She could very well be Steinbach’s most well-known nurse.
And for any of you that have attended the emergency department at Bethesda Regional Health Centre sometime in the last 30 years or more, there is a good chance you were treated by Barb Klassen, who has provided compassionate and exemplary care to her patients during all these years.
Quite frankly, there is probably no one more deserving than Klassen, who was one of 1,000 health-care workers in the province that had their names drawn in a lottery to attend one of two Winnipeg Jets home playoff games last week against the Montreal Canadiens.
Five hundred of these health-care workers, who have been under siege taking care of all of us during this pandemic for well over a year now, were invited to the two games in Winnipeg.
Those that know Klassen, and her dedication, couldn’t be happier for her, with many of those sentiments expressed on social media.
When an interested reporter contacted the veteran nurse, expressing interest in writing a story on her junket to the Jets game with fellow health-care workers, she was initially reluctant, "don’t know how interesting that would be."
Fortunately she was talked into it and agreed. Really all this is about is showing gratitude to those many nurses and in fact all health-care workers in the province during these difficult times.
Like many, Klassen is a Jets fan, attends two or three games a year, was even on hand for one of those electrifying playoff games during the Jets’ big run three years ago.
So when the opportunity came to put her name into the mix in a draw to get one of those seats for the Jets game, she was in. "There wasn’t a lot of notice, you weren’t allowed to change shifts to go to a game, there was only a few hours’ notice whether you were picked," she explained.
Everything at the game was safe, as one would expect, when were there only 500 of them in the building that seats more than 15,000. "Everyone sat alone, everyone was distanced, there was only one other person in my row. The Jets were very generous and accommodating to us at the game."
"I had never sat in the lower bowl, usually much higher up, I could see all the players’ faces. It was so different from past games, sitting alone with lots of space around, compared to other games I have attended."
All in all Klassen says it was a great experience and was very appreciative, but the Jets lost the game 1-0. "Would have been nice to at least cheer for one goal."
Truth be told, there was no amount of cheering that would have mattered as the favoured Jets, as everyone knows by now, were swept four straight by Canadiens in a train-wreck of a series for the Jets.
After 30 years of working in the emergency department at Bethesda, Klassen moved to the Quick Care Clinic two years ago, working less than full-time hours. When the vaccine clinics opened in Steinbach, first at the pop-ups and now at the Super Site, Klassen was redeployed to also work as a nurse supervisor.
This is where she is now. But during those darks months of last fall, in November and December and into January, she was redeployed back to emergency at Bethesda as Steinbach made national headlines as the COVID hot spot in North America.
The Bethesda emergency department was the epicentre of all of that. "It was very difficult and emotional. I was treating people I knew, my parents friends, people I had known all my life, some who didn’t make it."
It is with that experience, not to mention just a lot of common sense, in which she has become a vaccine advocate, "I don’t understand people who choose not to get the vaccine, we see the proof that it works."
Her reward for what she has been through this past year as a nurse was when she was redeployed to the pop-up clinics in Steinbach. "I felt I was in the best place in the world after the months I had spent in the emergency department. The people that were coming in for their vaccines, most of them older, were just so thankful and grateful to be receiving it."