Many people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are mourning the loss of Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk, a beloved ob-gyn who died over the weekend.
"It's hard to describe who Dr. Rawluk was. He was a larger-than-life gentleman with a huge heart," said Dr. Gabe Wollam, who worked with Rawluk.
Rawluk, who was known for his "magic hands," originally came from Poland and delivered thousands of babies over his career in Labrador.
He began his stint with Labrador-Grenfell Health in St. Anthony in 1989, a couple of years before coming to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and was basically on call for nearly 30 years, until his retirement in December 2017 after a nearly 50-year career. For decades Rawluk was the only obstetrician and gynecologist in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Wollam recalled meeting Rawluk in 2007 when Wollam was a resident at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay hospital.
"When he was in town, he was on call 24/7 and helped bring many babies into the world," Wollam said.
"I never heard him grumble about whenever it was.… He'd show up at three in the morning, with his vest on, and his pocket watch, and his cup of coffee, and we'd get the job done."
Rawluk had a special quality, said Wollam.
"it'd be great if we could figure out what it was and bottle it," he said. "He cared about his patients above everything else."
Wollam's family was also close with Rawluk, who spent time with Wollam and his children.
"He loved mushroom hunting," Wollam said.
Rawluk revealed secret spots for foraging, bringing along Wollam and his kids to share his passion for the outdoors.
"He took it upon himself to teach me and my kids about mushroom hunting."
Rawluk always took it upon himself to connect with people, said Wollam.
"He was able to find common ground or find some common interest with a lot of people that he met, and then he would remember that about that person and it would always come up in conversation," Wollam said.
Kayla Lethbridge was a patient of Rawluk's from 2008 to 2013 while she was having difficulty getting pregnant.
"His care and compassion was constant and encouraging the entire journey, even in times when I was ready to give up," Lethbridge said.
"I was diagnosed with [polycystic ovary syndrome] in 2007, along with receiving news that I had eight dermoid cysts on my ovaries that needed to be removed," she said.
Rawluk operated on Lethbridge in 2008.
[Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk] was well respected and adored by all who knew him - Yvonne Jones
"At that time I was told that the outcome was unpredictable — [that] I may come out with one ovary, no ovaries or even a full-blown hysterectomy," said Lethbridge. "I came out of that surgery with both ovaries intact."
Rawluk encouraged Lethbridge not to give up, even after such an invasive surgery.
"Five years after my initial appointment with Rawluk … he was just as encouraging as the first day I walked into his office," she said.
In October 2012, Lethbridge finally got the results for which she was hoping.
"I walked into his office with the news I was pregnant. He gave me the biggest hug and was over the moon with excitement," Lethbridge said.
She gave birth to her daughter in June 2013.
"He turned to my husband and said, 'A lot of this is up to medical science but that child in your wife's arms is simply unexplainable.'
"Years later, he would still walk up to me in the grocery store, call me by name and ask about my little girl. His ability to remember so many of his patients and their babies is amazing," she said.
"We are beyond thankful to Dr. Rawluk for his care and compassion over the years. He was truly one of a kind."
Since the news of his death, people have been paying tribute on social media to Rawluk's dedication to his patients.
"On behalf of all Labradorians I extend deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Wieslaw Rawluk," wrote Labrador MP Yvonne Jones on Facebook.
"He was known throughout Labrador for his magic hands after having delivered many babies in Central and Northern Labrador over the past 20 years. He was known for his kind and [compassionate] nature, he was well respected and adored by all who knew him. He will be missed and remembered for his tremendous care and dedication to his patients. We acknowledge his remarkable service and mourn his loss."