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I will remember you: Maureen Patterson

As part of the "I will remember you" blog series, Pat Letendre writes of a very special colleague and friend.

It's my pleasure, indeed an honour, to write a series of blogs for CSTM to celebrate the careers of transfusion professionals who came before and made a difference. Some names you may recognize, some you may not. But rest assured they all made a difference and we are the better for it. 
 
This blog is the first blog written about a colleague who has passed away, as the subject, Maureen Patterson, died March 6, 2019 at the age of 77.
 
I will remember you: Maureen Patterson
 
This blog features Maureen Patterson, a medical laboratory technologist (MLT) I first met 40 years ago in Edmonton. In retrospect that was a lucky day. Maureen was an outgoing people person, the antithesis of me, yet we clicked from the get-go thanks to her incredible warmth and people skills.
 
Unless you are a transfusion medicine professional from Edmonton or Alberta, you may not have heard of Maureen Patterson or met her. On the other hand Maureen had so many friends across Canada, you may well have known this delightful colleague. She didn't run for elected office, didn't publish many research papers, didn't win awards. But she, along with her good buddy Beverly Padget, did create an award and helped keep it alive for years, the Donald I. Buchanan Award, now offered by the CSTM (see here for details on the award). When Maureen started work and trained as a technologist at the Canadian Red Cross in Edmonton, Dr. Buchanan was the Medical Director and later named one of Alberta's "100 Physicians of the Century.” It was only natural that she became a good friend of him and his family, because making friends was Maureen to a T.
 
Background
Why lucky to meet her? Maupat (one of Maureen's nicknames) was one of several kind and generous Edmonton blood bankers who unconditionally welcomed a Winnipeger into the fold that was to become my 'family' for 40+ years and counting. From the start, when she was a lab demonstrator in an introductory transfusion science course I taught in Med Lab Sci, University of Alberta in the late 70s, to our final of four consulting projects together in 2007, Maupat was a pleasure to work with, a delight to know.
 
Maureen had an untraditional career in that after working for 10 years as a routine and research technologist for Canadian Red Cross (CRC), she worked for about 20 years part-time at CRC and three Edmonton hospital transfusion services. In these roles she got to know and influence many interning MLT students and staff technologists with her upbeat personality and love of transfusion. Make no mistake, Maupat had well formed views on everything, especially a belief in a strong work ethic. She took the following for granted in any employee:
 
  • Accountability
  • Cooperation
  • Dedication
  • Dependability
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Respect for others
  • Belief in 
    • Quality
    • Teamwork
    • Professionalism
 
 
See a short resume for details of her career. 
 
This blog is a tribute to a unique individual who many transfusion professionals in Edmonton unashamedly loved, me too. We celebrate her genuineness, her indomitable spirit, and her consistent love and loyalty given so generously to so many over many years.
 
All transfusion professionals should be so lucky that, when we depart our short time on planet earth, we made a difference and our colleagues not only respected us, but loved us.
 
Pat's Musings
Maureen was a 'oner', an unforgettable character with legendary skills. One was her ability to communicate, including on the telephone. When her children threw a surprise birthday party for her, Dianne Powell and I performed a telephone skit showcasing her gift of the gab that had everyone chuckling as they'd experienced it many times.
 
Part of her legend is how she made friends so easily among diverse people from all walks of life. Maupat seemed to know everyone. In washrooms at meetings, I'd see her chat up perfect strangers and find their kids had gone to same school and they were exchanging phone numbers and later e-mail addresses. She had an uncanny ability to discover your entire life story within ~3 minutes. Warm, approachable person who I suspect we'll not see the likes of anytime soon. 
 
As a people person, Maureen had the ability to listen, to communicate well and to relate to others on a personal or professional level. She had empathy for those experiencing hard times and a willingness to work together for the common good. Indeed, if you ever needed to organize a party for any occasion, she was the go-to person. 
 
To me, Maupat was one of the largely invisible transfusion professionals, who contribute so much with little acclaim. We all know the mega-stars of transfusion laboratories who publish research papers and win awards. But for every one of these professionals, 1000s of folks like Maureen exist who make a real difference out of the limelight. These are the 'trench workers' without whom transfusion medicine would not survive. 
 
Maureen was down-to-earth without a pretentious bone in her body. She related to those in high office the same way she did to the homeless. She was also one of the most positive people I've ever met, perhaps the most positive. Her always present infectious, trademark smile says it all. See photos below of Maureen, her colleagues and good pals. 
 
Please know that Maureen did not live an easy life, had significant health issues to deal with, yet she never complained. She and her spouse Dave, who died in 2000, raised three wonderful children, who I feel privileged to know. 
 
Perhaps what captures Maureen best is in the late 70s she was lab demonstrator in my Med Lab Sci introductory transfusion labs and more than 35 years later she still had lunch regularly with students she taught for a few months. In this vein, sample replies on Twitter when Maureen's passing was posted: 
 
  • Craig Kuziemsky, Full Professor & University of Ottawa Research Chair in healthcare innovation: "So sorry to hear this news. I knew Maureen before MLS as I went on a student exchange in high school with her son. Really nice and warm person."
 
