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Tale of Tragedy Turned Into A Story of Healing, Helping, and Hope

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In April, Melanie Murrin and her family received the Fort McMurray Victim Services’ inaugural “Essence of Courage” award. This award is bestowed to people who have risen above tragic and traumatic circumstance to become a role model of courage, strength and hope for our community.

Murrin was a 25-year-old mother and professional in October 2007, when a trip to Gregiore to get her vehicle serviced changed her life forever. An impaired driver of a gravel truck struck Murrin’s vehicle from behind. The impact pushed the car she was driving completely underneath another gravel truck that was stopped ahead of her at an intersection.

The year before the accident Murrin had moved to Fort McMurray and landed a great job at Ecole Dickinsfield. The same year she married her sweetheart Gregory, and they purchased their dream home.

“My life was everything I wanted it to be. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The accident changed everything - our whole world was turned upside down,” says Murrin.

“My accident was originally phoned in as a fatality. As luck would have it, an RCMP officer was nearby and he heard my cries from the wreckage. He was able to correct the dispatch call to ensure that the proper emergency response arrived. Emergency crews worked on the vehicle for two and a half hours just to get me out. I was put into a medically induced comma just to relieve me from the duress of the process. They finally got me out of the car and to the hospital. It took the hospital staff several days just to stabilize me so that I could be transported safely to Edmonton to begin my long road to recovery,” she says.

Murrin shared her journey of healing at the Northern Lights Health Foundation’s annual Spring Fling this March. At the event, Murrin described the extent of her accidents, injuries which included several broken ribs, fractured bones, chipped and compressed vertebrae in her spine, and her four front teeth that were knocked out.

“I also had a complete panoramic facial smash. For those of you who do not know what that means, it’s a fancy way of saying that I broke every bone in my face but one,” she said. Almost six years later, she has endured multiple surgeries including a 12.5-hour surgery the first year after her accident, a tracheotomy, the placement of 17 titanium plates and 70 or more facial screws, which eventually all have to be removed, as well as a solid plastic implant, and five more reconstructive operations.

“I am used to public speaking at schools to mostly students and people I don’t know. Despite my nervousness to speak at the Spring Fling, I knew I had to brave it out because I believe in the cause and I really wanted to do my part to enhance healthcare services locally. I can’t donate financially to the Foundation right now. I could not work anymore due to my accident injuries and nothing has been settled from the accident. Speaking out about community safety and saying thanks to our local healthcare service providers is the way I choose to give back,” she says.

Although many of her treatments today continue in Edmonton, she says she is still in need of local medical services to assist her in recovery.

“My life was saved here. I am still in need of, and put to good use, the local medical services we have in Fort McMurray. I am truly grateful that I am still alive. I feel indebted in a way I cannot fully describe to support enhancements to healthcare, because without the support of the hospital, I would not be here today to share my experience,” she says.

She admits that 10 years ago she would not have imagined becoming a spokesperson for community health and wellness.

“I just hope to somehow help others. If even one person chooses not to drink and drive because they have heard my testimony, that means my efforts have helped to reduce harm on the roads and reduce harm and risk to other members of my community. If even one more person chooses to donate to the Health Foundation to support community health enhancements then that means my efforts are helping to improve experiences for other people in my community who need quality care. I also find sharing this experience therapeutic,” says Murrin.

Murrin has a great outlook on life since her accident. She believes each day is a fresh start with decisions to be made and options just waiting to be explored. She also feels that life offers us all challenges and opportunities and we have to be gracious of both.

“My favorite inspirational quote is this: ‘Live each day as if it’s your last. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.’ I was hurt so badly but I had to move forward.I asked myself, what am I waiting for? Get up and do something about this. My gift is my life. Looking back on deciding to speak out, I know I made the right choice to live my life and share my experience to help others. Hope and healing is achieved when the right choices are made in tough times, and what this all means is you have to seize the moments now and choose to give back more often. I really hope to inspire people who hear this message to give what they can, time or financial support. You never know when yourself or someone you love will need the healthcare services here to ensure that there is a tomorrow,” she says.

Murrin and Gregory continue to live in Fort McMurray with their two children Kale, 10, and Leland, three. Murrin and her family have their ‘fingers crossed’ that she will not require any more surgery but upcoming medical appointments and assessments will determine her best course of action in the coming months.

For more information about the Northern Lights Health Foundation or to make a charitable donation to enhance healthcare services in Wood Buffalo, visit

Did you know that the Northern Lights Health Foundation…

  • Was established in 1985 to enhance health care making Wood Buffalo a healthier community.
  • Has donated 9.8 million dollars to AHS in the last five years.
  • Is governed by a Board of 14 community-based Directors.
  • Has a staff of six dedicated and committed professionals.
  • Founded the Inner City Homelessness Project, assisting those most vulnerable in the community.
  • Has benefited from over 44,000 hours of volunteer support.
  • Is always seeking to connect with residents of our region.

For more information about the Foundation visit:

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