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Have you ever wanted to give up on something?

There was a time I wanted to give up on living. And I hadn’t even turned 18. I wanted to throw in the towel, but Holland Bloorview wouldn’t let me. 

I’m sharing my story with you because you’re the reason I’ve come so far. You and donors like you have trusted Holland Bloorview to help kids like me achieve our dreams. Thank you. 

I had a stroke in grade eleven – not something you expect to happen as a teenager. 
 
When it started, I thought it was just a headache. I left school, and soon after I couldn’t speak and started vomiting. The rest is a blur. 
 
I was rushed into emergency surgery. There was nothing my parents could do but wait…for 18 days. That’s how long I was in a coma. They were so scared.
 
When I woke up I was breathing through a ventilator. I learned I had an AVM bleed – the veins in my brain were so malformed, they ruptured causing bleeding in my brain, leading to the stroke. Doctors had to remove a portion of my skull to operate.
 
I remember lying in that hospital bed, staring at the ceiling asking, “What happened to my life?” 
 
Before the stroke, I was an honour student. I had dreams of going to university. I wanted to do all the things you probably did – graduate with friends, go to the prom. All of that vanished in an instant. I felt so lost. 
 
When I came to Holland Bloorview I didn’t know how much it would change my life. This is where I rediscovered my strength, my courage, and my spirit. 
I didn’t see my potential when I first arrived at Holland Bloorview. It was so hard. You should have seen my first therapy sessions. I couldn’t lift my arms. I couldn’t remember simple words. It broke my heart. 

But no matter how I felt, the staff and community at Holland Bloorview had an optimism and energy that affected me. 

And then something magical happened. I took my first steps with a walker. It was just a few steps, but it meant the world to me. For the very first time I thought, “Maybe, just maybe this will actually work.” 
 
 
 Over the next two years I was an outpatient and determined to graduate. I juggled therapy and schoolwork. I had more surgeries. Those two years were the hardest of my life. But I refused to give up.  
 
I graduated with honours and started university in the fall after finishing a marketing diploma in college. I’d love to say that things are so much easier now but I’d be lying to you. 
 
Despite the challenges and demands, there’s one thing I won’t give up…being a part of Holland Bloorview.
 
Like you, I know that there are so many kids who are going through the same struggles I did. That’s why I started volunteering. I’m part of the hospital’s Youth Advisory Council, lending my voice to hospital programs and research. I know my voice can benefit other youth with disabilities.
 
 
Thanks to you, I’m so excited about my future and ready for the next step. When I graduate from university, when that degree is handed to me, I’ll quietly be saying thank you to my family, to Holland Bloorview, and to you. You got me here. 
 
Sincerely, 
Cristina Malana
Holland Bloorview client