On Monday, June 27, on a picturesque road near Cochrane in southern Alberta, a young woman was out on her new motorbike, enjoying a summer evening ride with a few friends, all of them more experienced riders. A curve in the road, and suddenly she was not part of the group anymore. Her closest friend turned around, and found the evidence that she had crashed her bike in that particular stretch of highway… Michelle Vrolyk-Salt’s enjoyment of a bike ride had come to an abrupt and tragic end.
Although alive, Michelle’s life was hanging by a thread. Her buddy held her hand while she lay there conscious, waiting for the medics. They arrived quite promptly from Cochrane, and assessed the young lady’s broken body. An SUV had run over the motorcycle, promptly reducing it to debris. The highway was closed by the RCMP, and finally the STARS air ambulance arrived. The chopper’s medical team loaded Michelle into the aircraft, and took her to the Foothills Trauma Center in Calgary.
Her parents were at home, enjoying a late dinner with their youngest daughter Claire and a couple of friends. It was with disbelief and sudden dread that Michelle’s mom, Dominique Vrolyk, having answered a phone call, heard these few ominous words, “Do you have a daughter named Michelle? What is her full legal name please?” A parent’s nightmare was unfolding in this Leduc home. The Foothills ER social worker was gently telling a distraught mother that her daughter was in a serious motorcycle crash, was airlifted to that hospital, and was currently being prepped for an emergency surgery. This first surgery was meant to stop the bleeding wounds from taking Michelle’s life away, to start repairing her broken body and to search for hidden injuries. It lasted six hours.
Michelle was born in Edmonton’s west end 26 years ago. Two years later, her parents moved the family to a farm in Leduc County, 10 miles west of Millet. Michelle and her three siblings, soon to be four with a little sister’s arrival, were raised on a game farm across from Telford Hall. Life was good on the Vrolyks’ “Elk Meadows Game Farm”, happy and never boring, and fun with its interesting and varied livestock. From the time she could talk, Michelle wanted to run, jump, climb, skate, swim and ski, and escape the boundaries of her environment… From her first words, Michelle wanted to chat, sing, tell stories and jokes, be the clown of the classroom, play the flute and basically communicate in the most perfect way. She loved nature, animals, water, and always has had a sweet affinity to children.
She had many interests and skills in school. Her lively, charismatic and caring personality attracted many friends, and the fondness of her teachers. She got her Grade 12 diploma, and followed it with a business course. She had moved to Calgary by then, because she loves snowboarding, mountain hiking and other wilderness activities. She adored that region, and her family felt that if she was enamoured with mountain sports, it was okay if she kept turning them down as to moving back to the Leduc/Edmonton region, where most of her family lives. After working as a real estate assistant for several years with passion and success, she became a real estate agent and was very proud of that accomplishment.
When the economy took a plunge in 2009-2010, Michelle decided that she had to get creative to support her real estate career. She accepted a regional sales position with Kijiji Daily Deals, and while still closing several deals as a ‘buyer’s agent’, she made a success of her second career! She enjoyed the nature of that job, was well compensated for her hard work, and loved the positive attitude and support of her new ‘boss’.
From her school days on a Calmar elementary running track where she showed a lot of promise, Michelle has been increasingly fond of fitness and healthy eating. She likes challenges, so she started training for marathons. She placed well in a few long races and a half-marathon, until sore knees and medical wisdom told her to pick another sport. She became a ‘fitness model’, which is a bit like a light form of bodybuilding for women. In her first competition with the IDFA (International Drug-Free Athletics), she placed fourth in her class, an accomplishment she was very proud of ! Despite her own success, she always had a heart for the less fortunate. In 2010, she made her way to Haiti to contribute to the Earthquake Relief Effort. With a girlfriend, she took some time off work to work at the Colline Foundation, an orphanage to comfort little ones and offer relief to the full-time staff there. Back at home, she still wanted to ‘give back’, and occasionally volunteered at a soup kitchen.
Buying a motorbike was not going to be popular with her family, as her father spent thirty years with the Edmonton Fire Department and has witnessed his share of terrible crashes, but Michelle is a free spirit, so she took a riding safety course, invested in premium bike gear, and bought a bike to match herself, sleek and powerful. And now, due to a moment’s inattention or perhaps simply a rookie’s new skills, she lies in a hospital bed, having clung to life for several days, and already showing signs of being a true fighter!
Michelle has several broken bones in both legs, her lower spine, her hips and collarbone. Her lovely face and upper body are untouched, as is her spirit and sense of humour. In just a few days, she has already survived a total loss of blood (twice) and several major surgeries. Her alertness and strong vital signs are amazing her medical team. Despite the amputation of her right leg above the knee, Michelle already shows signs of an undefeated spirit and desire to move forward. As of this past Tuesday, now being in a private room in the Foothills Trauma Centre, she was being ‘forced’ to rest (minimal visitors) to get ready for another surgery, this time on the broken bones in her lower back. Through signs and her alert responses to questions, she has made her family laugh and cry. The numerous emails, texts, prayers, calls and Facebook comments are an overwhelming proof that this young lady won’t be down for long. Michelle Vrolyk-Salt is a champion, and with her faith and a loving circle to support her, she will continue to amaze and inspire!