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Alumni profile — Laura Bradley: opening your heart

January 7, 2019 - At first glance, Laura Bradley seems reserved, even self-effacing. But all it takes is a chat with her to discover an engaged 30-something, with considerable maturity. Beneath her appearance of being just a regular person, Laura hides a steely determination… and way of doing things. Everything, and “at 150%,” she insists. To mark the new year, we would like to introduce you to this SPU alumna who recently became the face of reception.


Laura has always nurtured this desire for achievement. Registered from a young age in a range of arts and sports activities, she caught the success bug early on. At the top of her class, a gifted athlete and dancer, she was getting ready to go on stage with her ballet jazz troupe when her heart failed, literally. She was only 13. It was 2001. When she woke up at the Ottawa Heart Institute, she heard the diagnosis: she would need a new heart. Her reaction was astonishing.


“I felt guilty,” she says. “I blamed myself for worrying my parents and ruining the holidays. My grandfather, with whom I had become very close, died a few days after I was hospitalized, and I wondered if the shock had killed him.” Concerned about showing what she saw as a weakness, she refused to let anyone tell her friends about her “condition.” “I was ashamed,” she explains. “That’s why there are no photos of me from that time.”


She was stubborn: she didn’t give up. “I trained on a stationary bike twice a day, every day, hooked up to an artificial heart. I managed to improve my physical condition even while being kept alive by a machine!” Laura jokes. After five months, they found her a compatible heart, and the transplant was successful. “My very active childhood was not unrelated to the success of the treatment,” she believes. For more than 17 years, she has made the most of her new heart. But other difficulties awaited her.

Too many transplant recipients exchange an illness for a condition. We have to stop seeing them as having a “condition.”


Although Laura’s body has adjusted very well to her new heart, her head is less accepting of the transplant recipient’s “condition,” which she sees as a flaw. “For years, I worried about people’s reactions and rejected their attention. I hated it when people asked me about my ‘condition.’” At work and at the dance studio, I was discriminated against because of my ‘medical condition,’ which I experienced as trauma. I wanted to keep surpassing myself and to live my life as if nothing had happened.”

Laura did not seek psychological support during that time, but admits that in trying to gloss over “her mourning for her heart,” all she was doing was putting off an inevitable step in her healing.

Laura Bradley


After beginning her studies at a large university in September 2008, Laura soon foundered emotionally. “I felt trapped in the wrong life,” she admits. After wandering around for a while on a huge campus that did not suit her, she was forced to reconsider her path. “I had always excelled in environments on a human scale, from elementary school to Cegep. SPU therefore seemed to be an obvious place for me. And life proved me right.”


For Laura, as for many students before her, Saint Paul University became much more than a place to learn. “I was forced to fight against my shyness and open up to others like never before,” she confesses. “Before I registered at Saint Paul, I often pictured myself as being in a cage. When I came to study here, I began to see myself leaving that cage.” In spite of the ups and downs of her immune system, Laura persevered in her studies and gradually agreed to talk about her experience.

Laura Bradley at the 2018 Canadian Transplant Game


At the end of her studies, in June 2018, Laura was recruited as a communications officer at the Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop. A few months later, this shy candidate was hired as an academic assistant and receptionist – a permanent position. “Helping others gives me a huge sense of accomplishment,” she says. “For me, the most important thing is people. And my health!” At the age of 30, she may have already learned the most important life lesson:

Often we as women think we can’t do certain things, that we are not strong enough. This is completely false. And for those who, like me, are afraid of new experiences, I will say this: I dare you to try.


Still very active, Laura goes at quite a pace. “At the moment, I am totally into aquafit. Before, I did a lot of strength training. In 2015, I got my yoga teacher certification. In 2017, for a year, I had a personal trainer.” In July, Laura participated for the first time in the Canadian Transplant Games, held in Vancouver. “I loved my experience and one day I would like to compete in the worlds,” she tells us.

As if working full-time and training diligently were not enough, from time to time Laura facilitates support groups for transplant recipients at the Ottawa Heart Institute and is working on a book that she hopes to publish one day. If you are looking for an inspiring example on whom to model your new year’s resolutions, stop by and see Laura Bradley. Clearly, this SPU alumna still has plenty of surprises in store for us!

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