Abby Smithers, BC
It was a week before Christmas when Abby's parents became worried about their five-year-old daughter.
“She was thirsty and going to the bathroom all the time. Her hands were very dry and she just wasn’t feeling well,” says mom Becky. The doctor took one look at Abby, and tested her blood sugars. In a normal child, these would be around 5. Abby’s came back at 33, which meant diabetes.
With the diagnosis, life took a sudden turn. Coping with diabetes in a growing child is highly specialized, and the best option for support was at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, over 1100 km from their Smithers, BC home.
Road travel wasn’t an option. Sitting inactive in a car for 13 hours creates problems for diabetic children, and the need for frequent bathroom breaks makes the trip much longer.
The family flew down for the first trip, but as the time for the next regular followup approached Becky was worried. Now a single mom, she didn’t have the money. And without the help that BC Children’s provided, Abby faced serious problems. In growing children, keeping the blood sugars stable is a constant challenge. Diabetics can end up hospitalized or in diabetic shock, and if the sugars are out of balance for long periods, the results can be heart disease, blindness, and even loss of limbs.
"People probably have no idea how profound their impact is. Unless you have a child with chronic illness, you just can’t imagine what it means to your family."
Then help arrived: another mother told Becky about Hope Air. “At first it was unbelievable. You always think nothing is free. But this is the best thing ever! I knew I could get her the help she needed.”
The trips to Vancouver are far more than just appointments. Abby’s insulin pump requires constant adjusting, and it can be tricky. “If she’s having a sugar crash at a certain time, I can adjust,” says Becky. “But it might take me a month to get exactly the right balance, and during that time she’s feeling sick and missing school. When we see the specialist, he’ll have it sorted out in a couple hours.”
Thanks to that support, Abby has been able to do all the things children enjoy. She’s done gymnastics and dance, and is now an active member of 4-H. Through it all, Hope Air has been their lifeline. “If I could talk to the people who sponsor and donate, I’d probably drop to my knees and cry,” says Becky. “It’s such a relief. People probably have no idea how profound their impact is. Unless you have a child with chronic illness, you just can’t imagine what it means to your family."