Healthy Living in the North

Fort Nelson HIV Awareness Week: using language to break down barriers

A table of HIV Awareness materials is pictured.

The table of materials at Fort Nelson’s HIV Awareness Week helps educate attendees.

Language is a powerful thing. It connects to who we are and how we see ourselves. So, when someone takes the time to reach out in your own language — instead of expecting you to understand theirs — it makes a difference.

For the past five years, the community of Fort Nelson has held an HIV Awareness Week. For the most recent one, held the week of April 29, 2019, they decided to mark the occasion by doing something special for the Indigenous members of their community.

Working together with the Fort Nelson Aboriginal Friendship Society, they translated their yearly presentation on HIV into Dené, the most prominent Indigenous language in the area.

“We had one or two Elders who teared up,” said Jennifer Riggs, Regulated Pharmacy Technician and the key organizer for the event. “They were so happy that we took the time — I don’t think it mattered what the conversation was about — but they were so happy that we did it in their language. They really appreciated that we made an effort.”

Fort Nelson, located in Northeastern BC, has a large Indigenous population: roughly 14% of the population identify as Indigenous.

“This event is important in Northern BC, especially in our very isolated towns,” says Jennifer. “Indigenous people have a higher prevalence of HIV … and they aren’t getting that information. We’re trying to bring people up to date.”

This lack of information was the reason Jennifer and her team put in the time and effort to translate the presentation. She wants to ensure that they aren’t left out of the conversation. She hopes to do even more next year by translating the presentation into another Indigenous language.

HIV isn’t something that people usually get excited about, but for Fort Nelson, the event has become something to look forward to. Jennifer estimates that attendance has quadrupled since the initial event five years ago. She hopes that with continued outreach to the Indigenous communities in the area, attendance will continue to grow.

“So many people attend and we’ve come full circle, from where people weren’t talking about sex, to now having condom races at the fire department! It’s becoming normal conversation.”

For Jennifer, this is what it’s all about: to make conversations about topics such as HIV, sex, sexual orientation, and addiction less painful for people to talk about, and to make them part of everyday conversation.

“I want it to be a regular thing. I want continual education and training available all the time. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

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Available now: Summer edition of NH’s public magazine

Check out the latest issue of NH’s public magazine, now available online in flipbook form: Northern Health: Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

Featuring articles on dementia care, telehealth, the Healthy Terrace program, a new Gitxsan phrasebook in Hazelton, vaping, the NH Connections bus, and more, the magazine will also be distributed soon in print — watch for it in a health care facility near you!

The cover of the summer 2019 edition of Northern Health: Health and Wellness in the North is pictured. The cover features two young boys on the edge of a lake, looking out.

Read the latest issue of NH’s public magazine!

Your feedback and suggestions on the magazine are welcome – email communications@northernhealth.ca.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Moving and eating well on road trips

Lasalle Lake is pictured. There's a floating dock in the lake, and forest and mountains in the background.

The view of Lasalle Lake — a beautiful way to break up the trip between Prince George and Valemount!

Even though it feels like summer is flying by, it’s only mid-August, and there’s still plenty of summer-road-trip time before the weather turns! I love me a road trip: the conversation that arises from being in a car with someone for hours; the tunes and the awful, off-key karaoke; and all of the stops along the way!

Those stops are generally for any combination of food, scenery, or a bio-break, but there’s also a great health benefit. After hours of sitting, it’s important to move! The same concerns that you hear around sedentary workplaces and lifestyles apply to long-distance travel. While it’s great to get to your destination ASAP, sitting less and moving more is always a good choice.

Admittedly, I’m not great at making the kinds of stops that make for positive heath impacts, but my wife loves to get out and enjoy the scenery. Recently, before heading home to Prince George from Valemount, she asked a local if there was a good lake to stop at on our route home. He told us to check out Lasalle Lake, and it was gorgeous! On top of enjoying a stunning view, stopping gave us a chance to get some steps in (time that we counted towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week), have a stretch, and take a swim before carrying on. That stop added a nice “bonus” memory to the trip too! And it was as easy as asking someone, followed by a quick search on Google Maps. Just remember to always choose a location that suits your fitness level.

