Know Your Heroes: Darcia Paul

Name: Darcia Paul
Title: Nurse Practitioner-Functional Neurosurgery
Number of years working in health care: 18
I was born and raised in: Toronto

I decided to get into health care because from a very young age, I always loved helping people. I have had an interest in nursing and the positive impact I could have on someone’s life. My best friend passed away at a young age. I helped care for her and knew the difference I made at the end of her life. It solidified my decision to become a nurse and the positive impact I would have.

My role here at UHN is as a Nurse Practitioner, working within the Neurosurgery department with a subspecialty in Functional Neurosurgery. Largely, I care for patients who have chronic neurological disorders that interrupt their daily functions or abilities (i.e. patients living with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain and epilepsy). Often times, these patients require surgical intervention by means of a neuro-stimulator to improve the quality of life. I will see these patients in the clinic pre-op, manage their neuro-stimulator by programming them and treat any post-op complications. My portfolio also includes managing neurosurgical patients that have been admitted on call, and patients with intracerebral bleeds and tumors (to name a few). I also run a Nurse Practitioner lead clinic, a vagal nerve stimulator (VNS) clinic, which helps patients manage their seizure burden with this form of neruomodulation by adjusting the deliverance of electrical energy by means of the Vagus nerve to the brain. My responsibility includes managing any surgical concerns and optimizing their therapy.   

The thing I love the most about my job is the positive change I make in the life of a patient and their family. The feeling of joy is shared with the patient when we see an improvement in their quality of life. We see this change occur when a patient has had a deep brain stimulator turned on, there’s a decrease in their seizure burden or we have helped manage their chronic pain.  It is truly an honour to be able to help someone at a vulnerable moment in his or her life and see clinical improvements and positive gains.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is the countless hours that goes into research to try to improve a patient’s quality of life. Having worked with many patients who have chronic illnesses, I see how impactful and life changing it can be. Watching a patient have a debilitating tremor for example and then turning on the deep brain stimulator and watching the tremor subside is an incredible thing to witness. Furthermore, using adjunct therapy such as the VNS and watching a patient’s seizure burden decrease with their ability to turn around and help others with volunteering is why I continue to do what I do.

I’m inspired by the optimistic attitude of the patients I care for. When they are faced with debilitating diagnoses and their drive, will and positive energy to push through during such difficult times. It is a humbling experience.

One of my personal heroes is my mother because she is a woman of strength, who has demonstrated her ability to overcome trials and tribulations with grace and has shown me how to positively advocate for myself.

I sometimes worry about the global impact COVID-19 has had on many people’s mental health and the inability of some to access appropriate resources or may be limited by funds to receive the care they need.

I’ve found joy recently from being surrounded by nature. There is something magical about nature. The calmness and energy it offers. Although, it can be unforgiving and indecisive, at the same time, it can be healing and nurturing. 

My favourite movie is Drumline because the movie highlights hard work, teamwork and individual goals. I find this very fitting, particularly working in a dynamic environment such as neurosurgery where all of these themes and more are present in our day-to-day environment.

My ideal day off is sipping on my favourite cup of tea, Earl Grey with steamed oat milk, feet up and disconnected from technology and surrounded by friends and family.

By making a gift through Honour Your Hero, patients and their families have an opportunity to express gratitude and share a message of thanks with staff across Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals and Toronto Rehab for their care, compassion and support while also making a difference – now and in the future. 

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