Let there be light!

In 1988 George H. W. Bush was President of the United States, Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada, the Olympic Winter Games were held in Calgary, and closer to home, Gilles Perron joined the ranks of MCH staff as an electrician.

Twenty years later, Gilles is one of the pillars of the hospital, and he considers his work very rewarding. “I like working with my hands: construction, renovation, repairs and maintenance. I value my work, and like I always say, electricity is the heart of the hospital since all the devices which are used to care for children depend on it.” The hospital needs a lot of energy to run its departments; so what happens during a power failure? “Well, we have two enormous uninterruptible power systems, or UPS, in the basement,” says Gilles, “which supply electricity for about half an hour after a power failure. One UPS is like a huge battery. To give you an idea of the size of it, a UPS for home use costs around $100 and supplies, on average, 10 to 15 minutes of power for a computer. Our UPS costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and feeds the entire hospital.” Gilles loves his profession and talks about it with great pride. And speaking of pride, he told me that one of his greatest accomplishments at the hospital was modernizing all the electrical systems in the C Wing, which represented a huge workload and a major responsibility for the small team of two electricians.

With a smiling air about him Gilles is someone who is very friendly and likes being around people. Sometimes people are surprised to find out that he served in the army at a young age. In fact, after finishing his electrician’s course, Gilles enrolled in the army so that he could study to be an electronics technician. “I was brought up in  Lac St-Jean, and jobs weren’t that plentiful in my specialty, so I signed up for the army to create more opportunities for myself. I traveled a lot from St-Jean d’Iberville to Kingston, and to Petawawa as well; it was never boring.” He served in the army for three years before leaving to go live with his wife. “It was a good decision,” says Gilles, “for we’ve been together for 30 years now and 27 of those as a married couple. For me, family life is very important, and now that our kids have left home, my wife and I have much more time together as a couple and we’re enjoying the good things in life. I enjoy watching a good movie in the comfort of my living room and just relaxing. It’s my 'stay-at-home' side,” Gilles admits. But he’s not always doing nothing: for five years now, Gilles and his wife have been playing golf regularly and they’ve become quite good at it.

At 50 years old and with a long career behind him, Gilles hasn’t yet realized all his dreams. “One of my big dreams is to buy a chalet where I can spend my later years with my wife, and get two dogs who will keep me busy!” He also dreams of helping train the next generation to work in the profession that he likes so much. He hopes he can encourage other young people to pursue this route. “I’ve always been someone who likes to work with my hands and I encourage young people who want to work in this area. It’s very rewarding, and without us, without electricity, the hospital could not offer the quality of care which makes its reputation today.”

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