Of all her four kids, Melissa will say that when her daughter Brienna got sick, she was much sicker than any of the others. Since she was a baby, Brienna had struggled with recurrent pneumonia and when she was four, the family (who lived in Fort Mac at the time), made the trek to Calgary to see a respirology specialist. It was shortly after that the family made the decision to relocate to Calgary so that Brienna could have diligent respiratory care.
When she was seven years old, she had pneumonia so bad that they feared she might not even survive. It took weeks to walk again and a whole year for her to fully recover. Her care team knew that something more serious must be at play so she was referred to immunology for a full work-up. After extensive blood work, it was discovered that Brienna had an immunological disorder known as CVID (Common Variable Immunodeficiency) which was why she was so susceptible to repeated infections.
As there is often a correlation between CVID and Celiac/Crohn’s Disease, the team decided it would be a good idea for her to have a scope. Since she wasn’t symptomatic, there wasn’t a real rush. It was two years later that she had the scope and was immediately symptomatic! Brienna had a serious case of Crohn’s Disease. Her disease is so severe she requires regular injections of medication and plasma infusions at home. Brienna is not a huge fan of either of these – especially the injection because it burns when it goes in – but her family has worked hard to make it manageable for her. In fact, Melissa picks up three months’ worth of blood product at the hospital and keeps it at home in special fridge designated for her “vampire juice”!
Melissa is so grateful for the entire team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital for helping her daughter cope with her disease. Last year, Brienna gave a full presentation about Crohn’s to her Grade 5 class so that they would understand what she was dealing with. It was a turning point for her and took her from grief to acceptance of her condition.