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Thorold man makes sure that surgeries can happen, even during COVID-19

Patrick Williamson on his 30 years at St Catharines hospital, and two months of staying six feet apart from his girlfriend
"It's like a family here." Thorold Man Patrick Williamson has been working at the St Catharines hospital for 30 years. Photo: Supplied

Most people spend their first month on the job remembering names, getting to know the ropes around the workplace and figuring out the lunchroom microwave.

Patrick Williamsons first month was different.

During one of his first shifts cleaning the St Catharines hospital operation and recovery rooms, the Thorold environmental services worker witnessed doctors and nurses fighting to keep a man alive after a gruesome stabbing.

Blood was pooling down on the floor as plasma was being administered and internal bleedings were sutured by lazer-focused surgeons. 

Since landing his first job at the St Catharines hospital at age 19 in 1989, Patrick Williamson had worked his way through most departments.

He started in the kitchen, moved on to laundry.

Now he was witnessing a man on his way to death, knowing that he would be the one who would have to clean up the aftermath.

“You get over it pretty quick when you have to clean it up. You take a deep breath and do your best,” Patrick tells Thorold News.

The man passed away later that night.

Patrick is still cleaning the operating- and recovery rooms on a steady 5-day overnight schedule, 11 p.m - 7 a.m.

It isn't a job for anyone - nor is it easy, as operating tables and floors need to be completely sanitized to literal medical standards.

Sometimes it is a 'small' job like a minor surgery that awaits him - other times traumatic overnight cases stemming from a violent underworld.

"You just never know until the door opens what you are going in to."

It’s been 30 years since he first stepped inside the hospital, and he has no plans on leaving.

“It becomes like a family here. After so many years, you become family. I have had so many friends through my whole life that have come from the hospital.”

His decades of zamboni-cruising through the hallways at the many departments has landed him friends in every corner of the hospital.

While the operating rooms are a bit slower than normal due to elective surgeries being cancelled, the real effect Patrick Williamson is feeling from the pandemic is not being able to see many of his coworkers, as per hospital directives on social distancing.

“The reward comes when you get off the job and maybe see someone in the parking lot that you can talk to from a distance. You tell each other to stay safe and go home with a smile on your face.”

Patrick brings that smile back to his Thorold birth home, where he lives with his brother who is currently staying with him.

The support to keep going comes from his loved ones, like his 14-year old son Thomas - but right now they can’t meet, Patrick has decided.

“I just don’t want to get him sick. You never know if you are carrying something.”

The closest thing to a regular life outside of work are Patricks ’social distancing-dates’ with his girlfriend Shelby, who works in the Niagara Falls hospital.

“We have stayed six feet apart for over two months now. It has been really tough. I can’t hold her hand or kiss her.”

But the moments of precious outside time is still giving him the energy he needs to keep up the work.

And the love for Thorold, of course.

“I’m born here and I’ll get buried here some day.”

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