THE COMPASS

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ASHLEY BY DIANNE DALE

My daughter Ashley was born on January 3, 1993 and it was the happiest day of my life. She was a healthy baby girl full of energy. At 14 months she started showing signs of weakness to her right leg and right arm. Her left eye was starting to shut and being a new mom I had no idea what was wrong. Within a week she was unable to keep food down. We took her to the emergency department where we were introduced to Dr. Aronyk. From that moment on he never left Ashley’s side. He ordered an MRI and our world was turned upside down. The results showed a bleed in Ashley’s brain. Dr. Aronyk performed an emergency surgery not knowing what he was going to find. He said it could be a tumour or an aneurysm. He also said that her chances of survival were less than 25 per cent. The surgery was 12 hours and every second seemed to last for hours.

Our children are true angels; they are strong, courageous and full of hope and love. We all can learn from them. I believe that all things happen for a reason.

I will never forget the moment when the surgery was complete and Dr. Aronyk said that she made it and that she did great. He told us it was a cavernous malformation on the stem of her brain and that she would need rehabilitation and continuous MRI scans. Ashley grew into a healthy, beautiful young girl who was incredibly active. She played soccer, volleyball and did hip hop dance. All the while, she still continued MRIs on a regular basis.

When Ashley was 12 years old, she was on a modelling photo shoot when she complained of her right leg feeling weak. We also noticed she was dropping things. We did not think it was anything as she had been doing so well for so long. We booked an MRI as it had been time for the next one, and once again our world fell apart.

She was hemorrhaging again. We could not believe this was happening. She was booked in for her second surgery and Dr. Aronyk was optimistic. At this time we were introduced to Wendy, the nurse practitioner of neurosurgery. Wendy and Dr. Aronyk never left her side or ours. Dr. Aronyk told us that we needed to prepare ourselves that the chances of Ashley being in a coma for several months. We would deal with anything we had to, as long as she survived. Once again the surgery was over 12 hours and she made it through. She was awake and looked at Wendy and said, “Hi Wendy!” It was a miracle again!

Ashley had to learn how to walk, talk and write again. Her strength, determination and will to live was remarkable. She never gave up. She was just at the point of going back to school full-time and getting back to her life with her friends when we once again noticed weakness.

Ashley underwent her third brain surgery, this time in Calgary because there was no MRI in our operating room. It was devastating to not be in our hospital, the Stollery. Dr. Aronyk and Wendy travelled to Calgary and were by her and our side once again. Dr. Aronyk said that this surgery would be so aggressive and there would be so much damage that the chances of her walking again would be almost zero.

Ashley’s surgery was 14 hours long and for the third time a miracle happened. Nine days after surgery we were transported to the Stollery in an ambulance and she recovered there for another two weeks. We went to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and Ashley our true hero and fighter came through again! The doctors were amazed by the miracle of Ashley starting to walk again.

Ashley is now 21 and continues MRIs and rehabilitation on her walking. She is working at the Stollery Children’s Hospital under Dr. Aronyk and Wendy and wants to do whatever she can to give back and help children. She participates in volunteer work and fundraising for the Neurosurgery Kids Fund.

As a mother of a sick child it is so difficult to find the words to describe the pain. All I wanted to do was take her pain away. Children should never be sick. When your child is sick the world outside stops, and nothing matters but your child.

Our children are true angels; they are strong, courageous and full of hope and love. We all can learn from them. I believe that all things happen for a reason.

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