Dancer, heroic healer
by Jennifer Westendorp
Ain’t no mountain high enough for Shannon Horsburgh. Shannon (nee Simms) grew up in Mountain, on the street that bears her family’s name.
“I danced at the Joanne Whittaker School of Dance,” she explains. “I was a dance instructor there.”
Shannon dipped her talented toes in everything, from ballet to tap and jazz to point.
“I love the freedom of being able to move and express yourself in your own way.”
She worked at Loughlin’s Country Store in Hallville for 15 years, starting out as a teenager and staying on at the local haunt all the way through school. Shannon says the owners, Marg and Gerald, treated her like family and taught her the secret of making the world’s best butter tarts.
After graduating from North Dundas District High School, Shannon spread her wings and flew to nursing School at the University of Ottawa. The four-year program was challenging, but she stuck with it to the very end.
“I did my last placement in Winchester, because I was hoping to work here,” Shannon notes. “I was fortunate enough to get a job here right out of school.”
She started in the Emergency Department at Winchester District Memorial Hospital in 2012, and this year marks a decade of caring for the people of North Dundas.
“I went from a part-time Registered Nurse in the ED to full-time, then on to Team Leader for five years, and now I’ve taken on a new role as Interim Clinical Manager.”
Shannon always wanted to work in the community that she lives in. “It’s that personal touch,” she explains. “It’s so much better coming into work and caring for people that you know, like a friend of a family member. You have that connection with them when you have something in common.”
Shannon notes that the motto at the Winchester Hospital is providing care close to home – something she lives and breathes every day. She says the staff set the rural hospital apart, through their values and team approach.
“No matter what you need, you can go to one of your colleagues and they’re always willing to help. We all just care for our patients as though they’re our own family members,” she notes. “That’s how it is throughout the entire hospital…whether you’re getting an ultrasound done, or staying with us for a few days on the in-patient side, everyone here just goes above and beyond for their patients.”
A year and a half ago, Shannon saw things from the other side of the curtain. She delivered her son, whom she and her husband named Landon, at the Winchester Hospital.
“He was born right in the middle of the pandemic,” Shannon says. “I made jokes when I went off on maternity leave that I wasn’t coming back until Covid was over, but then my year was up and it was still going.”
The experience of being a patient in her own hospital really opened her eyes to just how amazing the whole team is. “Everyone was so great, and I truly believe that I was cared for in the same way the OB team would care for anyone else.”
Shannon says nursing – and motherhood – are about keeping an open mind, because you learn something new every day. “It’s great working in a team environment like this and having people to bounce ideas off of. We can really lean on each other for support.”
Shannon considers herself lucky to be a part of such a remarkable team. “They’re all so dedicated…they eat, breathe and love Winchester just as much as the rest of us do.”
On top of healing people at work, Shannon also flexes her heroic muscles when she’s off the clock. While visiting her father, Paul Simms, one day after work, they heard a neighbour calling for help. The man was trapped under a tractor and Shannon and her dad, a retired firefighter, helped save his life. The dynamic duo were presented with the first ever Mayor’s Award in 2019 in recognition of their efforts.
“It’s pretty crazy how the stars aligned that day.”
Shannon says North Dundas is a wonderful place to live, and she looks forward to raising her son here.
“I guarantee you that anyone here would give you the clothes off their back if you needed them,” she notes. “Everyone is willing to lend a helping hand.”