay and Rudanycz are two of 13 Red Cross medical personnel deployed to Alberta.