It was a bit of a sombre Christmas for members of the Jamieson family of 108 Mile Ranch who spent their holiday at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Brenden Jamieson, 14, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease on Nov. 15 and his father, James, notes his son’s health went quickly downhill from there.
The youth was rushed to 100 Mile District General Hospital six days later, and then airlifted to Vancouver overnight. After a CT scan showed a ruptured bowel, James says his son underwent emergency surgery on Nov. 25.
“If they didn’t operate by morning, we probably would have lost him.”
Brenden’s mother, Janice, went with him on the Medivac, and spent the rest of 2013 in his hospital room, sleeping on a fold-out bed for six weeks. James notes she had never flown before, and was “a bit shy” at first in dealing with the all the necessary people.
“It’s amazing how strong a mother can be when it comes down to her child. It just becomes a bond between them.”
James and Brenden’s brother, Colin, then travelled down to hospital in Vancouver to be together with them for a few days over the holidays.
“We went downstairs and just had a hamburger in the cafeteria on Christmas Day because it’s not fair to do that in front of him.”
Brenden was allowed out of hospital with his family for six hours each day and James says his son had visiting some of Vancouver’s attractions on his simple holiday wish list.
“We had some surprising donations that took us to Vancouver Aquarium and Stanley Park Bright Nights, and gave us some movie passes.
“[Folks] came around on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with coffee and cookies and juice – things you don’t have when you’re there.”
While the family is very grateful for the help it has received, Christmas was “light-years” from what they are accustomed to during holidays at home, with a decorated tree and a campfire.
“Normally, my wife is doing her baking – so this year it was a little bit different.”
Janice says it has all been an “eye-opening” experience for her, and very painful and stressful for Brenden.
“It’s been mainly hard on him, so, of course, it’s hard as a parent. You are absolutely helpless. You just follow instructions to a point, but there was a lot of emotional stuff as well.”
It has been a “life-changing” event for her son, she explains, who will have to deal with health and diet ramifications for the rest of his life.
Throughout his suffering and treatments, Brenden has been a trooper, she adds.
“He’s got a huge pain tolerance, but his will power is just amazing. I think he realizes there aren’t a whole lot of choices – it’s happened, and we are stuck with it.”
Brenden returned home on New Year’s Day, and James says he was slowly getting back onto solid food within a few days.
They had to take their son back to BC Children’s Hospital on Jan. 6 for a few days to have more shots, but this time, it was scheduled. Along with other treatments, Brenden will be travelling back for this year, as the injections will be an ongoing process for him.
He is facing more surgery in about 12 months to reverse the colostomy he’d had in November.
The shots alone cost $700 each, James notes, although is partially covered by provincial health care. However, he adds they don’t have extended health coverage and must find ways to deal with residual expenses.
The low-income family is struggling under the mounting costs of Brenden’s health care and their regular trips to be with him and consult with his doctors.
“That kind of hit us hard.”
Janice is an on-call teacher’s assistant with only minimal hours and James has no work over the winter in his seasonal job as a cement truck driver, so they are struggling to get by on his Employment Insurance cheques.
They have been unable to maintain Facebook or e-mails to keep friends in the community updated on Brenden’s condition, as James notes they cancelled their Internet coverage to help cover these sudden expenses.
However, any community members who wish to help may donate toward the costs of Brenden’s health care. Funds can be deposited directly into Williams Lake & District Credit Union savings account number 526087.
The family is grateful for the support they’ve had, he adds, including their doctor who had delivered Brenden in 1999.
“Dr. Gerry Lubbe was just outstanding; in getting a hold of BC Children’s Hospital and saying, ‘Get this boy in there,’ and getting him down there. He saved his life.
“And the nurses of the 100 Mile hospital were just fantastic.”
Meanwhile, Janice says they are making the best of a sad situation, and held a belated Christmas celebration at home with extended family.
“Brenden has just been so motivated and so determined to get better and get home. I’m just so proud.”