Margaret Brocking graduated from the St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1956. Her lapel pin, a cherished keepsake, was lost shortly before her death in 1990. Her son, Kilian, set out years later to find a replacement—and developed a deep connection to St. Paul’s along the way.

Nurse’s long-lost keepsake at centre of mother-son story that spans six decades

May 10th, 2017

The query emailed to St. Paul’s was signed by a professor of psychology at the University of Louisiana, Dr. Kilian Garvey.

Dr. Garvey’s mother, Margaret, who was born and raised in Vancouver, had graduated from the St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1956 and then moved to the United States. Mrs. Garvey had passed away in 1990; but during her final year she had been distressed by the loss of what her son knew had been a treasured keepsake, her St. Paul’s nursing pin.

For Dr. Garvey, the lost pin had always occupied a corner of his mind. For him, it was a symbol of a part of his mother’s life that he did not know—and never would.

“My mother did not talk much about her life in Canada,” says Dr. Garvey today, “but she loved being a nurse, it had meant a great deal to her, and she had always spoken fondly of her time at St. Paul’s. She was proud to have been trained there.”

Even though it had been 26 years since his mother’s passing, Dr. Garvey now found himself writing a letter to St. Paul’s. In it, he told the story of his mother’s lost pin and how much it had meant to her. He wondered if it might be possible to get a replica pin. Something to replace what had been lost.

“I had nothing more than the name St. Paul’s Hospital and a general email address,” says Dr. Garvey. “Many years had passed. All I could do was hope that whoever was on the other end might be able to help me.”

Dr. Garvey’s message ultimately ended up with Carol Dixon, director of Mission Services and Volunteer Resources for Providence Health Care (PHC). Carol provides a rewarding experience to nearly 1600 volunteers across PHC and also ensures the organizational values of PHC anchor the work that is done throughout PHC’s many health care sites. Carol’s work also involves dealing with the PHC archives.

“I knew right away we would not be able to find a facsimile of such a pin for Kilian,” says Carol. “The original jeweler who made those pins in the 1950s no longer makes them. But as a St. Paul’s nursing grad, no matter how long ago, we consider Kilian’s mother one of our own, so I had an idea of how I might be able to help him.”

The 1950s era design of the St. Paul’s Nursing School lapel pin, presented to all program graduates.

What transpired next disarmed Dr. Garvey, who found himself deeply moved when Carol sent him a pristine photograph of the 1950s era pin his mother would have owned, as well as a photo of her graduation picture, which Carol was able to locate by some inspired searching of the corridors of St. Paul’s, where photos of all graduating classes through the years are mounted.

“That took a great effort,” says Dr. Garvey, “as I was only able to say that my mother had graduated in the early 1950s. I wasn’t sure of the exact year. I also had no photos of my mother from her life in Canada. So Carol gave me a connection to what was, in all likelihood, my mother’s fondest memory of Vancouver—her time at St. Paul’s. I haven’t felt this close to my mother in a very long time—and it’s thanks to Carol’s act of kindness.”

Dr. Garvey was moved by the effort taken to help him, but such actions are not unusual at Providence Health Care, where staff members like Carol Dixon make it a part of their job to represent the PHC mission, which is, “to meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of those served through compassionate care, teaching and research.”

Dr. Christopher E. De Bono, vice president of Mission, Ethics & Spirituality at Providence Health Care, echoes that sentiment.

“At Providence,” says Dr. De Bono, “and at St. Paul’s, our largest acute care centre, we believe that hearts and human connections matter in care, research and education. The act of kindness that brought Carol and Dr. Garvey together exemplifies that human connection. Carol and her team live this mission, and that’s something that’s very special about Providence Health Care.”

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