Good afternoon from Columbia, SC.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving here … a holiday I still don’t appreciate as much as I should … Canadian Thanksgiving is much more meaningful to me, even though I now have a huge “American” family of relatives and friends!
Almonte will always be home to me! I was born in Ottawa in 1955 and moved to Almonte in the early 60’s. I went to St. Mary’s School in Almonte, and after a few years at St. Pius X High School in Ottawa, I completed my high school years at ADHS! I was athletic, but never a standout, and have always been overshadowed by my brothers and nieces/nephews with their athletic prowess. While at ADHS my geography teacher (Mr. Souter) made the world come alive and as a result of his lectures I wanted to explore the world … and to date my wife Carol and I have backpacked throughout 88 countries, over 3 year-long trips! In 1984 we backpacked through Europe, Canada/USA for a whole year, in 1988 we backpacked for a whole year around the world, and in 1993 we again backpacked for an entire year in Latin America … started in northern Mexico and ended up in Ushuaia, Argentina. June Dalgity at the Almonte Gazette gave me an opportunity to chronicle those travels in my column, “Letters Home”. I always hoped that my shared travels and adventures would inspire others to see the world.
While at ADHS it was Guidance Counselor Mrs. Rachel Lamb that suggested I pursue a career in Nursing … she saw something in me that I did not see myself. I graduated from St. Lawrence College (Brockville) in 1976 with a Diploma in Nursing and in 1978, after a few years working in the Ottawa Ambulance system, I moved to Corpus Christi Texas to start my career as a nurse. After years of Medical Surgical, Coronary Care, and then Emergency-Trauma Nursing I moved to Columbia, SC to start work as an Operating Room Nurse. Along the way I went back to school to pursue higher education as I learned that more education would help me to save more lives … I now have a Baccalaureate and Masters in Nursing, as well as a Masters and Doctorate in Public Health. After acquiring my Doctorate in Public Health I wanted to give back to my profession of Nursing … so I transitioned from the hospital setting to academia at the University of South Carolina (USC). Over a period of 15 years I taught healthcare focused courses and during my last 10 years I created an international healthcare course in which I was able to take USC healthcare focused students to Latin America (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala) to render hands-on healthcare to a rural population of very underserved people in dire need of assistance. My Masters and Doctoral research focused on the barriers that Hispanics face when trying to access healthcare in the US … an ongoing huge issue!
While working full-time and going to school full-time in Columbia, SC I decided to further challenge myself by taking on the task of climbing the 7 Summits … the highest mountain on each of the 7 continents of the world! In 1985, Richard Bass, a businessman and amateur mountaineer, was the first man to climb all Seven Summits, and in In 1986, the Canadian mountaineer Patrick Morrow became the first man to climb the Seven Summits. When I made it to the summit of Mt. Everest on May 24, 2007 I became the first nurse in the world to do so on the first attempt, and joined only 75 people in the world, at that time, to complete the 7 Summits. To date there are only about 500 people who have completed the 7 Summits! When I went to Mt. Everest I knew the risks as many people have died there, and through my 7 years of high altitude climbing I have seen way too many people die. In honour of my good friend and mentor Sean Egan of Almonte, who died on Mt. Everest in 2005, I carried his ashes to the top of the world. On completion of the 7 Summits I was awarded the Key to the Town of Almonte!
I wrote a book about my mountaineering and adventure travels (7 Summits: A Nurses Quest to Conquer Mountaineering and Life) and traveled around the US as a motivational speaker. All proceeds from my book, and speaker fees, have been donated to 4 nursing scholarships that I have initiated … to date around $150,000.00. While climbing mountains around the world, I did so with a fear of heights, but pushed myself to face that fear head-on. As a result of this experience, I created the “Personal Challenge Program” at the University of South Carolina where to date tens of thousands of students have challenged themselves each semester to step out of their comfort zone to face adversity. I wrote a book about this program “The Path to Student Success Starts With a Personal Challenge”, but have not published at this time … hopefully will pursue that soon! I retired a few years ago from USC, but continue to pay-it-forward as I am now an instrument rated pilot (I know … it doesn’t make sense that I can fly and be afraid of heights … I have learned not to look down!!!) and through an organization named Angel Flights, I fly patients from their home cities to a hospital for treatment, but more often lately I have been flying patients from the hospital after a surgical procedure back to their home city. There is no charge to the patient as I have my own plane, I pay for the fuel, and I donate my time.
Again, I am not famous, but through my travels, climbing and adventurous life-style, I believe I have inspired many students and others to push their limits and step outside their comfort zones. As I have shared with all, “we only live once and the time is short, so do as much as you can in the time that you have left!”
I have enjoyed reading your historical stories of Almonte and the area as for me it is very nostalgic. Few in Almonte may know me now as I have lived in the United States for the past 44 years, but many know my family name as the Hickey’s are very involved as teachers, mentors and coaches in our community. I feel blessed to have been raised on a farm in Almonte, the oldest of eight brothers and one sister, and learned early in life to pay-it-forward, as I have done all my life. Almonte, the Friendly Town, was where I gained the values that would guide me through life … much better values than what I see in some of my friends that were raised in large cities!
Patrick Hickey RN,BSN,MS,MSN,Dr. P.H.,CNOR(E)
Distinguished Clinical Professor Emeritus
University of South Carolina
I have attached a few photos:
1. My wife Carol and I by my plane (she refuses to fly with me since I had a slight incident with her in a plane when I blew a tire on landing and ended up in the ditch off a runway in Texas)
2. My brother Greg and myself in Myrtle Beach, SC … his home-way-from-home for golf!
3. Second edition cover of my book
4. One of my scholarships … Nurses Can Do Anything
5. Carol and I at Mt. Everest basecamp (17,800 ft.) in 2017 – my ten year anniversary
6. Summit of Mt,. Everest – May 24, 2007
7. Hiking through the Himalayas in 1988 … proposed marriage to Carol in the mountains of Nepal