Though Yvonne knew her baby would be born without arms, she had no idea about everything else he would have to deal with. Baby Reese was very ill so Yvonne took him to the hospital in their hometown of Cranbrook. Bloodwork revealed Reese’s platelet count was just 9,000 when a normal range is 150,000 to 400,000. He was immediately flown to the Alberta Children’s Hospital and saw pediatric hematologist, Dr. Nicola Wright, who looked at his symptoms (absent arms, low platelet count and a dairy protein allergy – the reason he’d been so sick) and diagnosed him with Thrombocytopenia-absent radius (TAR) syndrome. Missing radiuses (a bone in the arm) is a hallmark of TAR syndrome, but in rarer cases like Reese’s, the other arm bones can be absent too.
Reese had a central line for about a year so he could receive platelet transfusions. He was followed by Dr. Wright as well as the amputee clinic. When he was 5, specialists found Reese had no knee caps and one of the bones in his legs was growing the wrong way. He had a surgery inserting a plate which would help steer the bone to grow in the right direction. However, awhile later, Reese’s knee would give out while walking and it was then specialists realized he was also missing ligaments so he underwent a total knee re-construction by Drs. Harder and Joughin. Though the surgery was a success, Reese later went through a growth spurt and his legs were having trouble supporting him, so on Nov. 25, 2016, Reese had another operation, where both his femurs were cut and a wedge removed from each. Then, pins were put in to help hold his legs straight as they healed. He was casted for a month, then the pins came out and specialists made a mold for some orthotics and the cast went back on for three more weeks. On Jan. 18, Reese’s cast came off.
Since his last big surgery, Reese has been attending Gordon Townsend School (GTS) here at the hospital. It’s a great place for him to continue learning and socializing while he recovers and rehabilitates, says Yvonne. She knows that when he’s there, he is in good hands with a capable team including teachers, nurses and physiotherapists who are able to help him with anything he needs. As well, it’s good for Reese to interact with other kids who face challenges like he does. And, just last week, Reese got the opportunity to play wheelchair hockey against the Calgary Flames!
Until Reese was enrolled there, Yvonne had no idea GTS (a CBE school) even existed, but she is so grateful for the opportunities Reese has had because of it, especially being so far from home. She’s also so thankful for their hematology and surgery teams who are so accommodating and have always gone above and beyond to ensure they have great care.