05/14/2015 02:58 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT

Marlene Bird, Homeless Woman Who Was Burned, Speaks Out On Attack

Morning is the most difficult time for Marlene Bird — she just wants to climb out of bed and make a pot of coffee.

MONTREAL LAKE, Sask. - Morning is the most difficult time for Marlene Bird — she just wants to climb out of bed and make a pot of coffee.

But the 48-year-old struggles with every-day tasks since she was attacked and set on fire in northern Saskatchewan nearly one year ago.

Bird, who had been homeless for several years, was burned so badly that doctors had to amputate both her legs. She has also had several surgeries for skin grafts and there are more surgeries to come.

A cut to Bird's face stretches from her eyelid to her shattered nose. An operation is set for next month on one of her eyes that will hopefully improve the double-vision that leaves her feeling dizzy.

"Why would a man do this to a woman?" Bird says in an interview with radio station CKBI.

Leslie Black, 29, pleaded guilty last month to the attempted murder of Bird.

A judge ordered the man remain in custody and undergo a psychiatric assessment. He is be back in a Prince Albert courtroom June 26.

"I'm feeling glad that he admitted it," Bird says.

She wasn't able to attend the last court appearance and says she heard about the plea on the news. She had attended court on an earlier date, hoping Black would see her, but he wasn't there.

"I really wanted him to see my situation and my wheelchair — no legs."

June 1 will mark one year since Bird was found clinging to life in a parking lot outside a community centre in downtown Prince Albert.

"Help me, help me," she told one of the first people who discovered her battered body.

There was an outpouring of support for Bird around the globe and a local shelter set up a trust fund that has helped cover her medical costs and some living expenses.

Bird moved from Prince Albert into a home on the Montreal Lake Cree Nation with her long-time partner, Patrick Lavallee, who has been helping her navigate her new life in a wheelchair.

Lavallee says the crime has left his spouse with "a life sentence without legs. And there is no chance of parole to ever get her real legs back."

It was necessary for them to move to the reserve north of the city, says Bird, away from some of her friends and easy access to alcohol.

Bird, a chronic alcoholic, still struggles with her addiction, she says.

"It's easy for me to have temptations."

An addictions counsellor on the reserve is trying to get her into a treatment program, she says. Meanwhile, she relies on help every day from Lavallee, her grown daughters and her mother.

"My mom helps me lots," Bird says. "She keeps telling me to pray, pray before I go to bed, because I tell her about my frustrations."

Bird says she's also hopes to find to an elder who is disabled to talk with, so she can learn how to remain strong and show others that, despite considerable challenges, it can be done.

Her future plans include completing high school and maybe getting a job.


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