Winter 2016. One last run. An afternoon of skiing like any other for 12-year-old Juliette, her brother Ludovic and her father, Matthieu. She started down the trail, but it was icy. She lost control. Her uncontrolled descent came to an abrupt halt when she crashed headfirst into the wall of an ice castle built on the edge of the trail. Then, nothing. A total blackout.

Two years later, she says, “My brain has blocked out the memory of the accident. It’s better that way.” She’s with her occupational therapist, Justine, who earlier greeted her like a rock star, arms as wide as her smile. She adjusts a brand new cushion in Juliette’s wheelchair. Juliette can no longer walk and hasn’t been able to straighten her fingers since that January day.

She sustained three crushed cervical vertebrae in the impact—the 5th, 6th and 7th. Bone fragments from the 6th vertebra scratched her spinal cord, preventing neurological connections between Juliette’s brain and the lower part of her body. 

At the Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre CHU Sainte-Justine (CRME), everyone knows her and greets her warmly: “Ah, it’s the lovely Juliette, come to pay us a visit!” She feels at home. During her stay, she was even the one who welcomed the newest young patients.  

For Juliette, the Centre is where her new life began, where she learned how to do everything again, to adapt to life in a wheelchair and even rediscover joy. The Centre brought out a ‘new’ Juliette. “For me, the Centre was like a big school. I came to understand that my condition doesn’t dictate my life—it’s up to me to choose my own direction.”

“Once, she broke down… when she was first at the Centre. She was crying and said to me, ‘My life is wasted!’ It’s hard for a parent to hear their daughter say something like that, but I think it was even harder for her to live through it… That was the only time,” remembers her father. 

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© Geneviève Giguère
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Juliette and her father, Matthieu

The Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre is…

The Centre is more than a rehabilitation facility devoted to maximizing the autonomy of children living with a motor or speech-language impairment. It’s a living environment. It’s a home that welcomed Juliette for 17 months. It’s a family that patients never really leave. 

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For me, the Centre was like a big school. I came to understand that my condition doesn’t dictate my life—it’s up to me to choose my own direction. 

Your generosity changes lives

Before being admitted to the Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre, Juliette was first transferred to the CHU Sainte-Justine, the leading trauma centre in the province. It receives 72% of serious trauma cases from across Quebec.

Throughout her treatment journey, equipment acquired thanks to the Youth Challenge and donors like you had an impact on her care. From the mobile medical imaging device and trauma room ultrasound apparatus, to a special mattress that prevents pressure sores and the system that keeps the lungs from collapsing, your donations are in action at the patient’s bedside. Juliette is living proof. 

Fondation Sainte Justine Rapport Annuel 2017 2018
© Geneviève Giguère

Now stronger than ever, Juliette is once again thriving and smiling. Thanks to your support and her caregiving team, Juliette has opened the door on a new life. A different life, but one that’s far from uninteresting. 

“One step at a time: that’s the philosophy I’ve decided to adopt. Life moves forward, not backward. This is my life now.” And she is doing her utmost to make it as full as possible: singing, acting, volunteering—especially with the Dr. Clown program. Nothing can stop her. 

And for you, Juliette, nothing will stop us either.