Creekstone Press

Northern BC's publisher


Review of Front Lines: Portraits of Caregivers in Northern British Columbia

Never mind the diagnostic wizardry on the TV medical drama, House. Turn off the small-screen passions of Grey’s Anatomy‘s hospital staff. Instead, settle down and crack open Front Lines. You’ll meet a fresh, real-life cast of northern caregivers, who help and heal. They show fierce love, intense compassion, and inspiring insight into their work, their patients, and the land where they dwell.

Author Sarah de Leeuw brings along her careful eye and poetic prose as she embeds on health care’s front lines. She begins with her own vivid childhood memories of being airlifted from a remote island during a medical emergency. It’s a pivotal moment. Tough northerners save this little girl’s life, and decades later, de Leeuw still remembers the gentle hands in the cold rain and windy dark. Now a medical school professor, de Leeuw approaches her subjects with the gratitude of a child saved – and the critical mind of an academic. Like a child’s ruptured appendix, her essays about each caregiver burst with movement, truth, and pain. Her vivid images and muscular language capture the wise essence of people committed to pushing health care’s front lines through this wild frontier.

Here, it’s not simply family doctors and nurses who cure. Front Lines‘ healers include oncologists, sacred healers, pharmacists, home care workers, and opticians. They are not cartographers or historians, but the essays about their lives capture something essential about the North.

Tim Swanky’s lush photographic portraits add another layer of illumination. Health care workers are often defined and confined by their professional identity. Here, they harvest lettuce, drum in a yurt, sprint through snow, or head out mudbogging. Set amidst northern BC’s sun and snow and ice and bush, these gorgeous photos could well serve as a recruitment tool – to bring new medical blood to the north.