Athol mother, daughter thank firefighters

  • Doreen Gallien and her daughter Michelle Gallien invited members of the Athol Fire Department to their home to thank them for helping them during Michelle's medical crisis. Standing in the front, from the left: Maysin Tarbell, Athol High School work study student, Jamal Hamilton, Doreen Gallien, Michelle Gallien, Captain James Ferguson and Chief Joseph Guarnera. Standing in the back, Derek Perry and Adam Harris. —Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • Capt. James Ferguson presented Michelle Gallien with a flower bouquet on behalf of the Athol Fire Department. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 10/27/2019 9:55:19 PM

ATHOL – In her 39 years, Michelle Gallien has been a world traveler, a community volunteer, and has represented Massachusetts in the Special Olympics nationals. 

She swims every day, fulfilled a dream of scuba diving by doing a one-on-one dive in St. Croix where she saw a shark, and has a 5-year pin from her years working in recovery at the Orange Walmart.

On Friday she received a bouquet of flowers from members of the Athol Fire Department who helped her survive through a medical crisis.

In August, her mother, Doreen Gallien, found Michelle unresponsive. She tried to wake her daughter, and when she finally did, she was barely breathing. Doreen said the Athol Fire Department stayed on the phone with her until more responders arrived at her home on Ridge Road. “I was hysterical and they just came and did their thing,” she said. “They just took over.” Michelle was brought to a Boston hospital, and given multiple tests, including three spinal taps. A CT-scan showed that she had three pulmonary embolisms, possibly triggered by a procedure she had done the week before. Michelle is recovering and is seeing a pulmonologist to see if the blood clots dissolved, according to her mother, who believes her daughter died at one point during the ordeal.

Doreen wanted to acknowledge the members of the Athol Fire Department who helped during Michelle’s emergency and moved furniture and got her into the ambulance. Firefighters Jamal Hamilton, Adam Harris, Derek Perry, Captain James Ferguson and Chief Joseph Guarnera visited the Galliens’ home and were provided snacks. “I wanted to thank them and let them know how important they were to us, and they wanted to see Michelle,” she said. 

Michelle’s good health worked in her favor, her mother believes. She has done gymnastics and is active in Tae Kwan Do, studying under Bryan and Nancy Lagimoniere of the Athol Martial Arts Academy. “People with autism don’t have a lot of friends or a social life,” Doreen said, but Michelle is truly an exception. “I got her out there in the public,” she said. “I’ve never put limits on her.”

Michelle has traveled extensively with her mother, her grandmother, Doreen’s mother who passed away in February, the Girl Scouts, friends, and through the Brimfield, MA-based Search Beyond Adventures which offers disability travel and tours. She’s been on cruises, her favorite being the Carnival Cruise, and has visited the Mediterranean, Rome, Greece, Spain, Croatia, London, France, Scotland, Canada, the Panama Canal, many American states, and the list goes on. 

In 2007 Michelle went to Shanghai to represent the USA Special Olympics. She met Timothy Shriver, the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics when she was representing Massachusetts in the state games doing the shot put and track. She saw Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger at one of the events and wanted to meet them but wasn’t able to.

Doreen, who has a physical disability, founded the Greater Athol Area Advocates for Families With Special Needs (GAAFSN) serving the North Quabbin area and was on the Board of The United Arc. “Community service is important to me and I try to resonate that with Michelle,” she said. “She loves Christmas because she can make kids happy.”

Michelle has volunteered for the Salvation Army, Athol Santa Fund, clothing drives and Toys For Tots, just to name a few and donates to many of her favorite causes. “I’ve always kept her doing things in the community and it shows that people with disabilities are fully capable of doing what everyone else does,” Doreen said. “She likes doing things for others.” The Galliens have also adopted rescue animals which include five cats and two dogs.

Doreen said Walmart was “very supportive” when Michelle had to miss some time off from work and is known to be a hard worker there. 

“Anybody can do anything they want, whether they have a disability or not,” Doreen said. Turning to her daughter, she said, “Don’t give up, right Michelle?” Her daughter replied, “yeah.”


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