What a privilege I had being interviewed for the Spring 2024 edition of Update, my nursing union magazine. In the Off Duty section, nurses’ activities in their off-hours are highlighted. Having read about other nurse exploits outside of their work life, I consider myself blessed to be in such great company. Here’s what they wrote:

Daphne Leonie Wright’s 30-year nursing career has given her much to write about. She has worked in many areas of the field including homecare nursing on the Downtown Eastside and a stint in the Middle East helping to open a hospital. She’s seen pretty much everything nursing has to offer.

Although nursing provided Wright with many challenging opportunities, she always knew she was interested in writing. She even earned her master of arts in liberal studies from Simon Fraser University. All the while, Wright continued to keep
up her career as a nurse.

It was after encouragement from a close friend, who had recently published a memoir about her personal experience with breast cancer, that Wright finally decided to put her work into print. “My friend said to me, ‘If not now, when?’”

Wright had a germ of an idea for a story that she had been thinking about for almost a decade. “With the slower pace during the pandemic, I had the time.” That “germ” is now Wright’s first book, On Love and Death and Belonging, which was published in January 2023.

Wright, an appropriate homophone, says she spent 40 hours a week for nearly a year in her living room developing the interwoven plot lines, writing and revising. “My husband jokingly called it my perch,” laughed Wright. As part of the publishing process, she learned about editing, cover design, font choices, page set-up and creating a blog on her new website. “It was a lot more work than I ever imagined. But it was also a lot of fun,” she said.

The always delightful and sometimes frustrating and sad story brings readers inside the late-night hallways and private rooms of Waterview, an assisted living residence full of colourful residents and staff. The multi-voiced narrative follows three main characters and the unexpected ways their lives intersect during their time on the long-term-care ward.

Brice is an aging, queer man who is faced with difficult decisions around revealing his sexuality, his debilitating illness and his shaky finances in order to access appropriate care. “I believe people should get the care they need no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, socio-economic status or mental or intellectual capabilities,” says Wright, which was the basis for developing Brice’s character. Brice brings a zing of colour and music to the pages.

The second main character, Adelina, a hardworking, immigrant cleaner, was inspired by the privatization of housekeeping and the dietary staff workforce within the hospital setting that Wright witnessed during her years of nursing. Adelina not only faces discrimination at work as the cleaning staff are continually asked to do more work for less pay under new ownership, but she also has a big conflict at home with her abusive partner.

Then there is Fiona, a somewhat gruff veteran nurse with anger issues and a loud voice that overcompensates for her regrets and loneliness. Fiona demonstrates her hidden soft heart when the trio of unlikely friends face one of the hardest days of any of their lives.

Wright’s book demonstrates that nurses deserve to be main characters and don’t always have to play supporting roles. “Nurses often play bit parts,” she says. “But not this time – nurses and support staff are at the centre of the story where they belong!”

On Love and Death and Belonging explores many of the universal themes found at the crossroads of nursing and residential care: isolation, marginalization, ageism, the controversy and relief of medical assistance in dying (MAID) and the emotional cost of privatization and corporate greed in health care. These are heavy topics, but like life, says Wright, “there are many laugh-out-loud moments, too.” And in the end, the most important thing is the friends you make along the way.

About the author : daphneleonie

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