Woman paralyzed by shot hopes to rebuild life

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Cathleen Lavoie was at home with her three children when an ex-boyfriend came to her home in 2008 and shot her once in the neck. She has been living in a long-term care facility since being released from hospital.

An Ottawa woman who was shot in the neck and left paralyzed 2½ years ago is hoping a move into her own apartment will give her a chance to get her life back.

On July 22, 2008, Cathleen Lavoie's world was upended when an ex-boyfriend, Alvin Persaud, entered her Marlin Private home and shot her in the throat in front of her three children. Her eldest son, 15 at the time, put a T-shirt around her throat and held the wound until paramedics arrived.

Persaud received a 10-year sentence minus time served after pleading guilty to attempted murder a year ago.

But Lavoie, 44, said she has been serving a sentence of her own, because the bullet left her paralyzed from the chest down and the injury meant she could no longer care for her children while staying at a long-term care facility.

Her three children had to be taken first by the Children's Aid Society and then into either foster care — as was the case with eldest son — or in the care of their fathers , as was the case with her daughter and younger son.
'It's an empty feeling'

"You don't have any feeling of happiness at all, because your children are gone, your home's gone, and you can't walk," she said. "It's an empty feeling you just can't fill, no matter how many people come up to you and say it's going to be all right."

After a year on a waiting list, Lavoie is now scheduled to leave the Laurier Manor long-term-care facility on Jan. 5 and move into her own two-bedroom apartment, one with 24-hour nursing care.

"The future doesn't look dim anymore," said Lavoie. "I'd be able to get my children back. They'd come over on weekends. We'd be able to pull out the couch and watch TV together and have slumber parties like we used to."

Personal Choice Independent Living, the Ottawa charity that placed Lavoie in the wheelchair-accessible apartment, said the new accommodations give the former nurse a second chance to establish her life.

"Cathleen has a physical disability, but she still has her head, and she can continue her life just like me and you do," said Suzanne Beland, a manager with the organization.

Lavoie said the move and getting her family back are just the first steps to her larger plan to reclaim what she has lost.

"I'm going to walk one day, too," said Lavoie.

"I believe with all my might and all my heart that God didn't just leave me in a wheelchair."