I also find planning to stop at an outdoor location challenges us to pack a lunch in a cooler, which usually ends up being healthier than the fast food options on the side of the highway. We usually do sandwiches, but sometimes we treat ourselves to a little meat and cheese board (nom-nom-nom!). Regardless of how healthy we pack, we always feel less rushed and enjoy our food more when we’ve found a nice spot to relax. As the primary driver, I always feel more refreshed and in a better headspace for driving too.

Do you have a favourite place to stop between destinations? What’s in your picnic basket when you stop for lunch? Let me know in the comments below, and safe travels!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Aboriginal/Indigenous Health Improvement Committees: what are they and how do they impact health care in the North?

The Local Cultural Guide guide is pictured. The cover features a stunning image of a totem, as well as a wood building with Indigenous art on it.

The Local Cultural Resources Guide, created by the A/IHICs, supports health practitioners’ understanding of Indigenous community cultures, histories, and contexts.

Aboriginal/Indigenous Health Improvement Committees (A/IHICs) are action oriented groups of people who work together to support health and wellness for Indigenous people, families, and communities in Northern BC.

The A/IHICs began in 2005 and there are now eight across the Northern Health (NH) region:

NH is committed to partnering with Indigenous peoples and communities, and to building a health care system that honours diversity and provides culturally safe services.

The A/IHICs are made up of many different types of people, including local representation from Indigenous communities and organizations, the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, and other sectors.

A/IHICs provide opportunities for new connections and stronger relationships and cultural understandings between diverse communities and sectors working for the health and well-being of Indigenous people and communities.

The members of each A/IHIC bring perspectives and experiences from people who live in their communities and access health care. Through the A/IHICs, Indigenous peoples’ perspectives inform local priorities and solutions!

The work of the A/IHICs is driven by three key questions:

  1. If I was a new practitioner coming to your community, what would you like me to know about you so that I could serve you better?
  2. What is it that you need to know so that you can be the best practitioner that you can be?
  3. What is it that we need to know to be the very best partner that we can be to communities and other organizations?

The A/IHICs operate with the principle that Indigenous health is holistic and seeks balance. At the heart of this view is an understanding that all things – land, water, air, animals, individuals, families, and communities – are connected and in relation to one another. Holistic health is a process that demands a broad and inclusive perspective for addressing health issues.

Over the years, the A/IHICs have undertaken many different projects, including mapping patient journeys across Northern BC. Patient journey and process maps are an opportunity for communities to bring their voice into the health care system and identify opportunities for change in health services, as well as to identity local solutions and concrete actions that can be taken at the local level. The gaps and challenges that were identified can be collaboratively addressed through local strategies and solutions.  If you want more information on this project, you can read the full Mapping Summary Report.

Each A/IHIC has also worked to create local cultural resources that support health practitioners’ understanding of Indigenous community cultures, histories, and contexts. Check out the Local Cultural Resources booklet (produced by NH’s Indigenous Health department) for more details.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Sometimes you walk, sometimes you run, sometimes… you bounce!

Four women standing in workout attire in front of an inflatable part of the Bounce Run.

We did it! (L-R) Desa, Sandy, Bonnie and I took on the challenge of the 5K Mega Bounce Run, and what fun we had!

Have you ever watched people do crazy and fun things for physical activity and think, “Man, that would be so fun, I should do that!”… and then you chicken out? You chicken out because you think you can’t do it, because you might look or feel silly, or you’re not in good enough shape to do the whole thing? Me too!

That’s always me – or I should say, that was always me. But no more. When my good friend asked me and a few other women about the 5K Mega Bounce Run, I knew that I had to do it, and I wasn’t going to chicken out this time!

Up until the morning of this amazing 5K of bouncing, sliding, climbing, rolling, and oh so much laughing with three awesome women, I’ll admit, I was trying to find a way out. Thankfully, their enthusiasm and good nature convinced me to power through my cold feet, and I did.

Lorrelle and her friends running through an inflatable obstacle course at the Mega Bounce Run.

Lorrelle and her friends participating at the Mega Bounce Run.

Good exercise was just an added bonus. For me, this was about doing something new and fun as a team of women who work together every day. Busy as we are in our work and personal lives, we took the time to hang out and go crazy for two hours on a beautiful Saturday morning! (It took some more serious athletes much less time.) We stuck together, cheered each other on, and lifted each other up (literally, at times).

Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is the best way to find out if you enjoy something new, especially when it comes to getting active! I know now that I’ll be looking for more goofy 5Ks to conquer with my pals.

