On March 23 Dr. Barbara Moss died peacefully in her sleep after being in failing health for some months. Dr. Moss grew up in northwest England, did her medical training in London and worked in the fields of obstetrics, gynaecology and pediatric and child health in various hospitals in Britain before coming to America in the early 1960s. She worked in Louisville, Kentucky where she met her husband, Don, and also in Ontario before coming to the Okanagan in 1966.
Dr. Moss became the first pediatric consultant serving Penticton and the South Okanagan. As a woman, she was somewhat of a curiosity, but with true north country pragmatism she never let that bother her too much. She had a large area to cover from Summerland to Oliver which meant a lot of sometimes hazardous driving. Her experience with cold weather in Thunder Bay stood her in good stead.
In the 1960s life in the Okanagan was very different from today. Not everyone had medical insurance. There were no air ambulances, so very sick babies and children often stayed in the community rather than being moved to larger centres. This meant that Dr. Moss and her staff sometimes had to devise and improvise with equipment, and she was always practical and good at coming up with solutions in various situations. Long hours were spent giving exchange transfusions to newborns with blood incompatibilities, puzzling over the implications of laboratory results or talking to families of seriously ill children or premature babies. Some of these did not survive, but many did thanks to Dr. Moss’s excellent diagnostic capabilities, optimistic nature and constant hard work at all hours of the day and night.
Over the years there have been many changes and advances in our area in the field of pediatrics and neonatology. Dr. Moss was on the original board of the now well-known Okanagan and Similkameen Neurological Society for children with developmental disabilities, and appeared on many of its annual telethons. Improvements in medical technology and treatments have changed the face of childhood illness and diagnosis. Dr. Moss was always highly regarded by her medical colleagues in Vancouver and throughout the Pacific Northwest. She never hesitated to liaise with them when needing advice or support for her young patients and went frequently to conferences and seminars to stay current with what was happening in the world of medicine.
We who worked with Barbara remember her as an always-busy person with a great laugh, more of a chuckle actually. Kind, gentle and compassionate to her patients and families, she was equally so with her colleagues and staff. She would listen to our observations and concerns and always valued our input. She knew all about our husbands, children or aging parents and worried about us like a mother hen. Somehow things did not seem so bad when Barbara was around and she taught us much. She had a sixth sense for when things were going to go wrong, often calling in or arriving on the ward as we were just about to call her. For a nervous young night nurse it was very comforting to hear the click of Barbara’s footsteps around 10 p.m. when she often ‘popped in’ for a last check before going home. Frequently she would be called back a few hours later to attend a Caesarean section delivery or to restart an IV
Later Dr. Patrick Melton joined Dr. Moss, which eased her load considerably. Both being excellent pediatricians, they had many heated discussions but they always respected each other’s opinions and their close friendship lasted until his untimely death in 1996.
In February 1997 Dr. Moss retired from full-time practise, continuing with occasional locums. At her large retirement party many accolades were heaped upon her from young and old, far and wide. So many former patients, their families, her colleagues, her family and many friends remembered her years of caring and courageous dedication in her chosen field.
Yet it is as a warm, vibrant and always elegantly dressed person many of us remember her best. She loved her garden, walking with her dogs on the hills and going to symphony and community concerts. Barbara enjoyed a good party and we at PRH pediatric/nursery/obstetrics and gynae looked forward to Barbara’s legendary hams, her usual food contribution on special occasions.
Dr. Moss was exactly 25 days older than Elizabeth Taylor, who died on the same day. Two great women at one fell swoop, but for those of us who knew and loved her, Dr. Moss will be remembered and missed every bit as much as the world will miss the famous movie star.