Paramedic Honouree 2022
For over twenty years, Helen Galanis has been a York Region paramedic, a job that entails helping people during their times of medical crisis. Helen often thinks about those she’s provided care to over the years and wonders how they’re doing. So, in her eighth year as a paramedic—and wanting to do more in some way—she came up with the idea of donating blankets to the elderly. Seeing firsthand how many were often alone with no family or friends, especially over the holidays, she felt Christmas would be the best time to distribute these comforting gifts.
The Nanny Blanket Drive launched in 2008, in the three York Region hospitals, and initially relied solely on the generosity of other paramedics donating home-made blankets or money to purchase blankets on their behalf. Since involving the public they now have funds on reserve to sustain the initiative longer term.
Helen and her colleagues have witnessed the precious impact this small gesture has had on others. On one occasion, the weekend before Christmas Eve, they responded to a call for a male who had gone into cardiac arrest. The paramedics were able to revive him, and he was transported to the hospital. One of Helen’s fellow paramedics, who was on that call, happened to be delivering blankets on Christmas Eve, when she entered a hospital room and instantly recognized that same male patient. He did not remember her; after giving him a blanket, though, she left the room with tears in her eyes having seen the best outcome of the job they do. Another time, Helen recalls one of her co-workers handing a blanket to an elderly woman in a wheelchair. She did not speak English and was confused by the kind gesture. The paramedic opened the wrapped blanket and placed it around her shoulders. The lady understood, began to cry, and reached up and hugged that paramedic.
In 2015, when Helen’s two boys were only four and five years old, she chose to include them in The Nanny Blanket Drive. She wanted them to understand how important it is to give back and support those in need. Based on her boys’ experiences, Helen gained meaningful new insights. She was surprised by their initial hesitation and fear in approaching people to give them a blanket, but it allowed her to understand just how truly valuable their life encounters were, big and small, and how each would shape her children's growth in the future. Since then, Helen and her boys recall with fondness many special memories of donating in years prior to the pandemic and look forward to when their family and paramedic friends can pick up where they left off, making a genuine difference in the lives of those who are too often forgotten.