From an early age, Lorraine Beasley knew she wanted to be a nurse. By the time she was 17 she was already in training at King’s College Hospital in London, England.
She decided to specialise in orthopaedics at the suggestion of William Eldon Tucker, a Bermudian doctor working in that field in Britain.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a nurse,” said Ms Beasley, who followed his advice and moved to Oxford, where she worked for two years at Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.
“I didn’t let anything faze me but in the middle of the night a lady, who had a double long leg hip spica cast on, died.
“They called the plaster room and I had to go to the mortuary and take it off. I was only 17, and by myself with this corpse thinking, ‘What have I done?’.”
In 1972 her mother, Elaine Swain, wrote to tell her about an opening in the Orthopaedic Unit at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
“There was no application process,” the 70-year-old said. “I just came home and started working. You arrived on time and you did not sneak out early.
“You took pride in your work. If the matron came down and said something to you, you took notice of what was said. You didn’t mouth off. It was a more respectful atmosphere.”
She vowed to only stay one year because she wanted to travel the world, but only “got as far as applying for a job on the RMS Queen Elizabeth II”.
She remained in the Orthopaedic Unit until 1997 when her brother, David Swain, had an accident while working as a contractor.
“He was cleaning out a tank one time and his exhaust wasn’t long enough,” she said. “So, he put the pump down inside the tank and put it on and got carbon monoxide poisoning.”
He was treated in the hyperbaric chamber, which was then located in the KEMH morgue. “It saved his life,” Ms Beasley said.
Grateful, she signed up as a volunteer and ultimately became certified as a hyperbaric nurse.
In 2000, when KEMH opened the Hyperbaric and Wound Care Department she became its clinical nurse manager and helped to develop hyperbaric and wound care policies and procedures.
“It was an unusual transition from orthopaedics but, because of the wound care and my hyperbaric training, it was awesome,” Ms Beasley said. “For a while I headed up orthopaedics and hyperbaric. Then it was too much and I had to stay with hyperbaric.”
In 1968 when she’d studied nursing, a bachelor’s degree in the field didn’t exist.
At 57, when both her parents developed Alzheimer’s disease in their early seventies, Ms Beasley decided to go back to school.
She began with an associate’s degree at Bermuda College and built on from there.
“I loved it,” she said. “I got to do all electives.”
She found she had a love for mathematics and statistics which, had she known when younger, would have led her to become a doctor or a forensic accountant.
“I did it for my sanity,” she said of her studies, which she completed while raising three children and which ultimately led to a master’s degree in healthcare from Rushmore University in South Dakota.
“I have always been a night owl. I found I wrote some of my best papers at 1am or 2am.”
She spent the last seven years of her career working as a patient safety officer and patient advocate manager in KEMH’s Quality and Risk Department.
“I used to take complaints all day long,” she said. “People said to me, ‘Why are you always smiling?’ I said, ‘Well, they are complaining to me not about me.’”
Always comfortable on the sports field she thinks it’s something she inherited from her father, Larry Swain, who arrived in Bermuda from London in 1940 to work as a police officer.
He later ran the Bermuda Coin and Stamp Company but was well known as a football player. To her end, she played netball, golf and darts and loved hiking. In 1983 she started cycling.
“With my long legs, I quickly got very good,” said Ms Beasley, who reached 6ft at 13. “I started winning time-trials.”
From there she moved into triathlons where she didn’t come first, but also “didn’t come last”.
“I did very well on the swim and very well on the cycling, but I have never been fast on the running,” said Ms Beasley, who has run the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby twice and cycled the route once.
She is now walking and doing water aerobics after she damaged her shoulder while swimming as part of triathlons.
Over the years she has been involved in a number of charities.
She is part of Final Steps, which raises awareness of end-of-life issues.
A friend from church, the late Jasen Moniz, encouraged her to join.
Ms Beasley is frequently on the radio or at KEMH discussing the subject.
She admits to missing nursing since she left the hospital in 2015.
But what makes her most proud is her three children and four grandsons.
On her own resume she lists the achievements of her son, Adrian, a lawyer and human rights advocate, his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Beasley, the Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment and their sister, Rachael Rance, human resources manager at Phoenix Stores Ltd.
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royal gazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them