Marie Trottier’s job is to ensure that people with disabilities at Harvard are being served. But in her spare time she’s also working to serve others.
A 21-year veteran as the University’s disability coordinator, Trottier certifies that accessibility requirements are met for Harvard’s students, staff, faculty, and visitors. From events planning to wheelchair convenience to learning-disability services, Trottier’s hands touch many aspects of campus life, but her own agenda extends beyond the University’s ivied gates.
Trottier is trying to establish a regional Hospice House, a unique facility that incorporates hospice services in a hospital environment. She was drawn to the concept two years ago when her husband, Allan Macurdy, became ill. Contacting a hospice — an end-of-life service that focuses on comfort, family, and palliative care — was the next step, but Macurdy still required hospitalization and, surprisingly, there was no nearby facility that incorporated the two forms of care.
“So I did what any good Harvardian does,” Trottier recalled, “which was to try to find a connection at Harvard to help.”
After a long night of research, Trottier e-mailed JoAnne Nowak, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and medical director of the Partners Hospice and Palliative Care program in Boston.
Nowak offered to take a look at Macurdy’s case, which resulted in negotiations between hospice and Macurdy’s hospital, where he went on to receive hospice care for the last months of his life.
“Part of what was so amazing was that hospice was there for me,” Trottier said. “Not only was there a team of people for Allan, but I had my own team. I had my own social worker, bereavement counselors … and, after fighting so hard and after going through the worst grief of my life, it was comforting to know that I could pick up the phone or send an e-mail, and Hospice would respond.”
Since her husband’s death in June, Trottier has teamed up with Nowak to establish a Boston-based Hospice House. They’ve begun fundraising, meeting with interested parties, and spreading the word.
“Hospice responded to me in such a way that I didn’t want to lose that connection,” said Trottier. “I was like, ‘What can I do in Allan’s honor, in Allan’s memory, to help give back?’”
In between her work at Harvard and her efforts for a Hospice House, Trottier finds time for a creative release: She’s also an actor.
A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Trottier has appeared in music videos, films, and commercials. After a hiatus, she has resurrected her performing life, and says she is more in demand than ever. Trottier has achondroplasia, the most common cause of dwarfism. And at 4 feet, “There’s minimal competition for a woman of short stature,” Trottier said. “There are some opportunities that will only come my way.”
But after her heart-rending loss, Trottier is more focused on utilizing her time creatively and positively, determined to give back to the community in the form of a Hospice House.
“For people who can die at home, that’s wonderful. But Allan couldn’t, and there will be another Allan someday,” Trottier said. “And I want to use my experience, and Allan’s story, because that’s what he’d want me to do.”
Donations for the Hospice House can be made to: Partners Hospice, Attn: Hospice House, 281 Winter St., Suite 200, Waltham, MA 02451.