Allie New Liskeard, ON
A diagnosis of a brain tumour is difficult enough. Imagine what a parent feels when it is diagnosed in their 5-year-old girl. This was the case for Julie and her husband Steven, who were strongly advised that their daughter report to SickKids within 24 hours.
With the family living in New Liskeard, a community of 4,000 people located 2 hours north of North Bay, travel to Toronto wasn’t easy. “We love our community. Everyone here is so great,“says Julie. “It is difficult, however, to be so far away from the specialized health care that Allie so desperately needed.”
After a long 9 days in hospital waiting for the final diagnosis, this family was told that Allie’s condition of a brain tumour, would require weekly treatments of chemotherapy delivered in Toronto.
“We decided from the beginning that we would do everything to ensure that Allie would experience as little stress as possible. We knew that stress would not help with her treatment and it was important that we try to keep things calm,” says Julie.
Travel to Toronto was tough at first. Weekly visits included travelling over 9 hours by bus, only to arrive with Allie uncomfortable and in some distress. “The transport home was even worse for her, just having gone through chemotherapy and feeling the effects of treatment.”
Weekly air travel was out of financial reach for this family that lived a close knit, but modest lifestyle. They knew it would be the preferred mode of travel but were uncertain they could do it until they heard about Hope Air. ‘My sister-in-law mentioned it to me and I immediately went online,” says Julie. “I submitted an application, I received a call and it was done. It was easy and immediately changed our lives for the better.”
Hope Air is the only national charity that provides free air travel to low-income patients that have to travel far from home for medical care. Since its inception
in 1986, Hope Air has provided over 130,000 flights to patients in need. The organization relies on donations, the support of commercial airlines and a dedicated group of volunteers to provide these critical services.
From September 2017 to August 2018, Hope Air provided over 900 flights to clients from Northern Ontario alone.
“I began to look forward to travelling to Toronto," says Allie, who was excited to fly to her weekly treatments. “I made a real connection with the airline staff who I would see all the time and they did everything to
make me feel welcome.”
Using traditional airlines at first, Hope Air also has a number of private pilots who provide air travel to those in need. “I really got to know the pilots really well and we didn’t have to travel to Timmins to catch the plane,” says Allie. Her dad was so intrigued with the private travel option that he has since become a pilot and plans to volunteer his time when he retires from farming.
Allie is now 12 years old and treats life just like any other girl her age. “I still have the tumour but it isn’t affecting me right now. I probably will always have to live with it. I hope that someday I won’t have to have any treatments, but I will miss my nurse in Sudbury. We’ve gotten really close.”
When looking at the future, this family is thankful they learned about Hope Air’s services and want to spread the word to those who are in a similar situation. In the meantime, Allie is getting on with school, playing with her cats on the family farm and dreaming of the future.
“I think I could grow up to be a pilot,” says Allie, who often flies with her dad just for fun.
Watch Allie tell her Hope Air story here.