Give Island kids a home away from home & keep families together this Thanksgiving

Abigail Island kids first - childrens health foundation

Island youth Abigail is all too familiar with doctors’ offices, ambulance rides, and the surgical unit at the hospital. At only 16 years old, she has already had more than 50 surgeries in her lifetime.

For Abigail, the routine act of having a meal can quickly turn life-threatening. Born with a condition called esophageal atresia, Abigail’s esophagus is not fully formed. This means that food can easily become stuck, causing her to choke.

“I’ve had a lot of very scary incidents throughout my childhood. It was so unpredictable because I could be fine one minute and then if I ate a piece of carrot that was a centimetre too big, I would turn blue,” recalls Abigail.

Living in Port Hardy, Abigail’s parents have had to make the long six-hour journey to Victoria more times than they can count since her first surgery at two days old. Thankfully, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island’s home away from home, Jeneece Place, has been there for the north Island family at their times of greatest need.

Being only minutes away from Victoria General Hospital at Jeneece Place has eased the burden for Abigail’s parents, knowing that they were close to her surgeons if something went wrong. Having that safety and security has allowed them to focus on what matters most, the health of their daughter.

“I remember walking into Jeneece Place after a particularly stressful emergency surgery. My whole family seemed to sigh with relief. It was homey, hospitable, and calming. There were board games set out and a movie room. A volunteer had even prepared my favourite meal – Kraft Dinner. In that space, it felt like things were under control and I was going to be okay,” says Abigail.

Abigail’s condition has made her feel different from her peers over the years, from needing a school aide while she ate, to having visible scars, and missing school for emergency surgeries and follow-up care. Having the knowledge that Jeneece Place will be there for the family while they’re far from home has made all the difference for Abigail and her parents.

Since its opening in 2012, Jeneece Place has welcomed thousands of Island families travelling for the health care of their children. With your gift, you can ensure that Jeneece Place and our new home away from home in Campbell River, Q̓ʷalayu House, are there for generations of Island families to come.

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