My CHEO Story

It’s CHEO Telethon weekend on CTV and my girls and I are heading down to help out tonight so I thought it would be fitting for my first post,  to share what CHEO means to us.

A parent wants healthy and happy children and until March of 2002 I felt confident in my success. We had experienced CHEO’s ER department for what now seems like routine non emergency situations. The warmth of the staff and their ability to stay calm around so many ailing children is a warm fuzzy that you must share. 

My Mother and Grandmother both passed away in their early twenties, suddenly and without explanation. I was my Mother’s only child. I extensively researched family medical histories but always received the same head scratching question marks. Every doctor I consulted told me, “It’s likely a coincidence.” I wanted to believe that. I wanted children of my own and my concern was whether there was anything genetically that I should be aware of.

When I moved to Ottawa in 1993, I had no idea how pivotal CHEO would be in my life. My cousin Diane Weatherdon from our family branch born and raised here, has 3 decades of experience working at  CHEO. We discussed my Mother’s autopsy results and the scraps of medical information I was able to dig up. She had asked around among doctors at CHEO for insight but no one was able to offer any further explanations . I decided it was time to move on and begin my family despite the remaining mystery of two sudden post partum deaths of women in their early twenties.

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Loss and Discovery – a Journey

This is a shortened version of a 2 part blog from Searching for Solid Footing. I wanted to write a piece here for CHEO Moms and Dads because the experience of having a deaf child can be difficult. If that child has other challenges, such as medical complexity or developmental delay, the journey can be an isolating one. If you have a deaf child, or have a friend or acquaintance going through this experience, please share this post with them.

I am the mother of a deaf child who has bilateral cochlear implants. I consider my daughter to be Deaf With Access To Hearing. I use the capital ‘D’ for Deaf, as this is common practice among the culturally Deaf community, and I consider Kate to be part of that community. I describe her as being Deaf first, and she has access to hearing with her cochlear implants.

My daughter was born hearing, but she was also born (unbeknownst to us) with a rare recessive genetic disease that caused her to progressively lose her hearing over the first 2 years of her life. Although she had passed her infant hearing test, I knew before she was 6 months old that something was wrong and I reported this to our family doctor. Despite his reassurances, I made it clear we wanted to have a referral for a hearing test.

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CHEO Healthy Kids Awards Program

Remember your favourite little league coach? How about that awesome Girl Guides leader? What made them stand out from the crowd? What did they do – or say – that lifted your spirits, made you believe you could master a new set of skills or that you should not give up ? Why do you remember them so vividly when many others faded from memory?

Your ‘fave’ coach, much loved teacher or music tutor are part of the people that made you who you are.  As the African proverb says ‘It takes a village to raise a child”, and it still holds true today.

So a few years ago CHEO launched an advocacy awards program to recognize that village – those folks in the community that go the extra mile to help children and youth be healthy and active.

The awards program, now entering its toddler years, is now called the CHEO Healthy Kids Awards.  And now, our friends over at CTV News Ottawa are helping us spread the word and profile some of our specialists – and beloved patients – to share some of our expertise in the hope that it comes handy for families in the community. Tune in to the News@6 on Wednesday nights to view those stories. They will go on for a few more weeks.  

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CHEO Healthy Kids Promo

Did you know that for some kids, one of the worst days in their year is the first day back to school after the Christmas holidays?  Can you guess why? Yup, kids excitedly brag about the latest toys they got from Santa, the of-the-moment electronics mom and dad slipped in their stockings, or the amazing trip they took abroad.  But for some kids, the story is not as exciting..

Dr. Phil Ritchie, a psychologist at CHEO, explains that to a child, that day can be the source of a lot of stress and disappointment.

In this week’s segment of the CHEO Healthy Kids Awards, Dr. Ritchie explains how parents can help alleviate some of that stress by teaching their kids to become resilient – a life skill that will become handy throughout their life.

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How to help family/friends while their child is in hospital

When Mr. J was in the NICU, I didn’t have a lot of contact with my friends. I think they maybe didn’t know what to do or say, so they just kind of stayed away. I wasn’t upset – I can understand, it’s hard and they have their own lives.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what they could have done to help, so I am not sure I would have asked anything of them.

The one thing that was extremely welcomed and appreciated was driving me to CHEO. Due to delivery complications, I wasn’t able to sit at his bedside all day long – which meant 2-3 smaller visits each day. BUT – I wasn’t able to drive either. Hubby was at work (we did have bills that still needed to be paid) and my mom doesn’t have her license – so while she kept me company and did laundry etc….she wasn’t able to get me to see my son.

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Our CHEO Heroes

I was fortunate to have never had to use the services of CHEO, as a child or with my daughter who was born in 2007. This all changed for us from the moment our son was born. We were very excited to have found out that our baby was going to be a BOY! But during the very same ultrasound we also found out that he was going to have some problems with one leg/foot. My son made his grand entrance into the world on late on March 19th 2011, and by March 20th we already had our first appointment booked into CHEO Hospital.

My son was born with a right clubbed foot. For those that are unaware what exactly that means, basically his foot was turning inwards at the ankle. Without going through a course of treatment, you would walk on your ankle or side of your foot instead of the sole. Although it is not often discussed, club foot is common, occurring in 1 of every 1000 births.

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