Every month I will be profiling an extraordinary person who lives in our town. If you know someone who is walking to the beat of their own drum, doing selfless and inspiring things or living a life that isn’t ordinary, I want to hear about it. Email me at [email protected]
Paul Bastedo has faced tragedy and triumph all in the same day.
He has saved lives and experienced the sorrow when a family has to say goodbye to a loved one. He’s brought life into the world, and he’s also been a shoulder to cry on when a mother delivers a stillborn baby. He’s cured, mended, repaired and helped rejuvenate. That’s the thing about being a doctor. There’s never a dull moment at the office.
Paul has just recently entered a new chapter in his life and it’s one he’s already thoroughly enjoying. After four-plus decades as a family doctor, Paul has officially hung up his coat. The rewards of the job have been far sweeter than Paul ever could have imagined. It has brought him the utmost joy, filled him with contentment and satisfied him on a soul level. He was lucky enough to do what he loves in a small town like Huntsville.
I was an eight-year-old boy when I came to camp in Algonquin Park. That’s why I sent my letter off to Huntsville. It suited me in terms of my lifestyle; being outdoors and camping. That’s what I still enjoy doing after all these years. And now I’ll have more time to do those things I love.
His job as a family doctor required Paul to do a lot of different things. He assisted in surgeries in the Operating Room, worked in the Emergency Department and looked after patients at Hospice Huntsville. He was also responsible for seeing his patients who lived in long-term care homes.
That desire and passion to want to help people could have very well been an inherited gift. After all, Paul’s father was a doctor and even now the memories are vivid. He remembers his dad getting up in the wee hours of the morning to assist with the delivery of a child. Apparently that early exposure and influence was all that was needed to inspire Paul to want to become a doctor.
“My brother moved me up here after I had just finished a one-year residency in pediatrics at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. I loved kids but wanted to do more than just children’s medicine,” says Paul. “A predecessor was in process of dying with lung cancer and the hospital was frantically trying to fill his shoes. I got lucky.”
And that began his career at Huntsville Hospital. Paul reflects on the relationships that he’s made along the way. When he chose family over pediatrics, he didn’t know how much family medicine meant he would become apart of so many families. You laugh and cry with your patients, he says. Being the doctor of a small child who you helped bring into the world and then watching that child grow up and repeat the circle of life was one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. Babies were Paul’s thing. He loved assisting in the healthy delivery of a baby.
“Obstetrics is challenging and humbling. Things can go wrong in the blink of an eye,” he says. “I’ve experienced tragedy and I’ve experienced the wonderful newborn smiles. That’s what I really enjoyed in medicine.”
And Paul speaks highly of the hospital staff. Not only are we blessed to have such an amazing team of dedicated specialists right here in our hometown (we’ve come a long way since the mid-70s!) but the hospital has grown to have an incredible team of nurses, too.
“These are nurses who work 12-hour shifts and are very good at what they do. I will miss the team. That’s been an evolution in healthcare,” says Paul. “It used to be a paternalistic aspect when the doctor called all the shots. Now it’s more of a team approach. Doctors value the opinions of the nurses. We couldn’t do our job without them. If I was sick, I’d have no reservations about being looked after in our hospital.”
Over decades, Paul’s witnessed some fairly significant changes in the medical world. For example, when he first started out there were no computers. Everything was done the old-fashioned way (think typewriters and hand-written notes). Technology has changed medicine in terms of assessments, techniques, blood tests and imagining improvements “many times over.”
Being a doctor is no easy feat. Most people know there’s a lot of hard work that comes with the territory. Being on your feet for hours on end and dealing with the stress of ailments and injuries does not come without some exhaustion. But somehow, says Paul, you adapt. You learn to overcome the physical fatigue. The challenging and demanding times are helping families cope with a loved one who is dying. Paul has spent countless hours pacing the hospital’s hallways.
“That’s a reflection of working with people,” he says. “There’s a huge personal flavour to your work and focus.”
Paul often allowed medical students to come into his office to practice. He knows how important of a stepping stone that is. It gives them the experience to deal with real-life situations and Paul made it his mission to convince as many of those students as he could to get into family medicine.
I would encourage these young medical students, if they have an inclination, to get into family medicine. It’s a gratifying field and it takes a lot of dedication. But the rewards are limitless. This is not cliché. Any doctor would say it’s a privilege to help people in the most intimate times of life. It’s a huge privilege, and I think that’s why it’s so wonderful. You need to give a lot but you get a lot back.
Although Paul’s still fresh into his retirement, he admits he is truly ready to disconnect from a long and rewarding career at Huntsville Hospital. He’s looking forward to doing more of what he loves; getting outside and camping, starting a book and actually finishing it (he’s read two since Christmas!) and making the most out of time spent with his wife and family.
“One of the biggest things I’ve already experienced is that I don’t have to run out the door and look at a computer or paperwork. I’d spend about two hours every morning doing that. I will not miss that. But what I will miss is my wonderful family practice. I can get teary just thinking about it.”
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