Alberni District Secondary School Grade 12 student Denae Edgar joined more than 200 graduates who walked the stage at the AV Multiplex to receive their certificates of completion.
Adorned in her red grad gown and cap Edgar walked on the stage as a Grade 12 student then walked down the runway and into adult life.
Her achievement is remarkable not because she graduated but because she was physically able to attend the ceremony. Just weeks before, a medical condition prevented her from attending prom.
In early June, Edgar had gone grad dress shopping in Nanaimo and picked out her dress, shoes and accessories and she’d made final plans for the June 7 prom.
“I really felt grad coming after the May long weekend,” Edgar said. “I was sitting around the fire with friends at Sproat Lake and I thought ‘I’m graduating and leaving here in less than four months’”.
On Wednesday, June 4 Edgar was going about her day at school. She was only taking two classes and worked at a job the rest of the time. She felt a little off by noon.
“My stomach started feeling funny and then it started to hurt,” Edgar said.
She went home to get ready for work but the pain wouldn’t subside and was getting worse. She went to work but the pain was too much to take.
“I stayed at work for 20 minutes but the pain was so bad that I was hunched over and knew I had to go,” she said.
Edgar tried to go to the walk-in clinic but it was closed. She went to West Coast General Hospital where she waited in the emergency room for three hours before a doctor finally examined her.
“When he pressed on my stomach it hurt like nothing I’ve felt before,” she said.
Edgar was prescribed antibiotics but nearly fainted as she tried to leave. She checked into hospital and was prescribed morphine which didn’t stop the pain, and her blood pressure began to drop.
The next morning a scan revealed that a cyst burst and a large amount of blood had pooled around one of her ovaries.
Doctors operated on Edgar from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. They repaired the damage and managed to save her ovary but Edgar was left in a lot of pain. “It hurt so bad when they moved me from one bed to another.”
The incision in her stomach required staples to close. Merely laughing tensed her stomach and caused pain. “That was hard because I’m the kind of person who likes to laugh and have fun,” Edgar said.
She spent Friday and Saturday recovering in hospital. Edgar vowed not to miss prom and tried to take a few steps on June 7 but the pain was too much to take.
“The surgeon said I shouldn’t go because it would tear my incision. I got really emotional and really sad because I didn’t want to miss it, but I was going to.”
On the evening of prom Edgar’s friends who were also graduating visited her in hospital before going to prom.
Edgar sat in her room until her step-mother came in and asked her to come to the ward’s visiting area. “My family set up a mini-prom for me with cake, balloons and decorations,” she said. “They had to be serious though because I still couldn’t laugh. I cried though.”
Edgar left hospital and spent a week at home in bed. The standout athlete would have gone stir-crazy if not for home entertainment. “When you’re laid up in bed then Netflix is the thing,” she said.
Edgar made it to ADSS on the last day of school (June 13) to get her yearbook signed and to say goodbye to some teachers.
She also managed to attend the ADSS awards ceremony that same day. She won the Barry Gus Crisis Response Memorial Bursary as well as a Dogwood District Authority Award for volunteer work.
A member of the Ditidaht First Nation, Edgar attended the Nuu-chah-nulth Graduation Ceremony on June 13 where she got to wear her prom dress for the first time.
“I was excited because that was the moment I’d been waiting for all year,” she said. “I missed prom but I got to feel the same thing at the NTC grad. It made up for a lot.”
Edgar is focusing her attention on her future now.
She’s set to attend Camosun College in September where she will be studying child and youth care for two years before transferring to the University of Victoria to complete her degree. She hopes to work with children when done.
The experience has both tempered and wizened Edgar. “It’s been hard and I feel like I missed a lot in the last two weeks,” she said.
“I learned that things can happen suddenly so you should grasp life tightly while you can because you never know.”