Daphnee Northern Ontario
Daphnee is an active 13-year-old girl from Northern Ontario, with a black belt in taekwondo and a love of sports.
One day when Daphnee was coming out of the shower, her mother Julie noticed something was off. “I saw her spine and it looked crooked,” she says. “I texted my brother and he said it looks like scoliosis. He said, ‘don’t worry, but get it checked out as soon as possible.’”
Julie made an appointment with their family physician and took Daphnee to the clinic for x-rays. Doctors confirmed that Daphnee had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that can cause difficulty breathing and restricted mobility in severe cases. She was referred to SickKids Hospital in Toronto, where doctors determined that Daphnee would need surgery to correct her curving spine.
Because her scoliosis was progressing so quickly, her surgery had to be scheduled a year sooner than her doctors anticipated. While Daphnee waited for the surgery, she wore a back brace 20 hours each day to help prevent her spine from curving further. “She was a bit upset, but she’s a tough kid. She was showing off her brace at first, but she got fed up with it after a while.”
“It’s a six hour drive, but it’s only an hour on the plane...I seriously don’t know how she would have gotten back home without Hope Air."
Just before Daphnee’s surgery in June 2016, someone told Julie about Hope Air. She applied for a flight, and she and Daphnee flew to Toronto for the surgery. “It’s a six hour drive, but it’s only an hour on the plane. There are two buses and they don’t match the time we need to be in Toronto. There’s one at midnight and one at 12pm.”
The surgery was successful and Daphnee made great strides in her rehab at the hospital. “Her spine was curved 72 degrees before the surgery. Now it’s much better,” says Julie. “On the second day, she was walking halfway down the hallway. The nurse said most people just walk to the door.”
Daphnee was cleared to return home less than a week later, where she could continue her recovery. A Hope Air flight helped make the journey easier. “I seriously don’t know how she would have gotten back home without Hope Air. It’s a 45 minute drive to the airport from home. Just from that drive, she was sore, and we were in my dad’s truck where she had room to stretch. She wouldn’t have that space on a bus.”
Doctors told Daphnee she would be unable to play sports while she recovered, and that she shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a phone book. Limiting her physical activity to walking has been difficult for Daphnee, but her friends and school have been supportive of her recovery. “Her friends made her a get well card the day before she left for surgery. A boy in her class bought her a gift,” says Julie. “The school has been good for her too. They gave her the key to take the elevator, but she doesn’t like the extra attention. They let her take her pillow to class. One of the teachers bought little pillows for all the chairs.”
Daphnee flies with Hope Air for follow-up appointments to make sure her back is healing well. “At her six month check up, the doctor was impressed. He said he had no concerns and to keep doing what we’re doing.” Daphnee will need to continue to see her doctors at SickKids every few months, but the flights to Toronto are fun for Daphnee, Julie says. “She loves flying. She wants to be a flight attendant now.”