Hunter & Lilley Prince George, BC
Amber and Kenneth’s children, Hunter and Lilley, are Hope Air frequent fliers.
Their son Hunter just turned eight, and he has come a long way since he was born at just 24 weeks. “We were airlifted right away to Vancouver,” says Amber. “The odds of him surviving were terrible.”
Hunter’s most immediate need was heart surgery to close a blood vessel that normally closes on its own after birth, but he was not strong enough. “His lungs weren’t working properly so his body wasn’t getting enough oxygen, even being on an oscillator at 600 breaths a minute. He had grade two or three brain bleed – we were told the outlook was bad. We were losing him.”
To their amazement he began to grow stronger and was able to have the heart surgery. But they knew they still had a difficult journey ahead. Hunter would need several more surgeries, and the family lived in Prince George, a 12-hour bus ride from the care that he needed. Even driving would take nine hours – far too long for an active, busy young boy. By plane, the journey takes only an hour.
"Without Hope Air, I’m not even sure Hunter would be here. This means the world to us. Thank you – you are heroes."
“We were maintaining two households – during the three months we were in Vancouver after Hunter was born, we stayed at the Easter Seals House. It was so stressful and we were so broke. And then we heard about Hope Air! I couldn’t even believe that this could happen,” says Amber.
The difference for the family is enormous. “There were times that we’d have appointments on consecutive weeks. To drive to Vancouver, have an appointment and drive back is three days out of my work time. We couldn’t have done it. Hope Air kept us afloat,” says Kenneth.
Hunter is now a veteran Hope Air client, receiving 23 flights with Hope Air’s airline partner WestJet. This has ensured that he got safely to heart surgery, laser eye surgery, brain surgery, and many other appointments at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
The family’s Hope Air story continued when their daughter Lilley was born eight weeks premature, and needed immediate surgery on her trachea and esophagus in Vancouver. She was born with two rare conditions, tracheoesophageal fistula and esophageal atresia, which affect the connection of the esophagus to the windpipe and the stomach.
“The surgery was so quick,” says Amber. “We were in and out. It’s amazing what they can do.”
Lilley has needed four round trip flights in the past two years to see specialists at BC Children’s.
“Hope Air is a great organization,” Amber says. “Instead of these trips being an ordeal, we can provide a much more positive experience for our children. And it’s allowed our children to get the care they needed.”
Amber also appreciates WestJet’s support. “They have been wonderful too. They are always so helpful and welcoming.”
Today, the children are both thriving and healthy. “Hunter is eager to learn and gets along with everyone,” says Amber. “He likes anything with wheels, and his new puppy! Lilley loves everything girly – unless it’s her brother’s toys, which she loves to play with.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without Hope Air. I don’t like asking for help, but I have to, and it’s amazing that there are people willing to give like this. I can’t even explain what it means to us.”
She adds, “Without Hope Air, I’m not even sure Hunter would be here. This means the world to us. Thank you – you are heroes.”