First registered nurse to die of coronavirus in Canada remembered for love of animals, laughter

Click to play video: 'London, Ont., nurse dies of COVID-19 and is mourned by his community'
London, Ont., nurse dies of COVID-19 and is mourned by his community
WATCH ABOVE: Brian Beattie is being remembered by those who knew him as a dedicated registered nurse who loved helping others, animals and a good belly laugh. He died after contracting COVID-19 on the same day as nurses across the country are honoured for their dedication to their work. Morganne Campbell reports – May 13, 2020

Brian Beattie, 57, is being remembered as a hero not only in his day job as a registered nurse but also to the animals he helped rescue.

“Yesterday, I lost a best friend, my first cousin, a true animal advocate, to COVID19,” Kimberly Thomas said in a Facebook post after Beattie’s death.

Thomas wrote about her cousin’s dedication and work rescuing abused and neglected dogs. Thomas is the founder of Kismutt Rescue, a non-profit that rescues and cares for dogs and cats without a home.

“We rescued so many dogs together, abused, neglected dogs. Sometimes in the dead of night,” she wrote.

READ MORE: Registered nurse working at long-term care home in London, Ont., dies due to COVID-19

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Global News reached out to Thomas for an interview but she declined.

The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) released a statement Tuesday about Beattie’s death. According to the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), he is the first registered nurse to die of the coronavirus in Canada.

The CFNU reports a total of eight health-care workers have died of COVID-19.

Working on the front lines of the pandemic, he looked after residents at Kensington Village, a long-term care facility in London.

Public health confirmed the COVID-19 outbreak at Kensington Place on April 3. Since then, eight staff members have tested positive, seven of whom have recovered.

Kensington Village released a statement Tuesday and confirmed Beattie had been off work and was seeking treatment for COVID-19.

“On behalf of Kensington Village, all our staff and our entire community we extend our thoughts and condolences to the family of this individual. We will work closely with the family to find the appropriate way to celebrate this individual who remains an important part of our family,” read a joint statement from Leslie DuCharme, director of operations, and Peter Schlegel, president of Kensington Village.

Amber Beattie with her uncle Brian Beattie, the first registered nurse to die of COVID-19 in Ontario
Amber Beattie with her uncle Brian Beattie, the first registered nurse to die of COVID-19 in Ontario. Supplied by Amber Beattie

In a statement, niece Amber Beattie said the family is “devastated” by the loss.

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“The times spent with him included a few drinks, some swear words, and lots of laughter! He had an amazing sense of humour, just as my grandparents always did and my dad does,” she wrote.

Amber echoed her uncle’s love for dogs, especially for his own, Axyl and Lana.

“If he was not at work, he was out walking them through the neighbourhood and down the paths.”

She remembered the time the two spent together riding horses when she was little and his laughter “identical to my grandma’s.”

“We can all learn a lot from his dedication, and we can all carry his laughter inside of us.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Toronto nurses open up about struggles, challenges amid pandemic

Janet Neatey was one of the London residents who stopped by to pay her respects at a memorial set up outside Kensington Village.

“I can’t imagine how they must feel going to work every day knowing they could get sick or their family could get sick,” she told Global News.

On Wednesday, London Mayor Ed Holder offered his condolences to Beattie’s friends and family in a statement.

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“As of today, the virus has now claimed 46 lives in London-Middlesex. While it is always heartbreaking to learn that a life has been lost, for this to happen to a nurse – on what was International Nurses Day of all days – somehow makes it even harder,” Holder wrote.

“It also reminds us, in the most poignant of ways, the risks and the sacrifices being made by frontline healthcare workers on a daily basis in an effort to keep the rest of us safe.”


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