TTC worker hailed as 'guardian angel' for saving woman's life

Michele-Marie Beer, a Blue Jays fan, is pictured her in St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. She says Monique Blake, a TTC streetcar operator, saved her life because she insisted that she stay on a streetcar until she got medical attention. Beer is recovering from emergency brain surgery now. (Paul Borkwood/CBC - image credit)
Michele-Marie Beer, a Blue Jays fan, is pictured her in St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. She says Monique Blake, a TTC streetcar operator, saved her life because she insisted that she stay on a streetcar until she got medical attention. Beer is recovering from emergency brain surgery now. (Paul Borkwood/CBC - image credit)

When Michele-Marie Beer was trembling, dizzy on a Toronto streetcar, she never imagined the driver might save her life.

But Beer says that's exactly what Monique Blake did when she insisted Beer stay on her streetcar until help arrived.

It turns out Beer, the passenger, needed brain surgery to remove a life-threatening tumour that had been growing behind her right eye for years.

"I'm alive because of this amazing woman that wouldn't let me off a streetcar because she saw me," Beer told CBC Toronto this week.

In a June 9 Facebook post, Beer said of Blake: "She is forever my guardian angel."

Monique Blake and Michele-Marie Beer
Monique Blake and Michele-Marie Beer

Monique Blake and Michele-Marie Beer are pictured here in the hospital after Michele-Marie's emergency surgery. (Supplied)

According to Beer, it all began when she was on a 510 Spadina streetcar after a Blue Jays game on May 31.

The streetcar pulled into Spadina station after midnight.

Beer said she was feeling dizzy with what she thought was post-concussion syndrome following a fall in January, when she hit her head on a streetcar on the same route.

Driver's mother happened to be a nurse

A passenger helped her to get to the front of the streetcar. She was planning to get off, when Blake, returning from warming her dinner, spotted her.

The pair made eye contact and Blake noticed Beer was flushed and distressed.

"I mouthed to her and I said: 'Are you okay?' And she said no," Blake said.

Blake said Beer said she didn't want to disrupt anything, but Blake told her she would call for help.

"I noticed she got up. She was shaking. She had tremours in her left hand. And I was like, 'OK, that's not good,'" Blake said. "She made it to the front and then I called."

Blake said Beer protested, not wanting to hold up service. But Blake persisted because she knew it was something more severe.

That's because Blake's mother is a retired nurse who worked at a seniors' home and used to talk about people with brain injuries and how they had tremours.

"That was something that kind of triggered in my mind that maybe something like that is happening," she said. "It did seem alarming."

'It's surreal'

It turns out she was right.

A surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital, where the life-saving operation was performed, told Beer that "had I gone home that night and fallen, I would have either slipped into a coma, lost my eyesight because it was attached to the nerve, or died. That's how close it was to being done."

After the surgery, Beer decided she needed to find out who the streetcar operator was.

She called her friends and the TTC, and eventually, she got her email. Beer emailed Blake and Blake visited her in hospital.

Monique Blake 1
Monique Blake 1

TTC streetcar operator Monique Blake says: 'I do believe that, even though we do live in a fast-paced environment, if you do reach out for help, people will take the time to help because we all need that human connection.' (CBC)

"My mission from the time I woke up was to find her, thank her and make sure that she gets the highest honour in the city for what she did," Beer said.

As for Blake, she said she was happy to help.

"Right now to this day, it's surreal. I just didn't think it would turn into something this big," she said.

'We all need that human connection'

"I just thought someone needs help, the ambulance will come, they'll check her out, give her some fluids and she'll be fine. But to know that it went so far as to saving a life, I'm honestly, I'm humbled, truly."

Blake said the message in the story is that it's okay to ask for help and to accept help when someone offers and it's not an inconvenience.

"I do believe that, even though we do live in a fast-paced environment, if you do reach out for help, people will take the time to help because we all need that human connection."

After having the tumour removed, Beer said she feels herself again — and has Blake to thank.

"Monique saw me. Monique saw me. And here I am."