Season Foremsky used to add shocks of colour – think hot pink and purple – to her long brown hair, to make people smile. She loved watching kids’ movies with her two little girls, and taking them to the park. Her favourite song was Fade to Black, by Metallica. On her hip, a tattoo of a Phoenix.
Ms. Foremsky was an ER and ICU nurse, caring for COVID-19 patients at Calgary’s South Health Campus. She died at home this week, in an apparent drug overdose. In the days and months prior, Ms. Foremsky detailed the trauma and abuse health care professionals face in hospitals as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on.
“I’m tired. I cry before my shifts. I have severe anxiety but I still give the best care I can,” she wrote on Facebook on Sept. 17. Earlier that week, demonstrators protested against masks, vaccines and vaccine passports outside health care facilities across the country.
Ms. Foremsky was vaccinated against COVID-19 in December, and appeared in a video for Alberta Health Services promoting the shot. That resulted in “disgusting comments,” but she nursed patients as best she could, she said on Facebook.
“Fast forward to ‘the best summer ever’ as us health care workers cried,” Ms. Foremsky wrote, referencing a phrase the United Conservative Party used to promote its decision to lift public-health restrictions on Canada Day. “And we are scared. We have PTSD, went on medical leave, and even quit because every single one of us saw this wave coming.”
Alberta’s health care system is failing under the crush of the fourth wave. Overcrowded intensive-care units are short-staffed and AHS is only able to keep pace with admissions because so many people are dying. On Wednesday, there were 263 patients with COVID-19 in Alberta’s ICUs, with 27 new admissions. Meanwhile, Alberta recorded 20 deaths owing to the virus Wednesday and 34 fatalities Tuesday.
“I see a daughter say goodbye to her dad after she gave him COVID and I’ve stopped the ventilator. I see a husband and wife die days apart in their 40s PREVIOUSLY healthy,” Ms. Foremsky wrote.
More are dying, she warned, because EMS teams are swamped ferrying COVID-19 patients to hospital, making it so they are unable to respond quickly to other emergencies, such as car crashes.
“Stop thinking of only yourself. I’m not saying get the vaccine. I’m saying keep your mask on, social distance, don’t go out when you are sick.
“And so help me god [if] you block my ambulances from getting into my ER. I will run you down. Protest anywhere but a hospital.”
Ms. Foremsky, as with other nurses in Alberta, had been working extra shifts, including hours mandated by AHS. Her boyfriend, Christian Moniz, could sense her stress building as overtime hours mounted and abuse from patients ballooned.
“She was the perfect nurse,” he said in an interview. “The person who would bowl others out of the way to get you to safety.”
One of Ms. Foremsky’s cousins announced her death on Twitter. The nurse died of an overdose, the cousin said.
Mr. Moniz said he and Ms. Foremsky bonded over their shared history as former substance users. Mr. Moniz did not get the sense Ms. Foremsky was consuming substances, or thinking about consuming again. The nurse had been clean for years, he said.
“She was trying to heal herself,” Mr. Moniz said.
One of Ms. Foremsky’s family members went to check on her after learning she failed to show up for her shift at the hospital. Her father found her dead in her home Sept. 28, Mr. Moniz said. Her dog was at the door, barking. Her children were staying with her former partner. Mr. Moniz, who had been dating Ms. Foremsky for about seven months, said she was in her mid-forties.
At a news conference Thursday, Verna Yiu, AHS’s chief executive, acknowledged Ms. Foremsky’s death.
“Our front-line physicians and nurses are under extreme stress and pressure,” Dr. Yiu said. “The pandemic is impacting individuals and our teams both physically and mentally.”
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