How Bear Essentials supports the comfort and independence of Island kid Emma

Bear Essentials program - Island kid Emma

Like many five-year-olds, Emma is a kind and outgoing girl with endless energy. She loves playing in the park with her big sister Rhiannon, swimming, and cooking with her family. The meal they prepare doesn’t matter – Emma is just thrilled to be involved.

In 2014, Jessica gave birth to baby Emma at a hospital in Vancouver after a full-term pregnancy. Right before they were about to return home to Victoria, however, her doctors discovered a heart murmur. After Emma was diagnosed with a heart condition, Jessica was told to return to the hospital in two weeks to follow up with cardiology.

The family has made the trip to the mainland close to every two weeks since.

Finding answers

In the months following her birth, it became clear that her heart condition was not her only health challenge. Emma has struggled to gain weight, has ongoing digestive issues, deals with reflux between her bladder and kidneys, and had a uretic implantation to help her chronic infections. When she was three, she had two significant seizures, although the doctors have ruled out epilepsy. She also had eye surgery and another scheduled.

Emma has since been diagnosed with autism, an intellectual disability, and severe ADHD, and has a range of complex health challenges that require her to see multiple medical teams on a regular basis.

Emma’s doctors have not yet been able to identify the underlying causes of her conditions, despite undergoing genetic testing. They have recently developed a working diagnosis of congenital myasthenic syndrome, which Jessica hopes will lead to answers.

How Bear Essentials helped Emma

Thanks to Bear Essentials, the family was able to purchase a very expensive piece of equipment that has become vital to her wellbeing – a pediatric wheelchair stroller.

While being outdoors lights Emma up like nothing else, her autism often causes her to run off unexpectedly. This can endanger her safety, because Jessica is always worried that Emma may run into a dangerous situation.

On top of that, her loose joints and poor muscle tone can lead her to become suddenly drained of energy. When this happens, the wheelchair is a perfect support.

“She goes from being the energizer bunny to beyond exhausted and unable to recharge,” says Jessica. “The wheelchair helps as far as that goes, and prevents her from running through parking lots because she’d outgrown the stroller I’d had for her. It means that we can actually take her out, and make sure that she’s safe in just about any situation.”

And after finding out that Emma would need eyeglasses, Jessica was happy that Bear Essentials would be able to lend its support again.

“I received the eyeglasses when were at the hospital quite a bit. I’d been told it would be five to seven days, and we’d been here for six weeks! Bear Essentials provided me the opportunity to get her glasses, when I wouldn’t have been able to afford them at that time.”

Hope for the future

While Emma will need to be monitored by the hospital’s neurology, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, urology, and cardiology units for at least the next several years, Jessica finds hope in the support of Bear Essentials.

“Bear Essentials has meant that I was actually able to get the equipment Emma needed. Without it, it would have been – beyond difficult. It’s very much a relief to know that Bear Essentials is an option if we need it again in the future.”

Thanks to generous donors like you, Emma can continue to access the medical equipment and travel to the services she needs to thrive. Will you help us make sure that every Island kid has the same opportunity? Make a gift to the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island today!

Update February 2022: Emma is now seven years old, going to school in a modified grade two program, and has no major health concerns. 

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