Healthy Living in the North

Research and Quality Conference recognizes northern researchers and quality improvement work

Aashka Jani accepts the student prize from Martha MacLeod.

Aashka Jani (left), accepts the student prize from Martha MacLeod.

The 2018 Northern BC Research and Quality Conference, held in Prince George November 6 to 8, celebrated northern research and quality improvement work.

As part of the conference, a group of judges and conference attendees chose the best student poster, research poster, and quality improvement storyboard. (Storyboards are a way to show detailed information in an easy-to-read format.)

UNBC student Aashka Jani and her team won the student award for a research poster titled, “Cardiometabolic Risk and Inflammatory Profile of Patients with Enduring Mental Illness.”

The research poster award was won by Dr. Erin Wilson, Family Nurse Practitioner and UNBC Assistant Professor, and Dr. Martha MacLeod, Professor, School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences at UNBC. Their research project was titled, “The Influence of Knowing Patients in Providing Comprehensive Team-Based Primary Care.”

Denise Cerquiera-Pages, a Primary Care Assistant and Practice Support Coach from Masset, and her team won the quality improvement storyboard award for a project titled, “Decreasing the Number of Failed MSP Claims in MOIS Using Correct Codes and Patients’ Information.”

Erin Wilson and Martha MacLeod receiving the research poster award.

Erin Wilson (left) and Martha MacLeod receiving the research poster award.

Denise Cerquiera-Pages accepts the quality improvement storyboard award from Martha MacLeod.

Denise Cerquiera-Pages (left), accepts the quality improvement storyboard award from Martha MacLeod.

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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Creative new approaches help people in Prince Rupert get occupational therapy

Emily Bennett posing with a spectacular mountain landscape view.Northern Health has a strong vision for creating teams of health care professionals that centre on the person and their family, but making big changes can be challenging. This article is my story of bringing better care to people in Prince Rupert.

I’m an occupational therapist (OT). This means I help people solve problems to make it easier and safer to do everyday things:

  • Self-care: getting dressed, eating, or moving around the house
  • Being productive: going to work or school, or participating in the community
  • Leisure activities: sports, gardening, or social activities[i]

The problem

In 2017, I started working as an OT on the community health care team in Prince Rupert. When I started, there was a large backlog of referrals for me, some from as much as three years ago. It was impossible for me to see everyone quickly enough.

This meant a lot of clients were getting by at home without much support. Some of them suffered falls. Others couldn’t leave their homes because they had pain or problems with mobility. Others weren’t using equipment, like walkers, that could have made them safer.

I wanted to set things up so that people could get therapy earlier, before things got serious. This way, we could head off problems before they happened, and we could help keep people independent and out of the hospital.

But, using the normal channels, I didn’t have time to see all the clients. To solve this problem, I had to think creatively and try new things. I’m passionate about quality improvement, so I enjoyed this process. Here are some of the solutions I came up with.

One-time sessions with clients

The community health care team helped me set up sessions with clients. With their support, I was able to set up one-time face-to-face visits with people who needed help. During the visits, I offered education and gave people advice, such as how to use equipment, and also gave them referrals to community resources and programs.

A couple of months later, I checked in with the clients. They reported that they’d made changes based on my advice, and that they now felt safer at home and more confident. Some of them had started using walkers regularly, some had adapted their home setups, and others had asked for more support from family.

This was a great example of how health care teams can work together to improve their practice and build partnerships with other team members.

Really understanding where people needed help

In collaboration with other OTs across Canada, I created a questionnaire called Occupational Therapy Outcome Indicators to measure people’s overall functioning and quality of life. This made it easier to figure out exactly what areas people needed help with so that we could set goals and make recommendations. It also helped clients understand what I, as an OT, could and couldn’t do.

Working with other health care professionals

I also started three other partnerships with health care professionals with the idea of making services more efficient, enhancing collaboration, and making clients more able to cope on their own:

  • Together with a physiotherapist and rehab assistant, I set up a walker clinic.
  • I presented as a guest speaker to the Adult Addictions Day Program.
  • I presented to a falls prevention group at the Prince Rupert assisted living facility.

These programs let me see more clients at once and provide education and treatment in groups.

