Kathleen Fredericton, NB

KathleenAs a teenager, Kathleen had a promising music career ahead of her. Playing in the Irish folk genre, she released multiple albums, was nominated for various music awards, performed for audiences in North America and Europe, and had her songs played on radio stations globally. The future looked bright and hopeful.

While studying and travelling abroad in Europe, though, Kathleen faced a trauma that changed everything: she was sexually assaulted.

She had struggled with her mental health as a teen, but handling this trauma was beyond anything Kathleen had experienced before. She developed an eating disorder.

“I just had no coping mechanisms,” she says. “Everything escalated pretty quickly.”

The eating disorder soon resulted in organ failure, and Kathleen was flown from Europe back home to Fredericton, NB. After spending several months in a Fredericton hospital, she was told nothing more could be done there for her eating disorder. She was transferred to Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, ON, one of the largest mental health facilities in the country.
“I just had no coping mechanisms. Everything escalated pretty quickly.”

Kathleen spent about four months at Homewood until she was deemed medically stable. Part of her treatment at that point required Kathleen to take a mandatory therapeutic leave—a weekend to return to her Fredericton home and practice re-integrating into regular life.

“It’s to practice being in the real world,” Kathleen says of the leave. “It would be too much of a shock to just get discharged from the hospital and not really know how to act anymore.”

But she faced an obstacle at this all-important stage of treatment: the heavy cost of the trips home and back.

“I couldn’t afford to go home. I wasn’t working. I hadn’t been able to work for months leading up to my stay at Homewood. And there was the cost of buying new clothes, because of course my weight fluctuated,” says Kathleen. “But [going home] was actually part of the program.”

Luckily a nurse recommended Hope Air. Kathleen says she was nervous to call in at first because therapeutic leaves can be granted precariously – the patients’ weights and diets are monitored to ensure they are stable enough for the trip, and trips can be postponed with little notice – and she wasn’t sure if that might affect the status of her Hope Air travel request.
"They didn’t treat me like I was sick, like I was used to people doing. It was probably the best part about Hope Air.”

But the Hope Air process was easy, she says, and only took a couple of days.

“[Client Care representatives] were very understanding that it was last-minute. And they didn’t make it seem like a hassle at all, they were so friendly,” Kathleen says. “They didn’t treat me like I was sick, like I was used to people doing. It was refreshing. It was probably the best part about Hope Air.”

“Quite a few of the girls at Homewood used Hope Air, and all of them found it really helpful,” she adds.

With her Hope Air flights, Kathleen was able to go on the therapeutic leave.

“It was really important in my recovery,” she says. “Without that visit – getting out of the hospital completely – it would have been sad. I didn’t even know how to act. I got to spend time with my friends in ways I hadn’t been able to in over a year, just hanging out and having fun, going for coffee or lunch. It gave me extra motivation to finish up my treatment and do my best to get better.”

Eventually she was discharged from Homewood and returned to Fredericton, where, after being triggered by an unexpected flashback to the assault, she relapsed and returned to Guelph a second time. During this stay, she progressed through the Homewood program until she was ready to take a therapeutic leave again. Hope Air arranged her free travel home and back this time as well. And in time, Kathleen was discharged—for good.

Now Kathleen is in recovery. After a long hiatus, she re-launched her music career and has even signed with a record label in Toronto – less than a year after leaving Homewood.

“I quit playing music when everything went bad,” she says. “I started playing in secret again when I went to Homewood. Those girls inspired me to keep going. I think without Homewood, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

Kathleen says she’s grateful she was able to get to the treatment she needed. At the same time, she’s disappointed she wasn’t able to access intensive treatment like this closer to home.

“A huge number of people here in the Maritimes have eating disorders and mental health problems, and the resources just don’t match,” she says.

Providing access to the proper resources is why Hope Air’s services are so important.

“It doesn’t matter what province you live in, the need is the same. We need access in every province.”