How two Canadian Red Cross nurses supported Alberta's COVID-19 response

By: Jack McCaskill, Canadian Red Cross volunteer
 
After 38 years as a registered nurse, George Rudancyz came out of retirement to help the Canadian Red Cross COVID-19 response.
 
"I have extensive training in critical care that I should not just hold back,” says Rudancyz, explaining his decision. “I just want to help. I am glad to help. I should offer my time and skill to others."
A man in mask, face shield and gloves administering a shot to someone blurred out 

Red Cross humanitarian aid worker George Rudanycz supporting at a vaccination centre in in Mississauga, ON, May 2020


He and Shelby Bay, another highly-accomplished registered nurse, have stepped up with their medical skills to support the Red Cross in Alberta and other Canadian communities.
 
In October 2021, at the request of the Government of Alberta, and thanks to funding from Public Safety Canada, the Red Cross provided up to 20 medical personnel to augment and relieve existing staff working in the province’s hospitals.
 
"I went into nursing to work in a humanitarian context," Shelby explains. "I enjoy an environment where I am challenged and given the freedom to build. I found that with the Canadian Red Cross."
 

A young woman in mask and face shield talking to another masked person.
Red Cross humanitarian aid worker Shelby Bay supporting vaccinations in Manitoba, April 2021.

For the past two years, George and Shelby have supported Canadians by providing vaccinations to remote communities, assisting intensive care units, and working together at a testing centre in Red Deer.
 
"Each deployment allows me to work with a new team and in a new community. It simply feels good to help," Shelby says.
 
"It doesn't matter where you go," George says, describing his deployments. "All healthcare workers treat you like you have always been part of their team."
 
Although they gain a strong sense of camaraderie and accomplishment from this work, Shelby and George have spent many days far from their loved ones to assist during the COVID-19 response.
 
"I'm away from home a lot,” George remarks. “I have a new granddaughter and being away supporting the COVID-19 response means my time with her is limited."  Similarly, Shelby recalls missing holidays, family events and spending long periods of time away from home.
 
But, to each of them, it has been worth it to support Canadians and help make a difference during the pandemic.
 
"My wife would never say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when I asked about going on deployments. She would just ask what would make me happy, and I would be packing my bags right after," George shares with a chuckle. A volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross since 1997, he emphasizes that "when the opportunity arises, the Red Cross will call me, and I'm glad to go anywhere."
 
Shelby agrees. "I felt like I had purpose in what I was doing, which made it worth it," she explains. "This past year and a half have highlighted the dedication of our professionals. I have truly been in awe of the perseverance of our teams."
 
The Canadian Red Cross continues to support federal, provincial, and Indigenous governments and communities with COVID-19 response activities as requested.  We continue to adapt to emerging needs to assist the country’s most vulnerable as this international crisis evolves.  Find more information about this response and helpful COVID-19 resources here.  

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