Maria Leal’s journey: A calling with a purpose
Maria Leal’s life changed in 2009 due to an unexpected brain aneurysm that left her with no choice but to sell her automotive business and start her dream life all over again.
Raised in Acrozes on Graciosa Island – an Island just off of Portugal, Maria Leal travelled to Toronto, Canada, at the age of six where she lived for 30 years until she and her partner and ‘cheer leader’, Mary Lloyd, decided to start their own vintage auto parts business called M&M’s Auto Parts. M&M’s quickly became successful so in 2003, Maria expanded her business to include a repair shop as well which she ran for six years. “I was a workaholic, even on closed days, I was still there,” says Maria.
During the latter part of the year, Sunday afternoon on August 4th, 2009, Maria’s whole life changed due to an unexpected brain aneurysm which kept Maria ill for almost two years.
“I was home doing what I do every morning – grabbing a cup of coffee, checking my Facebook and e-mail in my studio outside of the house when all of the sudden, I heard a pop in the right side of my head and instantly got dizzy. I managed to get in the house to wake up her mother in-law who was living with us at the time and told her that she needed to drive me to the hospital because there was something wrong. My mother in law new there was definitely something wrong because I don’t like hospitals,” says Maria.
At the hospital her mother in law left her there and rushed out to tell her partner. When they came back, they were informed that a vain in her brain had burst and she needed immediate surgery and was then rushed to Toronto Western Hospital to have immediate surgery. “I never had such a fast car ride in my life,” says Maria.
A week following the surgery, Maria had to undergo another surgery because another blood vessel broke. Her partner was told to call her family because they thought she wouldn’t make it through the second surgery. Fortunately, the second surgery went well and corrected the issue. Following this, Maria was kept in ICU for three weeks and a week in an observation room before being discharged from the hospital.
Upon her discharge, Maria underwent physiotherapy for just over a year including having to learn how to walk all over again. “Due to this, I lost my business, had to sell my home and basically start all over again while still trying to get back on my feet. I was depressed turning to drinking and moping around constantly. I had no ambition; nothing,” says Maria.
Because her partner was making a good income to support her, Maria was unable to get any assistance, disability or government help at the time. “We had to sell the business because I didn’t even know how to run the shop anymore.
“I hit rock bottom, I did, until I finally made a choice that I knew I had to make and move to Toronto to temporarily leave my partner, Mary, while finding myself again and off I went to Toronto to get myself an apartment. I freaked my whole family out, got an apartment and a good paying job working for Canadian Tire on Keele and Saint Claire as a Service Advisor in the automotive field. I was hired on the spot because of my background as a licensed mechanic,” says Maria.
Maria worked there for a year before she was laid off only a week before Christmas. “I was getting tired of city life anyway and wanted to move back into a small town where I could enjoy fishing, less traffic and so on. Maria was hired again on the spot at Canadian Tire in Wasaga Beach as Service Advisor.
Maria came to Wasaga Beach just over a year ago in February on a new venture and journey to ‘find her-self’ and follow her dream of living once again in a small town environment.
The following day after Maria moved into her new home in Wasaga Beach she drove to the corner store to ask the owner where the bait shop was so she could get some minnows to go fishing and to her surprise, she was told that she had to travel to Barrie or Orillia and that shocked Maria.
After three months of only part-time work, Maria made a big decision in her life to tighten her belt, join Ontario Works and get involved with the Self-Employment Centre and get herself back where she wanted to be. And that was running her own business once again.
Fishing since the early age of five, Maria’s always had a passion and interest in fishing and the fishing industry. “I spent most weekends at the cottage in which I still go to on a regular basis, fishing for bass, pike, perch and trout,” says Maria.
Maria started her new business journey by researching various fishing locations around the area, networking with business owners and anybody who gave her an ear to listen. With only positive responses, Maria decided this was her new calling. A calling with a purpose!
Leal’s Reals will be the only Bait and Tackle shop in Wasaga Beach and she is very excited to announce that Leals Reals will open this spring. Maria is a strong and determined woman who will not give up on her journey so stay tuned!
For more information about Leal’s Reals, please feel free to call Maria 705.770.4129 or e-mail with any questions you may have @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melanie Vollick is the owner and founder of Write Way Communications (Professional & Reliable Writing Services). She is an active advocate of sustainable living and has a B.A. with Honours in Environmental & Resource Studies from Trent University.