Care that changes lives – Marie’s story

Marie Charlebois’ life was turned upside down in an instant on a cold night in December of 2012. She was struck by a snow plow while walking across the parking lot of a grocery store. The 61-year-old suffered serious injuries to her legs and pelvis and spent two months in rehabilitation at Baycrest learning how to walk again. “I’m lucky to be alive,” she says. “I could have been killed.”

When she was discharged from the hospital, Charlebois had to adjust to a very different life. She relied on a walker to get around and was not able to continue working. Fortunately, Charlebois had the support of staff at the Day Treatment Centre where she continued her rehabilitation as an outpatient. That’s where she met Cindy Brcko, a social worker who would have a huge impact on her life. “My role often involves short-term counselling, teaching coping skills and making sure clients have the right supports in place,” says Brcko. Family members are often involved in the process but Brcko learned that Charlebois had no known family. “Because of her circumstances she had no one to really help and advocate for her,” says Brcko. “I was concerned that she lacked a support network.”

Client, Marie and social worker, Cindy

Cindy Brcko, social worker (left), helped Marie Charlebois, (right) reunite with long-lost family members.

Brcko went above and beyond to help. She helped Charlebois access the government services she needed, which led to a better living situation. She also encouraged her to apply to volunteer at Baycrest. As a volunteer, Charlebois has found a community here, making friends and helping others. And then Brcko helped Charlebois make a connection with the potential to last a lifetime. She helped her find her long-lost sister. The two had been separated as young children when they were placed in foster care. “I was so happy that I found her,” says Charlebois. “This was very important to me and it did help me recover because I was looking for her for years and now we’re so close. We do everything together.” It’s been almost two years since her accident and Charlebois is in regular contact with her sister. She’s also met other siblings she didn’t know she had.

Baycrest remains an important part of Marie’s life. She often drops in to visit Brcko. She also volunteers as a friendly visitor and knits for clients. “It feels like home here, the way everyone is so nice,” she says.