Jessy Sault Ste. Marie, ON

When Kathy’s five-year-old daughter Jessy began complaining of intense headaches, she never imagined it would be the beginning of a series of complicated surgeries and trips 8 to ten hours away to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa from her home in Sault Ste. Marie.
Living in Northern Ontario doesn’t come without its challenges. Despite its scenic rapids and falls, the brutally long winters and geographical isolation cannot be ignored. In fact, families in the North often have to leave their communities for significant amounts of time to access medical treatment. This can be emotionally and financially draining for families struggling with illness.
When asked why she doesn’t just pack up and move to the nation’s capital to be closer to her daughter’s specialists, Kathy explains that it isn’t so simple. “I can’t do that. I have other children, and our support network of friends and extended family is here. The Soo is home for us.”
Kathy started noticing something was wrong with her daughter’s health when Jessy experienced frequent headaches in her kindergarten class. One particularly bad headache prompted a hospital visit. As the headaches continued, and Kathy’s panic and desperation increased, she sought out an eye doctor, who detected swelling near Jessy’s optic nerve. Shortly after, an MRI scan at the hospital picked up three cysts in the ventricles of Jessy’s brain.
Doctors in Sault Ste. Marie arranged for Jessy to be airlifted right away to Ottawa. Specialists there diagnosed her with hydrocephalus, a disorder that causes cranial fluid and pressure buildup. As the specialist appointments became more frequent and required longer stays, doctors in Ottawa recommended that she fly to ease the stress of travel.
“People recommended Hope Air to us at our hospital in the Soo. After learning how they have helped other families in our community cope with medical challenges, I reached out to Hope Air, and they have been amazing with us.
“It was easy to go through their process, and they were quick to book flights. Hope Air has taken the pressure of financial worries for flights away and given our family hope. Whenever I hear about other families who are struggling with a sick child, or an illness of their own, I let them know about Hope Air.”
Hope Air has taken the pressure of financial worries for flights away and given our family hope.
To date, Jessy, who is now ten, has had ten surgeries total. There is no cure for her condition, and there is always a concern that one of the shunts installed to drain fluid from her brain may need immediate attention. Yet the family remains hopeful. Hope Air continues to fly Jessy and her mom to Ottawa for treatments.
“Jessy’s goal this summer is to go camping and enjoy the outdoors with her family. Every day with her is a gift for us. Hope Air has been a godsend. They are truly the angels of the sky.”