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Squamish carver gives thanks to LGH hospital workers while his mom is in care

Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) carver Darren Yelton leads a ceremony at Lions Gate Hospital Sunday evening to say thank-you to health-care workers
Squamish carver Darren Yelton has been singing songs of prayer and thanks to health-care workers at Lions Gate Hospital while his mother has been in care.

Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) carver Darren Yelton shared songs of prayer and honour outside of Lions Gate Hospital Sunday (Jan. 30) evening in efforts to show his support for hospital workers while his mom has been an inpatient for the past few weeks.

More than 50 people turned up for the events, as Yelton organized singers, drummers, speakers, and a shaman for the evening of thanksgiving.

“For the past two and a half weeks since I've been in the hospital with my mom, I overheard one of the doctors saying beside my mom's hospital bed saying, ‘Oh my God, I wish we had more doctors and more nurses here to help us, we're just struggling so much to help everyone in here,’” Yelton said to North Shore News earlier in the week. “So, I gotta do something for these guys. It's something I want to do from my heart.”

“I think it's well needed to uplift their spirits also, and just say a prayer for them and everybody who walks through those front doors of the emergency.”

Yelton said despite the challenges hospital staff are facing, his mother has been well taken care of.

“They've been handling her and taking care of her very well. I'm just very pleased with the work that they've done for her. She's been in great care with the doctors and nurses.”

In November 2021, the B.C. Nurses Union told the North Shore News that nurses in critical care areas of LGH were burning out from the stress of overwork during the pandemic, and leaving the hospital to take jobs elsewhere.

Next year, Yelton is planning to donate a totem pole to the hospital that will stand in front of the new acute care facility, currently under construction.

“[It will] honour all of the cancer patients who go through Lions Gate and battle their illness. And the ones that don't make it out of there, the families of those members, we’ll be putting a wall beside the sculpture so they can put a plaque in honour of their loved one that has gone to the spirit world.”

Not working on it just yet, Yelton has the logs sitting out front of his home in preparation to start carving next year.

“The hospital asked me how much money I would want to do this for them and I said, “No, I don't want a dime. I don't want no money.’ I’ve had so many family members on my mother's side that have lost their lives to cancer, and it's something I want to do, just to donate it.”

While working on the totem pole, Yelton plans to start a donation fund that will eventually be given to Lions Gate Hospital and to a cancer agency.

“In my heart I really want to do it. It's been a struggle for my family watching my mom's illness, but she’ll have palliative care of her when she comes home, and she will be well taken care of when she comes home.”

The ceremony started at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30, outside of the emergency department at Lions Gate Hospital, on St. Georges Avenue and 14th Street East. Yelton encouraged everyone in attendance to also wear an orange shirt to honour residential school survivors and victims.

Charlie Carey is the North Shore News' Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.