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Abigail gives her mom the best Christmas gift ever

Can you imagine decorating a tiny Christmas tree next to your hospital bed?

 That’s what four-year-old Abigail did when she stayed at Holland Bloorview. Her mom, Elizabeth, remembers her little girl struggling to sit up to add an ornament or decoration.

It was both heart-warming and heart-breaking.

 Abigail was just like most kids her age — active, fun-loving and full of spunk. That’s why it was such a devastating shock to her family when she suffered a stroke.

 Everything happened so quickly. What seemed like a stubborn cold quickly turned into a fight for her life.

 “It was the very last thing we expected,” said Elizabeth. If that wasn’t enough, the infection that caused the stroke required her to have emergency open-heart surgery.

 “Our brave little girl fought hard and pulled through surgery, but the stroke left her completely unable to use the left side of her body,” said Elizabeth, who remembers feeling totally helpless.

 Frightened of the future

Elizabeth wondered whether Abigail would ever run, jump and play the way she used to. Not knowing the long term effects of her stroke was terrifying. 

 Something so life-changing happening to a child would be difficult at any time.

 “It was even more difficult to have Abigail in hospital during the holidays when she should have been at home with her family,” said Elizabeth. But Elizabeth and Abigail received an early Christmas present when they learned they were being cared for by a team at Holland Bloorview was supportive and dedicated.

Holland Bloorview brings holiday cheer

“They became like members of our family which meant the world to us when it became clear we’d be spending the holidays in the hospital,” she said. “The nurses, therapists and doctors made it a Christmas we’ll never forget.”

Abigail was worried that Santa wouldn’t know where to find her, but her Holland Bloorview team set up a special video screen so that Abigail and the other kids could speak with Santa directly. 

When not at Abigail’s bedside, Elizabeth learned about Holland Bloorview – its cutting-edge equipment and resources, advanced technology, world-renowned support programs, critical research as well as its exceptional care.

“I’ve experienced these gifts first-hand and I can’t express how much of a difference they make,” she said.  

Best gift ever

Early in her treatment, Abigail couldn’t sit up on her own. The physiotherapy and occupational therapy Abigail received at Holland Bloorview were nothing short of miraculous.

Working with compassionate therapists, “Abigail learned how to walk again and has regained some use of her left side,” said Elizabeth. “We all cried when she took those monumental first steps. It was the greatest Christmas gift ever.”

During these breakthroughs, Elizabeth marveled at how the team took the time to really get to know Abigail.

“Everyone knew her favourite songs, her most-loved movies and the characters she loved to role-play,” said Elizabeth.  

When Abigail left Holland Bloorview after three months of therapy, she left with a very special gift of her own – a custom-made brace with her favourite cartoon character embedded right into the design!

“You just don’t expect that kind of personalized care from a hospital, but that’s Holland Bloorview,” said Elizabeth. “It’s more than a hospital, it’s a home.”

Abigail still has a long road ahead. She has a mechanical valve in her heart and still has to work on her fine motor skills.

But she and her mom are looking to the New Year with newfound hope and optimism.

“I’m reminded each holiday season as we watch Abigail decorate the little tree beside her bed — it’s now a tradition that started in the hospital – that anything is possible when kids with disabilities get the quality care they need.”