It was so beneficial to work with the physiotherapist and rehab assistants on the walker clinic. We completed assessments together and this model offered an opportunity for students that were on clinical placements at the time to learn to work collaboratively with other healthcare providers.

Making changes and trying new things can be difficult, but a preventive approach can help people stay safe, independent, and out of hospital. This also helps reduce the demand on the health care system and, most importantly, gives people improved quality of life and better health.

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[i] From https://caot.ca/site/rfs/res_for_students?nav=sidebar

Emily Bennett

About Emily Bennett

Emily is an occupational therapist from Northern British Columbia. She returned to work for Northern Health after completing her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in Hamilton, Ontario. She is invested in the well-being of our northern communities and is passionate about quality improvement and health promotion. When she is not immersed in her clinical practice, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends, her family, and her dog, appreciating the beautiful nature throughout

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A Northern woman’s long life comes to a close

Catherine William celebrating her 103rd birthday with balloons.On November 19, Catherine William died at Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James, only two days after celebrating her 103rd birthday.

“Catherine had a wonderful birthday surrounded by family and friends,” says Amanda Johnson, Head Nurse at Stuart Lake Hospital.

Northern Health offers its sincere condolences to Catherine’s family and friends. Her family has given permission for her biography, below, to be shared.

Catherine William was born on November 17, 1915 in Tache (also called Tachie), 60 kilometres northwest of Fort St. James. Her parents were Alphonse Mattice and his wife Eugenie Prince, and she had four brothers and three sisters. A member of the Tl’azt’en Nation, Catherine belonged to the Lusilyoo (Frog) Clan.

She was baptized at age seven in 1922, and religion was always a big part of her life. She always had a good word for everyone and would pray for people, regardless of the circumstance.

Catherine was a survivor of the Lejac residential school in Fraser Lake, and she often spoke about it, remembering the playroom there.

She was married for 50 years to Francis William, and together they had six children. Catherine was a home care worker, taking care of children from broken homes. Caring for people and keeping them safe was important to her: she was always the first one in line to volunteer to search for missing people.

Catherine was a resourceful woman who taught herself many skills, from crocheting gloves for her children to making fishing nets. She enjoying cooking, nature, and being a homemaker. Exploring the outdoors was also something she loved. Sam, her nephew (also a resident at Stuart Lake Hospital), remembers walking the back roads with Catherine and her husband on hunting and fishing expeditions.

Catherine passed away peacefully on November 19, and her funeral was held in Fort St. James on November 24.

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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Telehealth bridges the kilometers between patients and doctors: NH Board approves 5-year plan

Healthcare professionals in a telehealth meeting.Imagine being able to see a specialist without having to travel away from your community. Picture your doctor being able to monitor your condition while you’re in the comfort of your own home. How would it feel to ask for a prescription refill without having to go to a clinic? Telehealth is making these possibilities a reality.

Telehealth uses different kinds of technology to provide healthcare right in people’s own communities, with no need for travel. Examples include talking to a specialist by videoconference, sharing tests electronically to another hospital, getting physiotherapy by digital monitoring, and sending data from a monitor (such as a heart monitor) directly to your doctor. Telehealth allows for prevention, screening, diagnosis, determining a course of treatment, and clinical advice – in a way that’s very similar to an in-person experience.

“Telehealth is a virtualization of new and existing services that allows for a more intimate experience than a simple phone call can provide,” said Frank Flood, regional manager of Northern Health’s telehealth department. “By using video and peripheral equipment to extend the reach of clinics and specialists, we reduce the physical and financial burden to our patients.”

A telehealth cart.Many different kinds of health care can be provided by telehealth, including:

  • Mental health and addictions
  • Chronic disease
  • Kidney health
  • Child and youth health
  • Pharmacy services
  • Emergency services
  • Specialist consultations

These services and more will be available to Northern Health patients, depending on where they live (note that not all kinds of telehealth will be available in all communities).

Telehealth will improve care in rural and remote communities, and Northern Health will be partnering with the First Nations Health Authority to use telehealth to benefit Indigenous communities. Telehealth will also strengthen healthcare for the elderly and for people who need services around pregnancy, birth, or childcare. Likewise, it can help people living with chronic disease, mental illness, or addiction.

