My story with Sainte-Justine began on the night of October 15, 1980. I was born in a delivery room on the fourth floor. Block 9. Naturally, I don’t remember any of it, but the date itself is an integral part of my life. Over the years, Sainte-Justine has always been there, in one way or another.

Sometimes indirectly, like when my mother worked there for several years. Sometimes directly, like a few stints in the emergency room or when I went to see my sister in the hospital. 

By the end of the 1990s, I returned to Sainte-Justine on a more permanent basis. I was looking for a student job, and it seemed logical for me to apply for a position as a housekeeping attendant. After three days of training, I started working in the intensive care unit. It was the early summer.

For the first time in my life, I discovered a world I knew nothing about. I was awestruck by the complexity of everything, by the victories and defeats, and most of all by the superhuman power of resilience.

What followed were some of the most wonderful years of my life. The corridors of Sainte-Justine were the backdrop for some very important events for me: my birth, my last university exam, the day after I got engaged, the lead-up to my wedding and the night my company, Pur Vodka, was named the best vodka in the world for the first time by the World Vodka Masters in London in 2009.
When I finished university, I thought my days of scrubbing floors were over. What I didn’t know was that I was much closer to the start of this relationship with Sainte-Justine than I was to the end.

I tried to move on several times. The first was when I went looking for a “real” job after I completed my undergrad degree. The second was right after I started up Pur Vodka. But I returned twice, like a child going home to his mother’s open arms after life had dealt him a major blow, and got my job back.

My first foray into the business world was an utter catastrophe. And nobody would give me a loan so I could try again. So I had to stick around in the maintenance department longer than expected.  

The years went by and, finally, with the unconditional support of my wife, Karolyne, my family and my team at Sainte-Justine, I managed to scrape together the money to get Pur Vodka off the ground.
A few years after I handed in my notice for the last time, I was back. This time, for some of the best experiences of my life: the birth of my first child, Victoria, followed a few years later by her little sister, Charlotte. And in a few weeks, we’ll be returning once again to welcome our son, Raphaël, into the world.

There have been moments of stress, worry and fear mixed in there as well. A few years after Victoria was born, we found out she has an incurable condition known as celiac disease. Not knowing what lay ahead, both Karo and I began our fight against something we had been completely unaware of until that point. 

Once again, Sainte-Justine was there for me, for us all. Without the outstanding support and hard work of everyone in the gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition departments, we would never have been as confident in facing this diagnosis.

I’m extremely proud to tie the launch my new company, MAINFORTE, in with the announcement of a $25,000 donation to the Foundation. This is something I used to imagine during each of my shifts washing floors at the hospital. Back then, I was working hard to raise the capital to get my company up and running. Although it ended up taking a lot more time and energy than I thought, I knew I would eventually give back to the place that had given me so much. My whole team and I are delighted to be able to do our part.

Today, as I become a front-line donor, I am opening the door to a new chapter in the story I share with Sainte-Justine. This gift will, I hope, be the first of many to help the Foundation in its efforts to make life better for children across Quebec. 

Nicolas Duvernois, father and entrepreneur

*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.