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‘Go out there and make a difference’

Jaymee Shell, BSc 14, treats COVID-19 patients as a resident doctor
May 25, 2020
By Samia Aladas, BFA 96

“It’s really heart-warming to walk in the hospital and be greeted by this little parade of signs made by kids,” says Jaymee Shell, BSc 14.

What better way to boost the morale of doctors and nurses on the COVID-19 front lines than with messages of hope from children?

Just ask Jaymee Shell, BSc (exercise science) 14. The former Stingers hockey forward and assistant team captain is an internal medicine resident at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario.

“It’s really heart-warming to walk in the hospital and be greeted by this little parade of signs made by kids,” says Shell, who went on to a master’s in biomechanics from McGill and a medical degree from McMaster after Concordia. “It just makes our work that much easier.”

Shell and other health-care professionals like her face the prospect of treating novel coronavirus patients for the foreseeable future. It’s a formidable task.

“Even after social distancing is relaxed and visiting and congregating is allowed, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see my family. I’m at a higher risk of exposure and although the numbers in Canada suggest we’re doing a good job, that doesn’t mean we can stop the work. We have to keep going.”

‘I’m honouring my dad every day’

Jaymee Shell, BSc 14, graduated from McMaster University’s medical school in 2019. | Photo: Jay Parsons, Studio J Photography

Shell, who was awarded the Médaille du Lieutenant-gouverneur pour la jeunesse and the Provost's Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 2014 for her academic accomplishments and community involvement, is constantly inspired by her late father, fellow Concordian Mitchell Shell, BComm 82.

“My dad was my biggest supporter. He passed away last year and in our talks every morning before I’d go to work, he’d always end our conversations by telling me to go out there and make a difference. And I feel like that’s what he’s still telling me to do. I’m honouring him every day when I go to the hospital.”

When the virus began to accelerate last March, Shell was on an infectious disease rotation. “We were taking care of patients, keeping them stable and involving other services as needed.”

With a protective no-visitor policy under strict enforcement, Shell and her co-residents have helped patients communicate with family members on the outside and assisted with the handover of essential items like clothes, hearing aids and glasses.

The work has occasioned some moments of reflection.

“In a matter of weeks, this tiny virus that we can’t even see with our eyes has made its way around the world and back again,” she says. “It really shows how we live in a global society and are connected to people we don’t even know.”

Varsity resilience

After the current threat subsides, Shell sees a tremendous potential to transform health care with telemedical consults. For now, however, certain in-person exchanges stand out as memorable.

“A woman came in with respiratory symptoms and a fever. She had been social distancing but was afraid she had COVID and was blaming herself. We had a conversation about how we could best take care of her and I reassured her that she had done nothing wrong. She thanked me for connecting with her as a person, not just as a doctor.”

Shell regards her experience as a Concordia varsity athlete as decisive in her ability to surmount the particular challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My time at Concordia was greatly shaped by being a Stingers hockey player. The values I learned — teamwork, determination, perseverance — definitely apply to my work now. It’s the urgency of a very important game that we can’t lose. All the hours put in training, sprinting up and down the field, skating around the ice non-stop. Being able to push through those obstacles has given me the mental fortitude to be able to do this work every day.”

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