Activities like this are contagious! Now, as my friend did for me, I’m encouraging our fellow employees to join our team of “Northern Stars” to come out and bounce through a 5K with us.

Thank you to my friend Desa for introducing me to this new addiction, and to Bonnie and Sandy for making it happen. Our team is looking for competition next year. Are you up for something new?

Until then…smile and bounce on.

Lorrelle Hall

About Lorrelle Hall

Born and raised in Prince George BC, Lorrelle loves her hometown and is proud to be a PG girl, through and through! She and husband Lyn have raised twin daughters, and love being active in the community. Lorrelle works as an Executive Assistant to the Northern Health Communications team, and works closely with the Hospital Auxiliaries and Foundations. When not at work, she loves to spend time with husband, their families and friends! She loves to volunteer, and travel wherever the sun is shining and most of all hanging out with her grand fur baby Arlo!

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I came for… I stayed because… with Cecilia Chiumia

Cecilia stands in her office.

Cecilia at work.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Cecilia Chiumia, Team Lead, Inpatient Psychiatric Unit in Dawson Creek. Cecilia is from Africa and came to Northern Health in 2008.

I came for…

I’ve travelled all my life. My mom worked for an airline and my dad worked for an oil company. So, growing up, I was very exposed to travelling. After completing high school, I wanted to travel some more. I decided to move to the United Kingdom (UK) to pursue nursing. I spent a lot of time travelling across Europe and Africa, but after 18 years, decided it was time for a change.

In 2006, my partner and I made the decision to move to North America. We found Canada appealing and decided it was where we wanted to live. I was initially hired by Interior Health and worked in Kamloops, and my partner was hired by Northern Health and worked in Dawson Creek. In 2008, we decided that I’d move to Dawson Creek. We had a two-year plan to stay here, then we would move on to somewhere else.

Cecilia and four of her co-workers dressed in Christmas-themed outfits, holding a tinsel frame around them.

Cecilia celebrating the holidays with her unit co-workers at a holiday celebration (L-R) Helen, Elizabeth, Debbie, Brenda, and Cecilia.

I stayed because…

I’ve enjoyed working for Northern Health and have great co-workers. There are lots of opportunities for professional development and career growth. I’ve taken available opportunities that have allowed me to grow. When I left the UK, I was in a leadership position, and I am back in a leadership position at Northern Health.

The morale and sense of community is amazing. It feels similar to what I had growing up in Africa. It’s a small community with friendly neighbours who welcomed us with open arms. Wherever you go, people are accommodating. Not only people I work with, but people I have met that have become my friends. It’s been a great place to raise our children.

We continue to travel, and have seen most of BC. Airline travel has become easier thanks to more flights from Dawson Creek and Fort St. John. We can easily get to new and exciting destinations throughout North America. Whenever I travel, I am truly excited when I get back home to Dawson Creek. Twelve years on, I’ve realized that our two-year plan is out the window, and we are here to stay.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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The St. John Hospital acute care garden: improving quality of life for people waiting for long-term care

The acute care garden gives seniors waiting for long-term opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility.

This spring, the residents and staff at St. John Hospital (Vanderhoof) came together to start a garden for acute care patients who are on long-term care waitlists. Acute patients who are waiting for a long-term care spot can have limited access to activities and recreation. This project gives them opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility on the acute floor.

Many of the residents grew up in or around Vanderhoof, and were avid farmers and gardeners throughout their lives. Now, they can tend, water, weed, and enjoy this garden. Doing so reconnects them to their past, sparking old memories, and contributes to their sense of purpose.

This project was started by the Rehabilitation Department at the St. John Hospital, which includes occupational therapist Valerie Padgin, rehabilitation assistant Roxanne, and myself (also an occupational therapist). It’s part of a DementiAbility initiative.

Thanks to the generous donations and support from several family members, the acute care garden is now thriving, growing tomatoes and lettuce! This project wouldn’t be possible without:

  • Maya Sullivan from the Vanderhoof Community Garden for loaning the hospital a wheelchair accessible planter, which got the project started.
  • The Men’s Shed for building two additional planters.
  • The Co-op and Home Hardware in Vanderhoof for donating soil, potting mix, gloves, hand tools, and a watering can.
  • Eileen at Maxine’s Greenhouse for donating dozens of beautiful plants that are flourishing in the garden.
  • Allan Pagdin and Joanne Petrie, who put in several hours of time and labour to make the project a success.

