Bred in Belize
Emily Vander Heide (nee teBrake) ’07 looks back on her years at Hamilton District Christian High with fond memories. She enjoyed the social atmosphere in the hallways, and particularly loved playing the flute in Ms. Conaghan’s music class. She also liked Mr. Brink’s Media Studies class and going tubing on the Grade 12 Quebec trip.
In the last semester of her Grade 12 year, Emily had the opportunity to spend 3 months in Belize with twenty-four other students from HDCH and Toronto District Christian High. While in Belize, Emily was placed at an old age home in the heart of St. Ignacio. It was here that she felt called to be a nurse.
“I learned from a nurse who had a wealth of experience,” said Emily. “I learned how to bathe and feed patients, and give physiotherapy to the residents. Learning from this caring woman inspired me to pursue this career, and I promised her that I would become a nurse one day.”
After graduation, Emily worked in landscaping with her father while taking a Chemistry and Math class to obtain the requirements for entry into a post-secondary Nursing program. In the winter and spring, she worked at a greenhouse planting, packaging, and delivering flowers to different distributors.
In September 2010, Emily began the Practical Nursing (PN) course at Mohawk College and worked simultaneously as a Personal Support Worker (PSW). After graduating with her PN, Emily applied to go to school to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSCN). While she was completing her degree she worked as a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Rehab and Complex Continuing Care/Palliative Care. Several months later, Emily was accepted to Conestoga College for a joint program with McMaster University and continued her degree there.
While at Conestoga, Emily met up with an old friend who was finishing her last year of nursing. During one of their night classes together, her friend introduced Emily to her older brother. They started dating and got engaged in her second last year of the degree program. She planned a wedding and got married within five months, right before the start of the final year of her degree program.
In May 2013, a month before Emily graduated, she went with her husband to Belize and visited the same nursing home she had spent time at in high school. She reconnected with some of the residents that she had previously cared for and touched base with the nurse there again.
“I was so happy to tell her that I had become a nurse,” said Emily.
Emily attributes much of her success as a nurse to the Christian education she received at HDCH. She appreciated the teachers that made her aim high academically and challenged her with projects.
“The classes really prepared me for one of the toughest science-based university degrees out there,” said Emily. “I am thankful for the opportunity to attend a Christian school where God was incorporated into every aspect of my learning and where I had teachers who cared about their students and their well-being.”
Emily is currently employed at Norfolk General Hospital in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit in Simcoe. She also works casually at the Carpenter Hospice in Burlington.
“There were many experiences along the way that made me question why I was pursuing a career in nursing,” said Emily. “Nurses work long and tiring 12-hour days and nights that often cut into personal life. We are required to serve in many different roles and be experts in many areas, and we are also witness to much pain and suffering on a daily basis. But there are definitely rewards that allow me to continue to help families physically, emotionally, and spiritually in some of the most vulnerable times of their lives. These are the moments that make it all worth it.”