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We Relied On One Another

Heroes Remember

We Relied On One Another

That was the hardest part, was knowing that you can lose your friends and we had a couple of things that we did for all the nurses. If we were very, very close to certain people and we knew they were coming through the door, we’d switch with another nurse to make sure that we can give the best care. Now it never happened where I had to take care of a person I personally knew that was badly injured, but we had this little code all amongst us. If it’s a person I can’t handle, I’m gonna say, we have to switch okay. This is what we did for one another. We drew on each other's strengths and weaknesses, our knowledge base ’cause we're not experts in everything and everybody came with different sets of knowledge. So if we didn’t understand something or we’ve never gave a specific medication or a specific treatment, “Who’s done this before? Who’s done that before?” And everybody would share their knowledge. It was quite unique. I’ve never seen that anywhere else and I’ve worked in civilian hospitals before, but we had to rely on one another to make it work. Certain of my friends I saw them stressing out. You’d see it in their eyes. Eyes would change completely. If they were going to, and especially the infanteers, they were going outside that wire. I think they’re the most courageous men and women I’ve ever seen because there were... I kept saying, “You guys must, you know, I couldn’t do it,” I kept saying, to them, “I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how you guys do it.” And they kept saying to me, “Yeah, we’re afraid to go,” but they’d still go. So that was the first thing I realized. Oh my god, these people are the most courageous people I’ve ever met. And you’d see it in their eyes. You’d see it in the way they would react before going on certain operations. Some people would start shaking and some people would, they’d go ‘deer in the headlights’ look and I made sure that they knew. I’ve always talked to the infanteers or anybody that went outside, made sure that they knew me as a friend and were able to come to me if they needed to come speak to me, and a lot of times I would just take them aside and talk to them, see how they were doing and I find it helped. I had a friend who told me that a few months ago that he wanted to know if I remembered a specific conversation we had and I said, “Yes, I remember, of course I would remember.” He said, “You know, I really needed that. I needed you there at that point to do what you did.” I said, “Okay.” But I find it's a a responsibility as a nurse also to let them know that you're there. You’re available for them. And it’s not my job, like my duty to do that. I just felt that was my responsibility to be involved as much as I could be.

Ms. Streppa discusses the various emotional support networks that helped hospital and combat staff handle stress.

Joanna Streppa

Ms. Streppa was born in Montreal. She joined the Canadian Forces in 1989 as a non-commissioned member and trained as a Naval Signaller. From 1990 - 1997 she was employed in the Halifax area with the exception of a two year tour at the National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa. After obtaining her Nursing degree from Dalhousie University, Ms. Streppa received her Officer Commission, specializing in Critical Care, and in 2004 was promoted to rank of Lieutenant. In February 2006, she accepted a deployment to Afghanistan/Kandahar and was employed as a Staff Officer within the Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters upon her return.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
February 10, 2008
Person Interviewed:
Joanna Streppa
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Canadian Forces Medical Corps
1st Lieutenant
Medical Personnel

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