Island kids like Nathan need your help this holiday season


In the midst of her second healthy pregnancy, Island mom Laura was caught off guard when she went into labour at only 34 weeks. The last thing she was expecting was to meet her son six weeks early.

Baby Nathan was doing well in the NICU until his third day, when doctors did an ultrasound on his stomach. The test revealed that his kidneys were oversized and cystic. And when doctors had issues controlling his blood pressure, the family was referred to a pediatric kidney doctor in Vancouver to receive specialized care.

Finding answers

After meeting with the specialist in Vancouver, Laura and her husband Dan were relieved to learn that while Nathan’s kidneys were large, they weren’t concerningly oversized. They were sent home to Nanaimo with the knowledge that Nathan’s condition was mild.

That all changed, however, when they returned to the mainland for a six-month checkup and learned that Nathan’s kidneys had doubled in size. After genetic testing, doctors diagnosed Nathan with a rare kidney condition known as autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease.

After many long discussions with doctors, the parents learned that Nathan’s kidneys only functioned at about 25% and would continue to decline. He would need to go on dialysis, and eventually need a transplant.

Managing Nathan’s complex needs

When he was 15 months old, his blood pressure unexpectedly shot up after a routine check-up. This meant that the family had to be emergency air-lifted to Vancouver, where they ended up staying for more than five weeks.

“It was a nightmare right in the middle of COVID. Due to the pandemic, our four-year-old daughter, Noelle, couldn’t come with us. Travelling back and forth was so stressful,” recalls Laura.

During little Nathan’s two years of life, the family has already had to make the long trip from Nanaimo to Vancouver seven times.

How Bear Essentials helps

The reality of Nathan’s condition means that consistent travel to the mainland is the norm. For families like theirs, worries about their child’s health combined with the financial burden associated with travel including ferries, hotels, gas, and food, can simply be too much.

Thankfully, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island’s Bear Essentials program is there.

“I was shocked that Bear Essentials even exists. It really means a lot to us to get some help, because it is a huge expense. There is enough to worry about with Nathan without having to think about anything financial to do with his illness,” says Laura.

Although Nathan is on many medications and has to get lab work done every other month, he is a happy, cheeky two-year-old who is always busy and loves playing with his big sister. With a long road ahead for Nathan’s health care journey, Bear Essentials is there alongside the Nanaimo family to ease the burden.

“Bear Essentials takes such a weight off our shoulders. Thanks to Bear Essentials, we don’t have to make decisions about giving something else up to afford getting our child the health care he needs,” says Laura.

With your gift, you can make a difference for Island kids like Nathan.

Island kids need you this holiday season