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A Second Chance

After the bomb, Martina Kuhar knew she was lucky to be alive. Now she’s making the most of it

After the smoke cleared from the explosion, Martina Kuhar saw her second chance at life. She’s not wasting it.

Martina grew up in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. It was 1991, the year Croatia’s war for independence began. Times were tough enough that at age 16 Martina worked at a restaurant – not for pay – but just for food.

She normally took train 17, but on this day and for no particular reason, she boarded an earlier one. About 5 minutes after stepping off and as she neared her work, a bomb exploded, killing more than 100 people, most were passengers on train 17.

“I stood there frozen. I didn’t know what was happening,” she says.

MHA Alumna

“I take care of people, it’s a valuable job.”

Martina Kuhar

What she came to know was this: She was lucky and alive and she wanted work that mattered. She chose nursing and by age 23 she was working 70 hours a week in the U.S. as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

She recalls her boyfriend at the time asking her to help get his cousin a “useless, low-end job” like hers. Her response: “I take care of people, it’s a valuable job.”

Martina says the exchange made her understand how little some people valued different levels of healthcare workers. “It’s a basic, entry position, but it’s also important,” she says. “I have a strong respect for people in the front lines.”

She went on to earn a degree in exercise physiology and eventually moved into healthcare administration. Today in the MHA program, she’s shoring up the skills she needs for her plans, which include advocating not only for patients, but also for the front-line workers.

“I want to help them get the respect they deserve.”

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