Michel and his family

The story of Michel and his family

A roofing contractor and expert in the rare specialized trade of restoring bell towers in the Quebec City area, Michel Garant has never been afraid of a challenge. Anyone who is used to scrambling around on top of a roof all day long, is one cool guy!

As someone who loves life to the fullest, Michel is passionate about snowboarding, a sport that he can practice with his family and friends. One day, while he and a friend were descending one of the runs at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec City, he came too close to his friend, brushed up against his shoulder, lost control and crashed into a tree, with his back taking the brunt of the crash. As his friend came to his aid he heard him say, “I’m paralyzed” before losing consciousness. He spent the next eight days precariously clinging to life. Unfortunately, in the end, although the doctors were able to save his life his own diagnosis turned out to be the right one: He ended up being paralyzed from his chest down to the tips of his toes. The time he spent in hospital was filled with challenges and, as he so succinctly put it, “They fixed me up, as though I was going to die.”

His wife, Brigitte Breton, a nurse, has played a key role in obtaining care for Michel and helping with his recovery. Remaining close to his bedside virtually 24 hours a day, she wanted to do everything in her power to help him recover. One thing was sure as far as she was concerned, and that is that her husband found the strength to survive from the courageous attitude that she displayed. She would always be there for him, and he knew it. When Michel eventually regained consciousness, she explained in a reassuring voice the treatment and medical attention that he had received and what was still to come, so Michel was aware of everything that was going on and had no apprehensions; knowing that his wife was by his side made everything more tolerable. His convalescence could begin. Once he was out of intensive care, he decided to adopt a new philosophy of life: life is a gift and I have to take advantage of it. “Life is beautiful,” he said. He was not able to return home permanently until after a long and difficult period of rehabilitation lasting close to four months.

Surrounded by his wife Brigitte, his son Pier-David, his daughter Priscilla, his large family (Michel is the twelfth in a family of fifteen children), his in-laws and his friends, Michel regained his courage and remained optimistic.

While still in hospital he promised his children, Pier-David and Priscilla, that he would be back on the ski slopes the following season (2004-2005). Just ten months after his accident, Michel was descending the same ski run, but this time on a sit-ski. With the passage of time, Michel decided to take up sports again on a regular basis.

After three years of convalescence and physiotherapy, along with numerous health issues, Michel gradually began to set small goals for himself, achieving them one at a time. His ultimate goal was to be as independent as possible, as soon as possible. That’s how the early years of his new life unfolded. He says that one may not accept becoming disabled but one can learn to live with a disability.

While continuing to attack the slopes in winter, he then needed to find a sport for the summer. Once he tried the hand bike, he realized that this was a sport that would allow him to set some goals and take up new challenges. That’s it. Let’s go!

From a personal standpoint Michel says that his accident helped bring him and his family closer together because, up until the time of the accident, he used to work non-stop for long periods at a time building his business. He felt a responsibility toward his employees. His accident caused him to take a step back and redefine his personal values and priorities. Yes, he is a paraplegic, but he is now happier than he was before. He now knows how to value life. He fully savours every moment of happiness that comes his way. As he says: “Life is no longer a matter racing against time.”

A few years later, Michel had an opportunity to receive a specially trained service dog from the Mira Foundation. And that’s how Mollo came into his life, not only to help him with his daily routine and in the event of an emergency, but also to provide him with moral, emotional and therapeutic support.

In December 2012, Michel and Brigitte will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. He really wants to realize his wife’s most cherished dream—to celebrate their anniversary aboard a cruise liner. He also wants to take a ski trip with Brigitte and their children. To that end, he recently applied to the TV show Le Banquier, a Quebec-based show similar to the U.S. version, known as Deal or No Deal. Michel was selected for an interview, but is still waiting to hear back from the show. His chances are good. Everyone is ready—Mollo, Michel and his invaluable supporters. Whether or not he is eventually chosen is unimportant. What counts is his determination to find a way, whatever the cost, of achieving his dreams and those of his family.

Michel is prepared to go to great lengths to help raise funds for Mira. He wants to do everything he can to enable other people with disabilities to also enjoy the privilege of receiving a guide dog or a service dog to help improve their living conditions. It costs over $30,000 to train each dog that Mira supplies at no charge to persons with disabilities. Mira receives no government subsidies. It is solely dependent on the generosity of individuals and various fundraising events.