A lifetime at the Edmonton General

Theresa Burwell’s life has come full circle.

Born in September 1940 at the then Edmonton General Hospital, she returned to its corridors to spend her nursing career caring for others. It’s also the site where she gave birth to her three children, Paul, Carolyn and Brian. And now, it’s the place the 77-year-old calls home. Theresa, who has Alzheimer’s, moved into the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre two years ago.

Her husband, Fred, who visits her twice a day, says Theresa shows signs that she still remembers the Edmonton General. “When I arrived with her here, I turned around and she disappeared. It scared me,” he says. “After a quick search, I found her standing at the information desk asking where I was.”

The couple, married for more than 50 years, still enjoy their time together, whether they are visiting the rooftop garden or sitting, holding hands on the 10th floor where Theresa lives.

Before her diagnosis, Theresa gave her time and effort to many causes. She was very involved in the Edmonton General Alumni, the church and community services. Her daughter, Carolyn Stiles, says volunteering was an important part of her mother’s world. “She just loves to help others. When she first came in to the General, she would even help the nurses, because she wanted to be part of the system again.”

Theresa's time working at the hospital was captured recently by the Edmonton General staff. When Chaplain Caroline Ann Nelson heard about Theresa’s connection to the site, she arranged to celebrate it through a hallway display. One highlighted contribution is Theresa’s sewing skills. She sewed doll-sized versions of historical nurse uniforms that outline the transformation of nursing in the Edmonton General. Pictures of these dolls are part of a permanent display in the main hallway at the General. 

“I’m happy we are able to celebrate Theresa's contribution to the Edmonton General,” says Ann.

Theresa Burwell

Carolyn knows the Edmonton General is very much a part of her mother’s legacy.

“It’s kind of neat to know when you go downstairs, that class of 1961 is hanging on the wall. This is a part of where her heart is and it’s a good place for her to be.”


1961 graduation photo of Theresa Burwell

A photograph of the prototype dolls Theresa Burwell sewed the uniforms for

A photo of Fred and Theresa Burwell in front of the display at the Edmonton General

Contribute to The Vital Beat

Have a story to share about health care? An idea for an article? We value all contributions.

Submit an idea