Overall, telehealth will reduce the impact of distance and time in bringing health services to people and their families – Northern Health is excited to provide this new level of health care support to Northerners!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Northern physician wins 2nd international research award

Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen accepting the Dr. Wolfgang Hevert Prize for her research on vitamins and memory.

Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen, second from left, accepts the Dr. Wolfgang Hevert Prize for her research on vitamins and memory.

Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen, a neurologist in the Northern Health region and an associate professor in the Northern Medical Program, recently won the Dr. Wolfgang Hevert prize for a research study she plans on the combined effects of two vitamins on attention and memory.

“I’m interested in the possibility that vitamin D and vitamin K2 may work together to help keep our brains functioning well,” said Dr. Pettersen. “There have been studies on the effect of Vitamin D alone, but not on the combination of D and K2.”

In fact, Dr. Pettersen’s own research has shown the benefits of vitamin D for brain health. A study she carried out showed significant memory improvement for people who took 4000 IU of vitamin D each day for 18 weeks. That study also won Dr. Pettersen an international award, the 2018 Fritz Wörwag Research Prize.

Most people have heard of vitamin D, but vitamin K2 might be less familiar. It’s found in animal foods, such as butter from grass-fed cows, or eggs from free-range chickens, and in fermented foods, such as natto (a Japanese fermented soy food), as well as some cheeses. Vitamin K2 was plentiful in traditional, non-industrial diets, but it’s more rare in modern diets. Vitamin K2 generally improves bone and heart health, and vitamin D seems to work with it to strengthen these effects.

“Northern BC residents have been incredibly supportive of research in the north,” said Dr. Pettersen. “I have been pleasantly surprised by the interest generated from my prior vitamin D work as well as this upcoming planned study on vitamin D and K2.”

While the study is still in the planning phases, Dr. Pettersen hopes to start recruiting and enrolling interested participants in early 2019, with final results available within two years. Congratulations to Dr. Pettersen!

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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Infographic: Northern Trauma Program

An exciting new infographic sums up the challenges and successes encountered by Northern Health’s dedicated Trauma professionals.

A Northern Trauma Program infographic with statistics.

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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UHNBC Trauma Team delivering great results

The Trauma team at the University Hospital of Northern BC.

Photo caption: Trauma Team at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George. L – R: Brittany Coulthard, Family Practice Resident; Dr. Matthew Wahab, Emergency Medicine Physician; Andrea Davidson, Psychiatric Nurse; Deandra Cormier, Emergency Room RN; Chad Ridsdale, Emergency Room RN; Ann Marie Henderson – Social Worker; Dr. Dick Raymond.

How long do people with major injuries stay in hospital? If the hospital is UHNBC in Prince George, the average is 8.5 days (as compared to the BC average of 12). The UHNBC Trauma Team aims to get people back home as soon as possible, and they’re succeeding — readmission rates for major injuries are also very low. Thank you, Trauma Team, for helping Northerners recover quickly!

 

The Trauma team at the University Hospital of Northern BC.

The Trauma team at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George BC.

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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Patient translators making a difference at UHNBC

Headshot of Julius Okpodi.

Julius Okpodi is a Social Worker at the University Hospital of Northern BC, and a volunteer translator in 5 Nigerian languages, plus Spanish.

Patient translators at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George are a busy group.

“When you need a translator, you need them in the heat of the moment,” says Linda Locheed, a social worker who initiated the program. “People come from all over the world to Northern BC and they’re heli-skiing or biking and they have an accident. Sometimes we have to contact their families in other countries.”

The program connects patients who don’t speak English with Northern Health staff members who act as volunteer translators.

A total of 36 languages are represented from all parts of the globe. Examples include Portuguese, Urdu, Mandarin, Kiswahili, Farsi, Dutch, American Sign Language, and German.

Social Worker Julius Okpodi hails from Nigeria and has been a volunteer translator ever since joining Northern Health four years ago. He speaks the Nigerian languages Etsako, Afemai, Edo, Bini, and Pidgin English. (The latter is understood by all Nigerians, regardless of their first language.)

“Through translation, we’ve been able to bridge communication barriers, especially when expressing feelings and explaining treatment options,” Okpodi says. ‘We can let patients or family who are immigrants or visitors know what’s required and what the expectations are, such as the effectiveness or after-affects when a treatment is made.”

