Joseph Gold River, BC
The mystery of nine-year-old Joseph’s condition began with water – lots of it. “He would drink and drink and drink so much water,” mother Marianne remembers. At the time, Joseph was a year old.
Marianne’s fears were justified when she took her oldest son to the doctors, whose tests confirmed Joseph had polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive urination). But they weren’t able to find a cause. “He’s on medication for now,” says Marianne.
That wasn’t all. When Joseph was two years old, he was diagnosed with severe epilepsy. And while symptoms began emerging early in childhood, it wasn’t until Joseph was seven that he received yet another diagnosis: autism.
Most concerning of all, Joseph has a troublesome tremble – a shake – that closely resembles Parkinson’s disease. His family is still waiting for this diagnosis today.
It’s a difficult situation for Marianne and her husband, two older parents who, in addition to Joseph, have two six-year old boys to raise in their remote community on Vancouver Island – a long distance away from BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where Joseph receives his medical care. The family is located almost two hours away from the local airport and closest bus station. If they’re travelling by bus, they’ll need to board an additional ferry to access the mainland. For medical reasons, Marianne can’t drive, but even if she could, the roads can get slippery depending on the weather and season, making the nine-hour journey by land and water that much more arduous.
Fortunately, a compassionate school nurse told them about Hope Air four years ago and helped Marianne fill out her first application. “I’m not internet savvy,” Marianne explains. “But it was really easy to follow directions. The second time we needed a flight, I did it on my own and it was fairly easy. I try to make my appointments all on the same day, so I don’t need to request a flight too often. It worked out really well for us.”
Indeed, Joseph loves the 45-minute flights on the little airplanes. He’s even bonded with Steven, one of the volunteer pilots who’s flown them several times and who always gets an enthusiastic “Hi, Steven!” from Joseph every time they meet. “The first time Joseph boarded a 19-seater plane, he said, ‘Wow, this is huge!’”, Marianne recalls, fondly.
Despite her own initial anxiety about flying on tiny aircrafts, Marianne has also grown fond of them. “Small planes are more fun than big ones because you can see everything down below. It’s neat to see areas you would be driving through, past the boats and all that.”
Joseph and Marianne have more scheduled flights later in the year to get to the bottom of Joseph’s medical conditions. The family feels grateful for the support Hope Air has given them since 2015. “It’s really difficult to have a child with health challenges", says Marianne. "Hope Air makes it easier to deal with everything. It has helped us immensely and we are incredibly grateful to the people who put in the volunteer hours to fly and who are on the other side of the phones. Thank you to everybody.”