Holland Bloorview helped me to write the next chapter

By Nikoletta Erdelyi

Bright, open spaces. Dr. Biggar’s giant bowtie. The warm, soothing water of the therapeutic pool. State of the art assistive devices; confidence to make my mark. If Holland Bloorview’s walls could talk, they would take you on a journey of childhood memories, and mine would be among them. 

Born in Hungary with a rare condition called Arthrogryposis that prevents me from walking due to joint contractures, hospitals, surgeries, and medical appointments were a big part of my life as a child. But putting aside my spending far too many hours on scary, cold examination tables in ancient looking hospitals, I was a typical little girl, clinging to dolls and fairytales. 

At six years old, when my family moved to Canada, the potential for my future would drastically change for the better with the exceptional healthcare team at Holland Bloorview behind me. 

I started to attend physiotherapy which included two swims per week in Holland Bloorview’s pool, and I was closely monitored by the neuromuscular clinic who kept on eye on the curve in my spine as it progressed.

The staff had in-depth conversations with my parents and I about my hopes, dreams, and ways we could enhance my quality of life even with the daily use of a wheelchair. 

This open dialogue was so refreshing. Medical appointments were no longer a time for fear and anxiety. I was part of the conversation about my healthcare and I felt heard. Holland Bloorview felt nothing like the ancient looking hospitals I was used to. With its bright spaces, and a garden reminiscent of the fairytales my mom read me, it felt more like a community centre. 

Independence set in motion

As I entered high school, questions about my future became increasingly complex. I wanted a wheelchair that I felt confident in and would be easy to use. The occupational therapists in the seating clinic worked with me and external vendors to recommend a state of the art wheelchair, engineered in Germany, equipped with power-assist wheels that make it light and effortless to get around on most surfaces. 

My wheelchair gave me independence and access to every part of my life. Later in my teens, when my peers started working part-time jobs at coffee shops, I started to wonder about employment and decided to try a summer life skills program called Youth@Work, which helped me gain experience. 

I completed a placement in Holland Bloorview’s therapeutic playroom, and the following year, started working part-time here, running an inpatient program that taught children and youth about internet resources and safety. I stayed in that role for over three years and have wonderful memories of interacting with clients. 

Full life, full heart

Today, I’m 27. I have a university degree and a full-time career as a project coordinator at York University. I’ve lived on my own since I was 20, and in addition to my work, I’m a writer and artist, constantly seeking new methods for creative expression. 

Although I was discharged from Holland Bloorview nearly ten years ago, I’m no stranger to its friendly hallways. As a youth leader, I often speak at hospital events about employment, art, and transitioning to adulthood. 

This transition is often the most difficult piece of receiving care here. Many clients and families don’t know what questions they should ask because many don’t even know what they’re allowed to hope for when it comes to adulthood. 

Holland Bloorview is a big part of my success and quality of life as a woman who uses a wheelchair. If anything about my experience can help pave the way for families getting ready to make this transition, that’s incredibly rewarding. 

As an adult, I’m learning just how vivid my memories of pediatric healthcare are. They become ingrained in our spirits and it’s important that we foster as many positive memories as we can because childhood, after all, should remain a time of innocence, play, and self-discovery.