A Winnipeg woman who died of COVID-19 in an Ontario hospital is being remembered as a mentor who dedicated her life to helping others.
Kim Bullard died on June 1 in London, Ont., one of two Manitoba ICU patients to pass away out of province.
Her younger brother, James Bullard, says his sister’s magnetic personality attracted widespread admiration.
“She was a very giving person. Big heart, huge smile. Everybody loved her,” James said.
“Everybody looked up to her for advice and mentorship and guidance, and she gave, and gave, and gave.”
The 57-year-old mother and grandmother first started showing symptoms at the end of May. Within days, she was rushed to St. Boniface Hospital, after which she was flown to Victoria Hospital in southern Ontario.
Once in London, she initially started feeling better. Health professionals removed Kim’s breathing tube, which allowed her to speak over the phone with family.
James last spoke with his sister the night before she died, sensing something was off.
“I kind of knew that it wasn’t going to be good. I just felt that, hearing her voice, it just wasn’t the same. It seemed the life had already drained out of her,” James said.
“She asked me about my wife. She says, ‘Tell Maria I love her,’ and she says ‘I love you.’
“I tried to tell her that I loved her back, but I couldn’t get out the words. I was too choked up,” James said through tears. “So, I just said ‘bye” and told her I’d be here when she gets home. That was it.”
At the time when she became sick, Bullard was working from home and looking after her granddaughter full-time.
During her career, she had worked her way up the ladder at the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council to become general manager with the Dakota Ojibway Community Futures Development Corporation.
Through her 35 years in the field, she helped develop First Nations economic opportunities and communities.
Bullard’s workplace describes her as “a strategic thinker, a gifted visionary, innovative and creative.”
She was particularly fond of the Annual Vision Quest Conference and Trade Show, which she was a part of since it began 25 years ago, and would sometimes refer to as “her baby.”
“Her career was based on helping people in business and that’s what she did, and she did it well,” says Kim’s sister, Tannis Bullard, adding she was highly intelligent.
“She had a large personality, so it’ll be a void to fill for sure.”
Tannis says she’s “frustrated” with the way the pandemic has been handled in Manitoba, and says the system shouldn’t be in a position where patients are flown to other provinces to begin with.
“My question is: what happened to this Team Manitoba that (Brian) Pallister always talks about?” Tannis says.
“At the beginning of our pandemic, we talked about using the old women’s hospital as a place where we could put patients that have COVID … so what happened to that? What happened to taking care of our own? What happened to all of that?”
Tannis has many questions she wants answered, like what criteria determines who is sent out of province, but for now, there are more important things to take care of.
“We have to plan a funeral with only 10 people being able to be there. You have no idea how difficult that is,” Tannis says.
“(I’m) going to get the things done that need to be done for Kim this week, and for her spirit to move on in a good way.”
Tannis also encourages everyone to get vaccinated, so “nobody else has to go through this.”
The family intends to bury Bullard at Sioux Valley First Nation this week.
If the health orders permit, James says they plan to hold a larger ceremony in Sioux Valley on June 1, 2022.
“She served all of her people her whole life throughout her career,” James says.
“And I truly believe that she made this place, at least Manitoba … she made it a better place to live for our people.”
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