While many of us have happy childhood memories filled with play and fun at school, Mirna Brikha was robbed of her childhood. Mirna remembers little of her past. She only remembers hiding from bombs and feeling unsafe in Iraq. “Even though my school was right across the street from our home, crossing the street didn’t feel safe.”
Mirna’s life in Iraq was very different than life in Canada. There was a societal expectation for women to be homemakers and stay out of the public eye… even little girls like Mirna. Life was restricted. As Christians, the family didn’t feel free to practice their religion. “As a girl in Iraq, I didn’t feel I had a future. If I were out alone, I worried I might not make it home. We lived in fear every day.”
Mirna’s parents sought safety for their children and left everything behind. They escaped to Syria and lived there for two years before coming to Canada in the summer of 2011. “I remember the first day I woke up in Canada. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Just looking at the green grass made me feel so… it’s indescribable.”
Being a 13-year-old girl is tough, let alone one who just arrived in a new country, didn’t speak the language, and had to start high school without knowing anyone. Mirna kept to herself and didn’t put effort into school. She remembers, “I wasn’t brave enough to speak in front of others. I was scared they would make fun of my broken English.” Mirna went from hiding from explosions to hiding from the world.
Surviving was so all-consuming for Mirna that she never planned for her future. Even in high school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up. She hadn’t given it much thought and the school system didn’t prepare her. “I had a hard time deciding what to become.”
Despite the challenges of high school, Mirna graduated and began working at DDespite the challenges of high school, Mirna graduated and began working at Dollarama. Life was comfortable until she was in a traumatic car accident. “All I remember was someone knocking on my window and asking me to stay calm.”
Mirna was rushed to Royal Columbian Hospital and hospitalized for 16 days. She had a traumatic brain injury, a broken tibia and fibula, and a fractured nose. “I was traumatized. I developed PTSD and had a hard time coping. Depression controlled me.”
The care and compassion that Mirna received during those 16 days was life-changing. “I wanted to help others in the same way the healthcare staff helped me when I needed it most. I realized that we only discover our true desire for success during our struggles. I wouldn’t let my experiences stop me from succeeding.”
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Mirna was only 19. “I didn’t want depression to win.” It wasn’t an easy battle, but Mirna wanted to heal. When she was discharged from the hospital, she left in a wheelchair and had to learn how to walk again. It changed her life. “I isolated myself. I didn’t want others to have a difficult time looking after me.” Weeks later, Mirna began physiotherapy and had to use a cane to walk. “I was so tired of not being able to walk by myself.”
Determined to walk without the support of her cane, Mirna took her first steps alone. “I wDetermined to walk without the support of her cane, Mirna took her first steps alone. “I was in tears. My mom hugged me, and we both started crying.” Little steps became bigger steps and Mirna decided she would not waste any more time. She was ready to give back to others and pursue a career in health care. She found Stenberg College and met with a Program Advisor. “She told me that the Hospital Support Specialist (HSS) program leads to many rewarding careers. I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t I do that?’”
When Mirna first started the HSS program, she was in-class for one week before the pandemic began. “I felt like I didn’t have time to get to know my classmates, but soon, we were family.” Mirna’s cohort became each other’s backbone. She thrived in the program, became a leader, and achieved a 96% grade point average. Her instructor, Audrey Dirksen, commented, “Mirna displayed excellent character and great leadership as a student and mentor.” When a student is passionate, they can achieve anything.
INTO THE REAL WORLD
Mirna had only ever worked in retail, so her practicum was an entirely new experience. Her first three weeks of practicum were at Peace Arch Hospital in the medical imaging department. “I thought, ‘I love this already. I’m registering patients, and I’m ordering their exams.’ My supervisor said to me, ‘The moment you find an application online, apply.’” The remaining three weeks of Mirna’s practicum were completed at Delta Hospital in health records, where she was also invited by her manager to apply
Today, she works in health records and registration at both hospitals. Despite being hired as a casual, she works five to six days a week. It’s clear no matter where Mirna works, she is a valued member of the health care team
Living in Canada, Mirna is grateful to have the freedom to dream and live without fear. “I left all my worries back home. I was only a child, and I shouldn’t have lived those horrible moments. It’s never too late to make good memories though. Moving to Canada helped me do that.”
Today, Mirna sits confidently, having triumphed over adversity. With a newfound passion, the little girl from Iraq who knew no English and hid from the world has come out of her shell. “It’s a whole different experience knowing that others believe in me and in my work. Working in a hospital has made me more confident in myself. I’m making a difference now.”
Inspired? Click here to learn more about our Hospital Support Specialist Diploma program.