By Andrea Arnold
Dr. Zachary Taylor, DC and Eleanor Tweddell, RMT have stepped away from clinic-based jobs to pursue a career path that fosters their love of travel. BC-born Taylor spent many years in New Zealand, then attended the Okanagan University before taking his chiropractic training in California. Tweddell grew up just outside Montreal, attended school to be a registered massage therapist in Victoria, and spent time working in the Netherlands.
The pair landed in Fernie BC at the same time working in clinics, and through a mutual friend, found themselves living in the same building. Their relationship grew into a partnership, both professionally and personally.
They started venturing into the world of remote services a few years ago.
“We would take time off work and go to the Bella Coola area for 10-14 days,” said Taylor. “We would work 12 hour days the whole time, then head back to our clinic jobs in Fernie.”
They saw the need for services in remote/rural communities all over northern BC and they started planning their next move.
“We wanted to head out last year, but it didn’t seem like the right time,” Tweddell said.
So they waited, and in August of this year, with their young son Jethro and two dogs in tow, they set out on what they hope is the first of many trips to the communities of northern BC.
Their travel route adds up to roughly 15,000km over a three month period, taking them to communities in the Chilcotin, Caribou, Robson Valley, Stikine and Peace regions. At present, they will be serving 17 communities on this trip, and spending 3-5 days in each, depending on size and demand. They started out sleeping in a truck roof-top tent, and recently made the move to a towable travel trailer, however, during their visit to McBride, they were in a borrowed converted ambulance while their truck was in the shop.
“It feels good to finally be doing what we wanted,” said Tweddell. “We have been able to do it safely. Being self-contained helps us with that. We are taking safety precautions and adhering to local regulations.”
“We have been well received,” said Taylor. “Even with the pandemic.”
They organize their days so that one of them can be present with six-month-old Jethro at all times, resulting in early and late time slots. Most communities fill their schedules, and are grateful for the flexibility of appointment times.
“We have to be flexible,” said Taylor. “That’s the name of it. One community we arrived in had just experienced a tragedy, and the location we had been planning to use was not available. We ended up in the legion hall. We made it work. Used screens and an electric fireplace. Fortunately it was somewhere we had been before so the clients were understanding.”
This method of practice does present challenges. Tweddell’s biggest challenge is providing a consistent experience for each massage despite the location or room set up. Two months in, Taylor’s challenge is with logistics and travel, due to COVID-19.
Some of the communities the pair visits do have some of the same services in place.
“Prior to going to a community we reach out to existing practitioners to ensure that there is adequate business and that we are not taking away from their livelihood,” said Taylor.
“We’ve also found that because our service has unique qualities (we travel), many members who have never sought paramedical care decide to ‘try it out’ and really benefit from it, which increases interest in the other paramedical body workers in small communities.”
They both are drawn to small towns and have each been thrilled with the experience so far.
“I love that I can offer service to remote communities and experience the tight knit feeling of small communities,” Tweddell said.
“I love the beauty and landscape that often surrounds small communities and the variety of people I meet,” said Taylor.
The plan for Taylor and Tweddell is to continue this mobile service for the next several years,travelling and developing relationships with the communities they service. When Jethro reaches school age, they intend to settle somewhere.
Possibly in one of the communities they have grown to love during their time of travel. However, they do not intend to leave their patients without treatment.
“We hope to have people in place to step in and take over,” said Taylor. “We would also like to expand service into the Yukon.”
October marks the end of their first three-month tour. Next up, they will take three months off, before returning to the road. During their down time, they hope to do some travelling, and visit family.
Late January is their planned return to the valley. Prior to the announcement through social media, anyone who has been a patient will receive an email containing details and a link to their website for appointment booking. https://hinterlandhealth.janeapp.com/