Flight and fight

Flight and fight

Emergency bursaries help student overcome loss

When a fire alarm blared in their southside Edmonton condominium at 1 a.m. on July 29, 2018, Natalia Beattie and her boyfriend Kyle weren’t sure if it was just a drill. To be on the safe side, they quickly dressed and grabbed their pet rabbit Zorro, her purse and his phone and wallet.

“It thought about grabbing my laptop,” says Beattie. “But I thought, you know what? It will be fine.”

As soon as they stepped into the hallway and smelled the smoke, any doubts about whether the alarm was a drill vanished. They fled the building unharmed and joined the group of residents outside.

At the time, Beattie was in the middle of completing her practicum for the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) program and was set to return to NAIT in September. Her training had prepared her to keep calm in high stress environments, but the scene in front of her was nothing short of chaotic.

"The corner unit on the top floor had a fire tornado coming out.”

“People were screaming. The corner unit on the top floor  had a fire tornado coming out,” Beattie recalls. “Minutes later barbecue propane tanks on people’s decks started exploding.”

Beattie had left her phone charging on her bedside table and had the presence of mind to shout for someone to call 911.

That night, Beattie found refuge with friends. In the days and months that followed, however, she would have to figure out how to rebuild her life. The grim reality set in that if they hadn’t got out when they did, they would have died.

Rebuilding what was lost

Nearly a month later, Beattie was able to go back into the building to see if any of their belongings were salvageable. Nothing could have prepared her for what she’d see.

Beattie’s third-floor apartment had no exterior wall near her bedroom due to a barbeque explosion from the floor directly below. What wasn’t ruined by smoke had been exposed to the elements. “Every surface was covered in water and mould.”

The financial strain of losing everything – including her computer with a year’s worth of work – weighed heavily on her shoulders, as she was due back in class in a matter of weeks. But, she wasn’t ready to give up on pursuing her dream of becoming a magnetic resonance imaging technologist.

Friends and family helped them out as best they could while waiting for the insurer to send emergency funds. As a NAIT student, Beattie qualified for an emergency bursary, which helps students experiencing extreme financial distress.

“I'm so thankful for receiving the emergency bursary – it made a huge difference.”

“I'm so thankful for receiving the emergency bursary – it made a huge difference,” she says. “It went towards buying new scrubs for school and buying a new laptop, so that I could study.”

Beattie was also grateful to have received two academic scholarships, recognizing her outstanding academic performance in her program. Graduating in May 2019, she says she is passionate about patient care and looks forward to finding work in her field.

“I like to take the time of day to be with the patients and be present and really try to make a difference in their lives,” Beattie says. “That’s something that I love about the MRI profession.”

Reflecting back on her experience over the past year, Beattie says she learned an important lesson: She has the resilience and motivation to succeed despite the challenges she has faced. “I'm really hopeful for the future.”

Find out how you can support students facing extreme financial difficulty today.

Published on April 19, 2019