We hope the garden continues to grow and improve the lives of our residents and acute care patients!

Laura Giroux

About Laura Giroux

Laura is an Occupational Therapist at the St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof. Originally from Vancouver Island, Laura has been in the North for nearly four years, and enjoys all of the recreation and outdoor activities that it has to offer. She recently joined the Rehabilitation Department at St. John Hospital and is excited to work on such a creative and compassionate team.

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The CNC Health and Wellness Centre: providing medical care to students, staff, and faculty

Behind a desk, one woman sits at a computer while another woman stands behind her, looking over her shoulder.

L-R: CNC Health and Wellness Centre Clinic Counsellor, Lacy Chabot and Medical Office Assistant, Connie Kragt reviewing the centre’s schedule.

Nestled by the dental wing, in the back corner of the College of New Caledonia’s (CNC) Prince George campus, is the Health and Wellness Centre. This inviting space is home to a medical office assistant, counsellor, physician, and two nurse practitioners. They offer medical care to students, staff, and faculty who walk through their doors.

Cheryl Dussault, a nurse practitioner, is one of the dedicated staff working at the centre.

“We provide the basic services required to meet our clients’ everyday health care needs,” says Cheryl. “Our focus is on health promotion, preventing illness, and managing chronic conditions. We have a counsellor on the team to provide mental health support to students.”

General practice physician Dr. Heather Smith is at the centre half a day per week.

“We are more than birth control, STI testing, and mental health services,” says Dr. Smith. “We deal with complex medical conditions including strokes, heart attacks, and neurological disorders. We are a full-service family practice with the same skills and abilities as other clinics.”

A team approach offers the right care by the right provider. Staff at the clinic work with other health care providers and the CNC community. This ensures students receive the appropriate care and contributes to student success.

The centre operates as a partnership between CNC and Northern Health. For more information on the CNC Health and Wellness Centre, visit their website.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Success in Smithers: How cross-training and staff education has led to a fully staffed, skilled primary health care team

Members of the Smithers primary health care team are lined up, smiling, in their office.

Members of the Smithers primary health care team. L-R: Mike Oaks, Primary Care Nurse; Heather Olsen, Primary Care Assistant; Sandra Stanley, Team Lead; Stacey Pederson, Primary Care Assistant; Sam Bosscher, Primary Care Nurse.

Over the last couple of years, the primary health care team in Smithers has been struggling to get to a point where they have a complete number of staff. Today, we’re happy to say that all primary care nurse (PCN) positions are full!

What is a primary health care team and what’s the latest on the Smithers team?

A primary health care team is composed of nurses, social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, dietitians, a diabetes educator, and other professionals who work together to support patients in the community.

Out of the 11 full-time and part-time staff who make up the PCNs on the Smithers primary health care team, only three team members have worked on the team for more than 18 months. That means that 72% of the team are new staff. Right now, there are two casual employees that are in permanent positions, and only one of them has been in Smithers longer than 18 months. The team has hired nine casual PCNs over the last 18 months and nearly all of them have become permanent employees or are in temporary positions.

PCNs and primary health care are pretty new… what’s happening with training?

I spoke with Sandra Stanley, Team Lead for the Smithers primary health care team, to find out how she’s cross training the new staff.

“The ‘how we did it’ is partially the people that are here. They’re amazing people – intelligent, kind, compassionate, and motivated to give great care,” says Sandra.

When Sandra started as the Team Lead, many skilled staff had left and new staff members were struggling. They needed support to provide the full range of expected services. Smithers faced many challenges getting to this point, but they now have a stable team and good morale.

“I believe now, from talking with nurses, that the morale has improved, and they have become a tight and supportive team that work really well together, and genuinely like each other,” says Sandra. “They’ve picked up the education with enthusiasm and [they’ve] been keen learners. They’re intelligent, compassionate, and good critical thinkers. I count myself as fortunate to be leading such a team and the credit for what I see as success is due in very large part to them and their excellent qualities.”

