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Maria Machon, photo by Janaia Hutzal

Maria Machon is one of those people who you are immediately drawn to because of her warm smile and the sparkle in her big brown eyes.

Now 15 years old, Maria moved to Calgary from El Salvador in 2005 when she was only 4, with her mom, dad and brother.  One week before they moved her little brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  A few years later, Maria also was diagnosed with the disease.  Both of them have an insulin pump that is always attached.  Counting carbohydrates and changing insertion sites has become a way of life for Maria.  Learning to balance and prioritize has been a big part of learning to take care of her body.

An honour student who is involved in many activities Maria already holds a well-rounded and cultured view of the world and those in it.  She naturally reaches out and gets involved because of her intelligent and curious nature.  She is inquisitive, caring, generous, and admittedly impatient; the perfect qualities that will help her become a great Pediatrician, which is what she aspires to become.  She is striving to become more patient…but I believe that sometimes what we consider to be our greatest weakness just might be what brings out our greatest gift of strength.  Her universities of choice right now are McGill or NYU.

When she travels she appreciates the “old style culture.”  Her favourite trip was a European road trip with her family.

Her friends describe her as the one they know they can always turn to because of her genuine concern for others.  Maria finds much joy when she sees others happy.  At such a young age she already understands that learning to maintain inner joy no matter how those around her are feeling is going to be necessary to become a doctor.  But reaching out and being that good friend has supplied her with an endless amount of friends in return when she has needed it.  Her friends always put a smile on her face.

“I have a lot of really good friends,” she said with a sparkly smile.

She loves diversity and variety; she learns from each new person and relationship that she forms.  She is drawn to people and enjoys each person’s uniqueness.

Maria is inspired by her family, especially now as her father has recently been diagnosed with a major health concern.  They always support her and maintain a positive attitude as they ensure she is doing well.  She appreciates that she has a good life, but also understands that nothing can be taken for granted.  She feels fortunate for her strong support system and having so many people who believe in her.

Once or twice a year her family travels back to El Salvador, a country that Maria describes as a “hidden gem.”  If she could tell the world one thing that she knows it would be about the beauty of El Salvador.  She said that the sprawling beaches are more beautiful than any she has seen around the world.  The safety and freedom she has here in Canada is what will keep her from moving back permanently, but there are many great things about the culture in El Salvador that she misses.

Her family lived in a gated community and the private school she went to, where her cousins still attend, involve the children in many activities outside of the classroom.  The children start school as soon as they can walk, they go on medical missions and work with the less fortunate.  She feels these examples are some that the schools here could benefit from.

On her own time Maria has volunteered with Helping Hands in El Salvador when she has gone back to visit.  Her job is to translate to the patients the orders given by the doctors who have also travelled from around the world to help out.  She has had the opportunity to observe surgical procedures, which is a fascinating and rare experience for someone of her age.  Again, she would translate and explain procedures for the doctors when necessary, or play with the children while their parents were undergoing a procedure. Maria has also helped out with medical students at the University of Calgary where she pretends for them that she is a diabetes patient.  Through these experiences she is able to more clearly visualize what she hopes to one day be doing herself.

Maria is that person who not only joins a club to participate, such as cheer, but goes one step further and becomes a coach.  She has painted the most beautiful pieces of art; she is drawn to paint with colour and people, which describes her nature so well.  If there is an activity to sign up for, she is the first to do so and encourages her friends to join in.

It is fascinating to see the woven threads that have formed and continue to form this amazing young woman and how each experience, good and bad, has been turned into a positive force in the direction of her life.  The heart of the future Dr. Machon is sure to make this world a better place.

Maria’s word that she chose to sum up what she most desires in each aspect of wellness is success.  What an inspiring and beautiful word.  The first aspect that came to mind for her was social as she knows that having good relationships is always the first step to success, but knowing and satisfying her longing for success each aspect is important to her.  When I asked her who defines her success she replied, “myself.”


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