Meet Kiera: How Children’s Health Foundation lightens the load for this Island student with complex health challenges
For most post-secondary students, their main worries involve finishing their coursework, studying for finals, and covering the expenses of their tuition, food, books, and accommodation. This is the case for University of Victoria student Kiera – along with the ongoing burden of managing her complex health challenges.
Kiera was a thriving seventeen-year-old in her final year of high school who loved dancing, art, and travelling when out of nowhere, she found that she was losing her balance while dancing. As a usually coordinated person, this took Kiera by surprise.
“I was a competitive dancer; I’d danced in Disneyworld. I was all about the arts. Then one day I was dancing, and these normal turns were all of a sudden incredibly hard. It was so weird. I had no idea what was going on,” recalls Kiera.
Doctors soon found that Kiera was in the early stages of multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that affects the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. She was suddenly faced with the new reality of using a walker, dealing with vision problems, and difficulties with writing by hand. Since then, Kiera has had plasma treatments, as well as four rounds of an aggressive treatment that wipes out her B and T cells, affecting her immunity.
Despite her health challenges, Kiera pushes forward to pursue her passions, goals, and education. She is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at the University of Victoria majoring in psychology and minoring in education. Outside of class, she works part-time for Foundry BC and Integrated Youth Services on creating dialogues for high school students to discuss mental illness and substance use, in addition to conducting university research on memory loss.
And thanks to the Children’s Health Foundation’s Lisa Huus Bursary, Kiera’s financial burden has been lightened so she can focus on her studies. For students with complex health needs like Kiera, post-secondary course loads often must be spread out over several years to accommodate their health conditions. This can create financial strain and threaten the ability of students to finish their degrees.
“Without the financial burden of school being lifted by the bursary, I would never be able to accomplish my degree, work, and research,” reflects Kiera.
With the long-term goal of either working with individuals with mental illness or becoming an occupational therapist, Kiera has a bright future ahead of her.
“The Lisa Huus Bursary has been awesome because while my peers have to worry about tuition, books, and accommodation as the price of school, I also need to think about medications and treatments as expenses. The bursary has helped take that piece off my mind, so I’ve been able to focus on my health,” says Kiera.
The Lisa Huus Memorial Fund was created in memory of Lisa Pauline Huus in 1988 by her family and has been supported by personal donations and fundraising activities for 30 years. To learn more, visit our Lisa Huus page.