Lesa Semmler, manager of nursing units at Inuvik Regional Hospital, presents a long-service award to retiring nurse Sheila Mattson, who came to the NWT intending to spend only a year in the North. Mattson plans to retire to a camping lifestyle.
– Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

It was hard to hear the brief speeches made to honour nurse Sheila Mattson at her retirement celebration last week, as boisterous children ran and yelled in the background.
That is probably just how Mattson likes it.
“My passion, as most people know, is babies,” she said, listing off her four children, five grandchildren and relatives she cares about.
Mattson received awards for 28 years serving the territory. Most of them were spent in Inuvik as a nurse and as a doula, a person who helps women in labour.
Her journey north started in Fort Simpson in 1978.
“I was only going to stay one year,” she said. “Instead, after a year-and-a-half, I moved north to Inuvik.”
Originally from northern Alberta, she worked at Inuvik Regional Hospital, as well as in social services as a childcare worker, social worker and youth worker, ending her career in maternity and surgery.
“I actually tried to leave one time,” recalled Mattson. “I moved south for four months after I’d been here for two years, but I had to come back. I fell in love with the people, the country. I love to be out.”
She and her husband spend a lot of time travelling on the land and staying in their two cabins. Mattson is proud to call her children Inuvialuit.
Once her husband retires later this year, Mattson plans to spend much of her time in a cabin.
The highlight of her career, as expected, is all the births.
“It’s really amazing,” she said. “Some of the babies that I’ve helped deliver have had babies, so I’ve been in with a second generation and actually a third generation having babies, which is really special.”
There’s even a family in Sachs Harbour who have told her she’s looked after five generations of their family, she said.
“To go through people’s lives like that is an incredible accomplishment and a feeling of gratitude for me,” said Mattson.
Lesa Semmler, manager of nursing units at Inuvik Regional Hospital, was on hand to present the awards to Mattson. Semmler said Mattson was the nurse who took care of her when she was in labour with her son.
“I’ve had the experience to have her as a friend, as a coworker (and) as my nurse,” said Semmler.
Mattson added that she has had the privilege of meeting many elders and hearing their stories.
“I consider myself truly blessed to have had that,” she said. “The circle of life, from birth to death, is a very huge thing.”