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The power of positive participation

As a yoga teacher, Natalie Marnica is familiar with steady, incremental change that leads to an overall improvement in well-being.

In her new role as a member of Runnymede Healthcare Centre’s Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC), Natalie brings that same commitment to consistent improvement and the belief that change happens through positive participation.

Natalie has a long history with Runnymede. Fifteen years ago, her grandfather was a patient at the hospital before the new building was opened. More recently, her mother, Joanne Marnica, has been a medically complex patient at Runnymede for the past three years.

Natalie’s mother suffers from Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative genetic illness that causes a physical and cognitive decline as the disease progresses. Before Joanne was admitted to Runnymede, Natalie was her primary caregiver.

Her mother’s decline included losing the ability to communicate verbally. Joanne’s admission to Runnymede was a relief for Natalie and her brothers because they knew they could trust the hospital to provide their mother with the best possible care around the clock. Natalie feels fortunate Joanne is receiving care from a great team of people at the hospital, but she still remains heavily involved in her treatment.

“I have to be her voice inside Runnymede because she literally cannot be heard,” Natalie said. “My involvement in PFAC is an opportunity to be a voice for her and others like her that cannot speak for themselves.”

For the past two years, Natalie has taught a chair yoga class at Runnymede. The exercise is adapted for the patients to focus on breathing and incorporates movements to optimize their physical capabilities.

“People are so thankful they can move their bodies in whatever capacity is possible,” Natalie said. “It gives them autonomy and focus on what is still working versus the ailments or conditions they made have. The program is empowering.”

Natalie feels that same empowerment through her involvement with PFAC.

“The people that have come together to make this council are all really passionate about making change. They are integrating the voice of patients and family members to all levels of decision-making,” Natalie said.

Natalie understands that addressing the challenges of a healthcare organization with many layers of accountability may seem daunting, but she sees involvement in PFAC as an opportunity to bring patient and family voices into every step of the decision-making process and place them at the centre of their care.

“We are empowered to make change for the better on behalf of our family and other patients,” Natalie said. “We are very lucky to have Runnymede. I feel very fortunate to be part of the community there.”

If you would like to know more about the council, please click here; for further information, please contact or call 416-762-7316, ext. 2640.