Susan Balonjan is an employee and labour relations coordinator in the human resources department at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). She has been with HHS since 1985.
What do you do?
I support the day-to-day activities of the employee and labour relations team, as well as our human resources portfolio team from our King West site. This includes helping our staff through redeployment processes and working closely with our unions. During the collective bargaining process, I provide both research and administrative support to our bargaining team.
Tell us about your first day at HHS.
My first day at HHS was in “personnel” which is now called human resources. Back then, we were part of Hamilton Civic Hospitals, which included Hamilton General Hospital and what is now known as the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre. Our office was across the street from Hamilton General on Victoria Avenue. I was the department’s receptionist working with a small but happy group of people.
I had a health scare in the middle of my career with a poor prognosis. But I survived.
What is your most gratifying experience?
In 2001, I had a health scare in the middle of my career; stricken with bacterial spinal meningitis. My prognosis was not good and I was given less than a 50% chance of survival.
Against all odds, I survived but lost my hearing. With many years of rehabilitation along with the overwhelming support and care from my family, manager and co-workers, they helped build my confidence to perform my job.
It was scary to return to work since I did not know what to expect or how I would manage with hearing loss. It’s hard to express how much gratitude I have for the people in my life that supported me through this scary situation.
It was scary to return to work since I did not know what to expect or how I would manage with hearing loss.
Who inspires you?
Hearing loss is a silent disability. Going from having normal hearing one day to not hearing at all the next day was terrifying. Life changes instantly.
There are many people who have greater disabilities. Young and old people alike face daily challenges in their lives. They make the hardest things seem so simple. When I see these heroes, I think if they can do it, I can do it too. They inspire me every day.