April 27, 2015
Wesley’s big ride
There isn’t much that Wesley enjoys as much as riding his specially-outfitted tricycle around his neighbourhood, but visiting his favorite therapists and friends at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital during his weekly appointments comes close, says his mom, Laura.
“If you ask him, ‘Do you want to go see your friends at Holland Bloorview?’, you’ll get a big smile, a big nod. It’s a social hub,’’ says Laura. “He likes saying hi to other patients. If a kid is on a walker, he’ll sign ‘I have a walker.’ If a kid is using a wheelchair, he’ll sign ‘I have a wheelchair.’ If a kid is on a bike, he’ll sign, ‘I have a bike.’”
Wesley, now 4, has made lots of friends at Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital. He has worked closely with Holland Bloorview’s physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nurses and other supportive staff during two in-patient stays and ongoing out-patient visits.
Wesley had been developing as expected when, shortly after his first birthday, he experienced balance issues, weakness on his left side and impaired speech; symptoms that led to the discovery of a malignant brain tumour. Fewer than 10 per cent of patients survive this rare form of cancer. Wesley was fortunate, but the chemotherapy, radiation and stem-cell transplant treatments that followed his surgery took their toll. “When he first came to Holland Bloorview, he couldn’t roll over, he couldn’t hold his head up, he couldn’t swallow,” says Laura.
During Wesley’s first five-month stay at Holland Bloorview, he wasn’t so keen on his rehabilitation program, although his occupational therapist at the time, Janet Bernstein, now ranks among his favorite people. “He’d cry, but they’d walk him through the exercises anyway,” says Laura. A physician herself, Laura was encouraged that Holland Bloorview’s staff had no preconceived expectations. “We all wanted to focus on Wesley’s unlimited potential,” she says.
Randy Dindial was the primary nurse assigned to Wesley during his first admission. “Randy has a gentle and very caring approach to his patients and really got to know all the members of ‘Team Wesley,’” says Laura. Wesley's parents and 4 grandparents have all stayed overnight with him in the hospital at different times. “Randy always took the time to chat and get to know each of us, as well as being attentive to Wesley's medical needs. This intimate friendliness, as well as having an extended cheering squad for every new goal that he meets, is a big part of why Wesley feels so comfortable at Holland Bloorview.”
Following his first discharge from Holland Bloorview, Wesley was treated for 14 months as an out-patient at a Hamilton cancer clinic, where he continued to make progress at a slow pace.
A turning point in Wesley’s recovery came in the spring of 2014, with his acceptance into Holland Bloorview’s pilot program, A Burst of Therapy, that provided him with a further six weeks of intensive in-patient therapy.
Fitted with a new orthotic on his left leg and a hearing aid, Wesley made impressive developmental gains during daily sessions of occupational therapy, now with Janet Woodhouse, as well as physiotherapy and speech therapy. Just two months into his Burst of Therapy program, Wesley took his first assisted steps using a walker, while working with physiotherapist Viola Cheng. “That was a fantastic moment for us. I started to cry. I was thinking ‘Maybe he will be able to walk,’” recalls Laura.
Soon after, Wesley learned to ride a specially fitted tricycle and was able to ride independently by July, 2014, when his Burst of Therapy program ended. “He was so proud of himself,” says Laura. “He came so far in all areas of development during those six weeks.”
In September 2015, Wesley will attend the Bloorview School Authority’s full-day integrated junior kindergarten program, where daily therapy and assistive technology are woven into the educational program. “I have so much faith in Holland Bloorview. I know this is the best place to help Wesley become the most independent he can be,” says Laura.
Photo: Laura, Wesley and Randy having fun in the ball pit.