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Just before her 12th birthday, Hannah suffered a perforated appendix, which led to life-threatening sepsis. Though her life was saved through a surgery to remove the appendix and clean out her toxic insides, she faced several agonizing months of recovery. Hannah lost 35 lbs. and had to rely on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), a nutrient-rich cocktail that would slowly help train her body to accept and digest food again. After being on oxygen following her surgery, she also suffered from a collapsed lung, which required rehab. Hannah was so weak she lad to re-learn how to walk.
Though her overall condition slowly improved, Hannah continued to suffer from constant and debilitating pain in her lower back where the infection had been. Monthly appointments at the pain clinic did not seem to be frequent enough to help her manage and she slipped into a dark place of depression, filled with panic attacks and despair. It was hard for her parents to watch their daughter become a shell of her former self. Hannah and her family were referred to the Intensive Pain Rehabilitation Program (IPRP) in the Vi Riddell Children’s Pain and Rehabilitation Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital – the first of its kind in Canada – and this is where she began making major strides.
The philosophy in the six-week program is that though the pain sometimes can’t be cured, kids can learn how to manage it so they can function to their fullest in their day-to-day lives. Through different types of activities such as yoga as well as field trips, physio, recreational and occupational therapy, Hannah learned how to put her pain on the back burner and focus on her priorities. The program was also useful for her parents, who were able to participate in family counselling as a part of the journey. They bonded with other parents of children with chronic pain and felt a sense of relief to know they weren’t alone.
Today, though Hannah still lives with chronic pain and fatigue, she is a happy and talented go-getter. She is a musician and she also loves to play volleyball and basketball. Because of her involvement raising money with a social awareness group at her school, she was presented a Governor General Caring Canadians Award by Marc Kielburger at We Day. Thanks to the IPRP, Hannah has transformed from a girl who struggled to get out of bed in the morning to a wonderful young lady who loves giving back to her community. Her parents aren’t sure where their family would be without the program.