Practice Blog

To share practice related stories, create connections and engage readers in the amazing diversity of dietitian experiences.

In Memoriam - Jaclyn Dawn Morris

Jaclyn Morris

Jaclyn Dawn Morris
July 1, 1978 - June 6, 2018

The following in memoriam was submitted by Roseann Nassar, Jaclyn's colleague.  Alongside, we are also sharing a 2003 Practice Quarterly submission written by Jaclyn, on her experience with a life-altering medical condition that helped shape her work as a dietitian.


It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our friend and dietitian colleague Jaclyn Morris (née Arthur) on Wednesday June 6th, at the age of 39, with her family at her side. Jaclyn is survived by her loving husband David and their children Ava (8 years old) and Cole (3 years old). She will also be dearly missed by her parents Alan and Kathy Arthur, her sisters Jocelyn and Jennifer and their families and Dave’s family. 

Jaclyn graduated from the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition in 2002 and was among the first graduates from the University’s integrated nutrition program. She worked as a dietitian in Regina in just about every clinical practice area, including neurology, cardiac, pediatrics, renal, long term care and adult outpatients. Jaclyn understood first-hand what it was like to be a patient through her own health challenges, facing a long term battle with autoimmune disorders. Jaclyn wrote about her experience as a patient for Practice Quarterly - A walk to remember (Winter 2003) and how it made her a better dietitian.  In addition, Jaclyn is a contributing author to the Dietitian Handbook, Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (2006, 2014).  Throughout her career, Jaclyn was a preceptor to many students, sharing not only her diverse knowledge and skill set but also her enormous capacity for empathy and kindness. 

A farm girl at heart, Jaclyn loved going home to Redvers and Kerrobert  to visit family and friends. Jaclyn was very talented musician, dancer, seamstress, cook, and handyperson. She will be missed for her quick wit, dry sense of humour, smile, determination, courage, and her love for the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team. Jaclyn was a loving wife and mother, a loyal friend and an outstanding dietitian who inspired us all.

As a tribute to Jaclyn, we are republishing below a submission from Practice Quarterly (printed version) that Jaclyn submitted in the winter of 2003. Called A Walk to Remember, she eloquently detailed her experience with a life-altering medical condition and how it impacted her work as a dietitian.

A Walk to Remember

Jaclyn Arthur (2003). Reprinted with permission.

Do we as practicing dietitians really know how it feels to walk in our patients' shoes? Do we know what they're feeling, what the procedures feel like, and how they are coping with these changes? Most dietitians haven't experienced 'life on the other side' and rely on what they have learned through course work and employment experiences to try to help patients with what they are going through. My experience with a life-altering medical condition profoundly changed my views on my work as a dietitian.

I was 23 years old and close to finishing my internship with the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region when disaster struck. Roles were suddenly reversed when I had a left-side stroke thought to be caused by lupus, diagnosed nine years earlier. I became a patient requiring treatment rather than the dietitian providing care.
A speech language pathologist was consulted for a swallowing assessment. As my swallow was not impaired, it was not long before I was eating normally again. I had progressed from a clear fluid diet to a regular diet when disaster struck again. The day before my transfer to rehabilitation, I had a second stroke, this time on my right side.

I was completely paralyzed, unable to speak or eat. If 'role reversal' after the first stroke was not clear in my mind, it certainly became so with the second. Instead of calculating total parenteral nutrition (TPN), I was receiving it. Receiving nourishment this way was hard to deal with because I knew exactly what was happening. TPN had been initiated as I already had a central line in place and the physicians were unsure how long it would take, if ever, for my swallow to return.

After three weeks, I was still unable to swallow, so a gastrostomy (PEG) was placed. I finally began to gain back the 20 pounds I had lost during my hospital stay. With my progression from continuous to bolus feeding I began to understand the importance of bolus feeds for long-term tube feeding. I felt liberated, able to move around freely, hooking up four times a day, mimicking regular meal times.
Being nourished through TPN and tube feeding was a rude awakening. The enjoyment and satisfaction of eating had been taken from me and  I experienced a mixture of emotions - anger, frustration, humiliation and hopelessness.  Both routes of feeding were physically unnatural and all I wanted was that exhilarating feeling of smelling, tasting and savouring food in my mouth again.

The part of this ordeal that most fascinated me was the loss, then return of my ability to speak.  For the first three months after my second stroke I was lucky if I could say three words! I knew what I wanted to say but was unable to articulate the words due to paralysis. I had to relearn how to position my mouth and tongue to form the sounds of each letter of the alphabet. Once I mastered the sounds I had to do breathing exercises to gain breath support. Then the progression began from single syllable words to double syllable words and so on. It has taken over a year, but finally my voice has returned to normal and I can speak for extended periods of time without running out of air.  Speech and swallowing really do go hand in hand; as one returns, the other is not far behind.

Returning to complete my internship, I had the opportunity to counsel numerous patients. From everything I have been through, I have gained valuable insights. Counselling has taken on new dimensions. Rather than providing information from books and pamphlets, I can expand on it from my personal experiences. I feel I relate to patients on many different levels when dealing with issues such as steps to decrease choking risk, managing different textured diets, what TPN and tube feeding feel like, what to expect with these procedures, and most importantly, how to cope with all that is happening. I feel this personal insight often means more to patients than any other information provided.

This experience changed my life. Being in the patient role made me realize how important it is that patients understand and have input into what is happening. It is important to take time to listen and talk with patients about their nutritional concerns to address (at least partially) their uncertainty and anxiety as we collaborate to maximize their nutritional status.

I would never be where I am today without the tremendous support that I received while I was sick. The doctors, nurses, therapists, dietitians, friends, and most importantly, my family helped me cope and conquer everything I faced. I will never take my abilities to eat, walk and talk normally for granted again. I have completed my internship and am actively seeking employment. This has been one walk I will always remember.
Editor’s Note: Dietitians of Canada extends our sincere condolences to all those who loved her. If you have any memories or thoughts, please share below.
  1. So true living it is so valuable to share. Being a healthcare provider is so much different than being the patient. I recently had a close Aunt with ALS at the hospital and I learned so much in her journey. Thanks so much for sharing and I only wish I had met this caring friend and dietitian.

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