I recently met a very special person. With her permission, I would like to tell you about Michelle.

Michelle lives in Saskatoon and recently celebrated her 41st birthday. Among her birthday presents was a snowman figure, which she proudly displays along with the rest of her snowman collection. Like many people in Saskatchewan, Michelle is a proud member of Rider Nation and has a Roughriders flag on her wall. The day I met her, she was grinning from ear to ear after the Riders’ spectacular Grey Cup win. Michelle is also partial to good looking firemen and loves the firemen calendar hanging on her wall.

Maura Davies President and CEO Saskatoon Health Region

Maura Davies
President and CEO
Saskatoon Health Region

Michelle was proud to show me her home. I learned that she is quite the social butterfly, making friends with many people who live in her building. I also met her parents, who are a very important part of her life. She loves using her computer to keep in touch with them every day.

Michelle may sound a lot like someone you know, perhaps family, friend or neighbour. And she is. But there are other things about Michelle that make her unique and very special.

Michelle was born with severe cerebral palsy. For the past 18 years, her home has been one of Saskatoon Health Region’s special care homes. Michelle communicates via a computer attached to her wheelchair. The computer is programmed to respond to slight movements of her head. The computer speaks for her. In my short time with her, I saw that Michelle was smart and witty. Somehow she has risen above the life challenges she experiences every minute of every day.

I met with Michelle and her parents to better understand her care needs. I heard that all too often, inadequate staffing compromises her care. They noted that when employees call in sick, it makes it harder for the remaining team members to do the things she needs, including bathing and assistance with feeding, let alone being able to just spend a few minutes to keep her company.

Equally important, I heard how the attitude that employees bring to their work makes a difference in her life. When I asked Michelle “what brings you joy?” she responded “when staff are happy when they come into my room.” Wow, think about that. Michelle and her parents had high praise for some of her care givers. Others, not so much.

It was a privilege to meet Michelle and her parents. Their story illustrates so powerfully how those of us working in health care affect others and what a privilege this is for us. The residents, patients and clients we serve count on us to show up for scheduled work. They expect us to bring to our work, every day, the right attitude and a genuine commitment to our core values of respect and compassion. They deserve no less.

Michelle has inspired me to do my best to improve care for people living in special care homes. This is my promise to Michelle. Anyone want to join me?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions about these and other matters. You can reach me directly at maura.davies@saskatoonhealthregion.ca.

Maura Davies
President and CEO
Saskatoon Health Region