Sandra believes that, wherever possible, a key to training is modeling the skill for others. Along with “walking the talk,” here’s how the Smithers team is tackling training for different aspects of their roles:

Palliative care
Palliative care is a “way of being” with people. It requires nurses to have the ability to assess the state people are in emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. It can’t all be taught in a classroom. The skills are learned through experience, and being with other nurses who can mentor those skills. It was important to Sandra to pair less experienced nurses with others who have strong palliative care skills. The team was fortunate to have a primary care nurse with strong palliative care skills come back and join the team after moving away to work elsewhere. This was a game changer in many respects and helped provide that knowledgeable, consistent presence the nurses needed.

Long-term care needs assessment
Sandra’s team is focused on training related to completing the resident assessment instrument (RAI), which a requirement for a patient to go on a wait list for long-term care. With more primary care nurses using the RAI, people are assessed as needing long-term care and put on a wait list earlier. The team’s health care aides supports community members until they are ready to transition to a long-term care home. Health care aides are an essential part of a community program and are critical to supporting patients who are at home, waiting to enter a long-term care home.

Diabetes education services
After the diabetes educator in Smithers had to decrease workload, waitlists for service were longer than usual. In response, two nurses are training to help educate new diabetics to give insulin, manage blood sugars, and decide what to do when the sugars are high or low. There’s been an incredible amount of training and cross-training done in general, as well as new diabetes work taken on by the nurses due to the back log of diabetes referrals.

Mental health services
To support mental health patients in Smithers, there are cognitive behavioural therapy groups that include members of the primary health care team. These teams teach people with mental health issues how to cook, shop, bank, take care of themselves, and more. The other team lead in Smithers, Cynthia Rondeau, works very hard to ensure there is quality mental health support for clients.

Cross-community support

When the team has struggled, they’ve received help from Hazelton and Houston, and they helped those communities in return. These three communities are working well together and being generous when it comes to helping wherever they can.

“The better connected we are with the people in the community, the better we can prevent admissions to the hospital and visits to the ER that are unnecessary,” says Sandra.

Sandra’s work, helping her team learn and grow as primary care nurses, has been instrumental to providing Smithers with skilled health care professionals.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Humble brag: Thank you NH Connections passengers!

A man leans on an NH Connections bus.

From our drivers and staff, “thank you!”

Since its inception in 2006, Northern Health (NH) Connections has had tons of great customers. This past year (2018), we served 15,158 riders, an increase of 15% from 2017!

At NH Connections, we’re always searching for valuable feedback from passengers. It helps us improve by letting us look through the eyes of a rider to see what’s important to them. While we’re searching for critiques from clients, we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t revel a little in the wonderful notes and messages left behind by so many happy passengers!

Here are some of our favourite passenger reviews:

  • “This bus service is one of the best things done for people in our area of the province. Great service, wonderful drivers, thank you all so much!!”
  • “I want to send a huge thank you to our NHC driver. l took the bus to and from Quesnel and she made the trip enjoyable and relaxing. Coming home, the roads were bad, but she handled it like a pro. She treated everybody like family and was very friendly and helpful. Thank you. l can see you love your job and are good with people. Keep up the good work.”
  • “Professional courtesy is definitely number one. The driver herself welcomed you aboard, with humour and fun. While she was thorough, never once was there a feeling of being ignored. She introduced herself as Arlene, and said to sit back and relax. She told us to enjoy the scenes, encouraged safety, and to please buckle up. Arlene mentioned there would be more passengers along the way, and that we may need to share. Well, can’t say enough about driver Arlene. Northern Health [Connections] takes away the stress of travel, knowing the passengers on this bus are already dealing with issues of health, and stressed quite enough. So I tip my hat to that wonderful trip to Vancouver and driver Arlene. Thank you once again to Northern Health for their dedication and professionalism.”

It’s these kind words about our service and drivers that inspire us, every day, to do the very best we can for riders and their health. Thank you so much, passengers! We hope to be there for you in the future, if you need it!

For information on our drivers, how to book trips, and more, please visit: nhconnections.ca

Fiona MacPherson

About Fiona MacPherson

Fiona MacPherson was born in Glasgow Scotland, but has spent most of her life in Prince George. She's spent the majority of her career at Northern Health in the IMIT department as a Project Manager, but most recently moved into the Communications department as the Lead for Northern Health Connections and Special Projects. Fiona loves to volunteer in her community and can be found at the local hockey arenas on the weekends watching both her boys play hockey.

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