Know Your Heroes: Teresa Torres

Know Your Heroes showcases the many different people and roles that make up #TeamUHN. We celebrate these people, who strive to make the world a healthier place every day.

Name: Teresa Torres

Role: Physiotherapist

Years working in health care: 13

Hometown: I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil

I decided to get into health care because since childhood I have been involved in dance, exercise and body movement. Choosing to be a physiotherapist was a very clear path for me, because the idea of combining all of those interests with health care and helping others to achieve a better functional quality of life was a strong calling in my heart. After getting my Bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy, and working for a few years in hospitals in Brazil, I moved to Toronto in 1999 with the dream that one day I would work in one of the “big hospitals on University Avenue.” Yes, dreams do come true! In 2012, following many years of hard work, I was offered a role at Toronto General Hospital. After working in different departments, I joined the amazing team in the Soham & Shaila Ajmera Family Transplant Centre six years ago, which gives me a great sense of gratitude.

My role here at UHN is to assist patients to recover their mobility as a member of the physiotherapy team. When a person’s health deteriorates to the point of needing a transplant, the whole process of being evaluated, listed, having the surgery and recovering from it is life-changing. For the patients, this experience often comes with a sense of gratitude and hope for a better quality of life, but it also can bring anxiety, fear, physical deconditioning and mobility limitations, which can be very overwhelming. The amount of compassion and care that the team offers our patients is important in helping them to overcome their physical and emotional difficulties during the entire process. As a physiotherapist, I am part of this process by assisting patients in recovering their mobility and physical function, and thus helping them to regain their independence in their daily activities. This has a huge emotional and mental impact for the patients’ immediate recovery and future.

COVID-19 has affected me by fostering my professional and personal growth. In the beginning of the pandemic, we had to adapt quickly to the changes that happened almost on a daily basis. We had to learn new best practices on the go that would ensure the best care possible for our patients while keeping staff safe. It was a huge challenge that we all embraced. It gave me the opportunity to improve my resilience and strengthened our team’s collaboration.

I also had the amazing opportunity to work as a volunteer at Rekai Long Term Care Facility. At Rekai, I worked with and learned from personal support workers who had been working non-stop for months with compassion and dedication to make sure that the residents received the necessary care during such a difficult time. This experience allowed for personal growth and gave me a sense of how much we need to help each other as part of the community.

Of course, the pandemic has come with its hardships as well. It is difficult to see our patients go through their transplants without having their loved ones beside them, or to see the residents at Rekai depressed because their family and friends can’t visit. However, I truly believe that no matter how hard the situation is right now, we will be stronger at the end as an organization, as a community, and as a country. I personally do not see myself as a hero but instead as someone who loves my job. I’m very grateful for being able to do what I love the most, which is to help people have a better quality of life.

The thing I love the most about my job is seeing the happy tears in the patients’ eyes when they are able to take their first steps after weeks not being able to walk, and seeing the hope for a better future in their faces. It is very gratifying to have patients visit us months or years later just to say “thank you” and tell us that they are having a great time with their families. Once, I had a patient whose goal was to be able to walk again so he could walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding that summer. By the time he left us to go to a rehabilitation centre, he was already walking. About nine months later he came back to the hospital just to show me the wedding pictures – not only of him walking his daughter down the aisle but also dancing with her! It brings me a sense of gratitude to be part of this journey.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is how the staff at UHN united and joined forces to work through this pandemic. Everybody did their best to adapt to the fast-paced changes during those initial difficult times, which helped all of us to feel safe and supported. It felt, and still feels, like we can count on each other.

I’m inspired by people that are passionate about what they do not matter what their jobs are.

One of my personal heroes is my father because he always sacrificed himself to give me and my siblings the best education possible. He also taught me the importance of hard work, honesty and moral values, which I will carry with me forever.

I sometimes worry about how long we are going to live with all the changes due to COVID-19. Having to wear a mask and face shield all day at work can sometimes be tiring and overwhelming. Meeting with friends and not being able to hug, and keeping distance as if we have to be afraid of each other, is emotionally frustrating. I can’t wait for us, as a community, to be able to go back to some kind of normal life.

I’ve found joy recently from working on fundraising activities for Fraternity Without Borders, a non-profit volunteer-run organization whose aim is to promote universal fraternity. We have a few projects we’re supporting: assisting severely malnourished children in Madagascar, and supporting children with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a group of rare diseases that cause fragile, blistering skin, in Brazil. Also, due to COVID-19, this year we created a campaign to help the food banks here in Toronto.

My favourite TV show is Big Bang Theory because it’s fun and full of clever jokes. It also shows that we are all cool no matter how quirky we may be!

My ideal day off is to go on day trips to explore the beautiful nature right here in Ontario.

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