Okpodi has been called to translate in the short-stay medical unit, internal medicine, the psychiatric ward, and rehab. “I enjoy making a difference in the life of others,” he says.

Locheed notes translation can be even more important during emergencies. “When we had the fires and everybody was evacuated and came to Prince George, the translators were invaluable. Elderly people came without their families, people came from all walks of life,” she says.

If you’re an NH staff member and you’re interested in becoming a translator, please contact Linda Locheed with your name, the languages you speak other than English, and your phone number (not your email). For confidentiality and safety reasons, you must be an NH employee.

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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Breathe easier during smoky skies

Smoky skies above the city

Protect yourself during smoky skies bulletins. Photo by Barb Oke.

The province is currently inundated with numerous wildfires. Not only are fires a serious safety risk, but the smoke from these fires can be harmful to our health (especially to unborn children, children, the elderly, and those with chronic illness).

Here are some quick tips for breathing easier during a smoky skies bulletin:

  • Limit your exposure to wildfire smoke
    • Stay indoors and keep the air clean (windows/doors closed, no smoking, no burning fireplaces/candles/incense, no vacuuming, use a HEPA or EP indoor air cleaner if available).
    • Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors – avoid rigorous outdoor activities.
    • When in a vehicle, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate.
  • Visit a clean air shelter or a location that has a large volume of air that is air conditioned and filters the air (such as shopping malls, swimming pools, public libraries, etc.).
  • People with asthma or other chronic illness should ensure they have an adequate supply of inhalers/medication and should activate their asthma or personal care plans. Some people may consider leaving the smoke filled area altogether if symptoms cannot be managed according to their care plan.
  • Visit HealthLinkBC, call 8-1-1 (non-emergency), see your doctor, or call 9-1-1 (emergency) if you’re experiencing symptoms, ranging from eye, nose, and throat irritation to difficulties breathing and cardiovascular distress.
  • Be aware – visit bcairquality.ca for current air quality information.

Smoky conditions often happen during hot weather events, which means that it may also be important to stay cool:

  • Spend time in the coolest room in the home (e.g. basement).
  • Use an air conditioner or spend time at a location equipped with air conditioning and air filtration.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.

For information regarding wildfires, including information on wildfire status and prevention, visit the BC Wildfire Service. Report wildfires to *5555 (cell) or 1-800-663-5555.

For road updates, please contact www.drivebc.ca

For evacuation updates, please connect with Emergency Info BC: www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca

For tips on how to prepare for the wildfire smoke season, see BC Lung.

Northern Health supports the Ministry of Environment (MoE) with air quality advisories and bulletins when certain air pollutants become a concern. MoE issues Smoky Skies Bulletins when smoke can be expected in a local airshed. Unlike air quality advisories which are based on air concentrations measured at monitors, these Smoky Skies Bulletins are issued by a meteorologist who uses a number of different tools to determine that smoke is likely to enter a specified region. These bulletins can provide sooner warning to people that their health may be affected during the smoke event and may also be in affect longer than a typical advisory due to the unpredictable nature of wildfire smoke.

Paula Tait

About Paula Tait

Paula works in Prince George as a Health and Resource Development Technical Advisor, working collaboratively to assess and minimize health impacts related to industrial development. Born and raised in Terrace, she completed her schooling in Edmonton, and started her environmental health career in southeast Saskatchewan in 2005. She has been back in northern B.C. since 2010. Paula enjoys being creative, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends.

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“3D”: Drugs, Dinos, and Dinner – Another unique conference in Tumbler Ridge

By Dr. Charles Helm & Heather Gummow

The second “3D conference” – Drugs, Dinos and Dinner – was held in Tumbler Ridge from May 25–27. Nearly 70 physicians, pharmacists, paramedics and nurses registered, a number that swelled to 120 at the Saturday evening banquet with the inclusion of spouses and families. This was probably the largest ever medical gathering in northeast BC.

Physicians are learning tendon repair using pigs' legs.

Dr. Stuart Johnston teaching tendon repair and skin flaps (using pigs’ legs) to Dr. Kalun Boudreau, Fort St. John and James Wilkie, Resident physician, Fort St. John. Dr. Charles Helm, Chief of Staff Tumbler Ridge, observing.