  • Susan Nahirniak, MLS graduate and Transfusion Medicine Section Chief – Alberta Public Laboratories North Sector: "So sad to hear this. Maureen was my TA in MLS and then later the 'social coordinator' I’d go to at national conferences to know what was happening. She was a wonderful mentor and a truly lovely soul."
 
I'll end with a note I received from long-time transfusion pal and colleague in Ontario, Denise Evanovich, because it explains another aspect of Maureen Patterson's passing. Denise noted:
 
"There is much of that 'end of era' feeling going around and that I think has something to do with the present working environment (the personal side that Maureen provided so well) that is more "factory" than a people space." 
 
As I've blogged on effects of automation and regionalization, this resonates. Many blood bankers in the early days were seduced by serology in hospital transfusion services being an opportunity for manual testing vs highly automated labs like clinical chemistry. In the blood bank technologists saw the patient's name, diagnosis, transfusion history versus loading anonymous specimens on autoanalysers. Routine preanalytic, analytic, post-analytic processes included taking these individual patient factors into account. 
 
That said, I cannot help but wonder what 'end of an era' truly means as some colleagues designate Maureen's passing as such. I gravitate to Denise's take, that in Maupat's era, the glory days of immunohematology, transfusion labs were a 'people space'. Meaning, colleagues felt part of a family, loyal to employers, and lifelong friendships were formed. I hope this loving atmosphere still happens in today's transfusion labs. 
 
Because Maureen was larger than life, a force of nature with a legendary number of close friends, some of her close friends have added their musings.
 
Astrid’s Musings(Astrid Maguire)
Maureen first met me as a student in my Subject Transfusion Medicine training, a first within Edmonton. Her words of wisdom and encouragement got me through the program. Also working with Dr. Buchanan, who Maureen idolized for his knowledge and personal approach, Maureen was a great supporter. Maureen was also the best social convenor, ensuring that all Transfusion Medicine people stayed connected. She did this within Edmonton, through the Edmonton ImmunohematologyClub, away from home at conferences - CSTM (former CAIH) and any opportunity that came up. Today many of us stay connected only due Maureen’s need to have us get together, just to catch up. Later in Maureen’s career, Maureen and I had the opportunity to work with Gloria Publicover to pilot a program that would house lab documents, have the capability to have staff sign off, and have links to competencies. What a challenge that was, but Maureen and I had so many laughs during this challenge. Maureen and computers didn’t always get along.

Maureen will always be with us in spirit and she had plenty of that. All we can do is carry on Maureen’s great social skills, make everyone feel good about themselves and just simply have a great attitude. Maureen’s picture is on my wall, as I have many, many fond memories.....
 
Dianne’s Musings (Dianne Powell)
Maureen was a dear friend, colleague, and role model for my entire career as a transfusion medicine technologist. Her loss has left a large void in my life. We have all lost someone very special.

When I started my first job as a newly graduated technologist in July of 1973 at Canadian Red Cross in Edmonton, Maureen was there. She was kind and caring, warm and welcoming, patient and understanding. She was every bit the person Pat described and more. What good fortune to meet someone like her my first day on the job! One of Maureen's many strengths was her genuine concern for the patients who required our services. To this end she promoted better understanding and collaboration between the blood supplier and hospital transfusion medicine departments. She worked both for the blood supplier and for hospitals throughout her career. She knew that there was much to be gained in working together. 
 
Bev’s Musings (Bev Padget)
Maureen was directly responsible for my choice of transfusion medicine as a career. She was a blood bank TA at NAIT when I was a student. She was working part-time at the Edmonton General Hospital when I did my student intern year and encouraged me to apply for a job at the Canadian Red Cross. And yes, on my first day of work at Red Cross  (on the same day that Dianne describes above), there was Maureen. We continued to work together off and on for close to 40 years, and her dedication and joy in her job always inspired me to be the best I could be. I know that I am just one of many who feel that way. 
 
Maureen and I were travel companions to so many destinations. We had such great times at CSTM & AABB conferences across Canada and the US. In 2002, we both became AABB Assessors, after Maureen and Kathy Chambers convinced the AABB that Immunohematology ARTs from Canada would meet their requirements for assessors. Over the next 9 years, Maureen and I performed assessments together at 25 hospitals in the US (including a memorable trip to Hawaii). She was the perfect assessment partner for me – she handled all those connections with the on-site staff, eliminating the necessity for this introvert to do so! We always extended our trips to check out the area we were visiting and she was a wonderful travel partner (although I quickly learned to ignore her questionable navigation when I was driving).
 
But apart from the work activities and travel, Maureen was one of my dearest friends – she always could be counted on to be there for me for whatever I needed. I miss her so and she will always have a special place in my heart and memories.   

[Photos courtesy of Pat Letendre and Bev Padget] 
 
                               
                                           

As always comments are most welcome. If needed, you can e-mail <webmaster@transfusion.ca> to post them with or without your name and other details. Many thanks. 
 

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