Conference participants were treated to ten hours of stimulating talks, featuring Tom Perry, Rita McCracken, Cait O’Sullivan, and Emma Reid of the Therapeutics Initiative, a UBC-based think-tank that rigorously analyzes evidence on which medications work and which don’t. “Deprescribing” was emphasized – trying to get by with fewer medications and eliminating those that may be harmful. Dr. Stuart Johnston provided a talk on hand injuries and conducted a practical workshop on tendon repair and skin flaps (using pigs’ legs), and Dr. Trevor Campbell spoke engagingly on non-drug treatment of chronic pain. Five exhibitor booths provided for extra learning opportunities, all completely free of pharmaceutical industry involvement.

So far, that’s not too unusual for a northern BC medical conference, but many similarities end there. Firstly, there was no registration fee for the 3D conference. Each northern BC community is entitled to Community Funds to devote to educational activities. The Tumbler Ridge physicians decided to use all of their reverted funds to create this regional conference of benefit to all, which physician groups in Fort St John, Dawson Creek, Valemount, McBride and Northern Health then generously supported, aided by a much appreciated donation from Conuma Coal.

Physician throwing a tree off the trail.

Resident physician from Fort St. John, BC Vikrant Grewal throwing a tree off the trail as the team worked to “give back” to the community of Tumbler Ridge.

Secondly, the palaeo theme reigned supreme, with the welcome supper served amid dinosaur attractions that are available nowhere else in BC. The Dinosaur Discovery Gallery was in ‘idling mode’ due to lack of funding, but Dr. McCrea, Dr. Buckley, and staff, all of whom had recently had their positions terminated due to the Museum funding situation, came in and conducted participants though four stations: the gallery, collections, preparation lab, and photogrammetry lab. Field trips followed to a dinosaur footprint site, a birding excursion, and a hike to the end of the magnificent Titanic Rock (expertly guided by the president of the local hiking club).

Thirdly, ‘payback’ for medical residents involved a team of ten working on the hiking trails immediately after the conference, chain-sawing deadfall and throwing it off the trail, thus contributing to the comfort of visitors and tourists to Tumbler Ridge.

Draws were held for spots on three jet-boats for tours to Kinuseo Falls, and the lucky winners had the privilege of seeing this great waterfall in full spate. Add in live violin music, a live band, a local comedian (the famous ‘Aunt Lizzie’), morning fitness runs, Float Fit and Tabatha classes in the pool, and all-in-all a unique learning environment was created, cementing the reputation of Tumbler Ridge as a conference destination with a special ambience.

Southern African physicians have contributed enormously to rural health care in BC over the past decades, and two short slideshows featured different aspects of this part of the world: clinics in Zimbabwe and fossil human footprints in South Africa. However, perhaps the most unexpected part of the conference happened later, after the banquet. Dr. Tom Perry, gravely concerned about the funding challenges of the dinosaur museum (with $50,000 needed in order to re-open) worked the crowd. Within a quarter of an hour $19,000 had been pledged, helping the museum significantly towards its goal!

As for the kids, it was all about Dinosaur Camp! Recently employed museum staff Debbie Gainor and Tammy Pigeon provided them with an unforgettable experience through two mornings of dinosaur crafts, microscope demonstration of dinosaur bones and teeth, using scribe tools, tours of parts of the museum that the public doesn’t get to see, and the making and painting of plaster casts of dinosaur tracks which they were able to take home as keepsakes.

At the end of a memorable weekend, participant evaluation forms reflected the high satisfaction rate for the conference, along with a much-heard sentiment: Can we please do 3D again in 2019?

 

For further information please contact:
Heather Gummow (250)565-5814 or heather.gummow@northernhealth.ca
Dr. Charles Helm (250) 242-1101 or helm.c.w@gmail.com

Charles Helm

About Charles Helm

Charles Helm has been a family physician in Tumbler Ridge since 1992. He immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1986. He is the author of seven books on the Tumbler Ridge area, two on the history of the northern Rockies, and one on dinosaurs for kids. He has been an active explorer in the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, designing, building and maintaining hiking trails. His palaeontological interests, expressed through the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, have led to numerous fossil discoveries and scientific articles. He was instrumental in the successful proposal that led to the creation of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, the newest UNESCO site in western Canada. He and his wife Linda have two children, Daniel and Carina.

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