By Andrea Rose
Special for disc
Looking at three-year-old Aaron Hong, you wouldn’t think that just six months ago he was reaching the end of aggressive chemotherapy treatment to combat a leukemia diagnosis he was given in the winter of 2021.
It was early in the new year that Aaron’s routine blood tests began to show a drop in his platelet count. Otherwise a healthy and energetic toddler, Aaron didn’t appear ill, but concerns grew as symptoms like fatigue and bruising started to appear and Aaron’s platelet count went up. continued to decline.
The family was referred to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver to further investigate his symptoms. The doctor who saw Aaron commented on Aaron’s health, giving some optimism to the family who remained hopeful, though eager for answers. But the phone call they received shortly after leaving the hospital was not the news they had hoped for.
Shortly after their appointment, Aaron’s parents, Michelle and Chenyu, received a phone call from the doctor: “I usually don’t like to tell people over the phone, but the blood results seem to indicate that he has leukemia,” Michelle recalled. , “he must be admitted immediately.”
“It felt like a death sentence,” Michelle said, describing how she felt in the first moments she learned of Aaron’s diagnosis, admitting she really didn’t know much about leukemia at the time.
“I always knew deep down that low blood platelets were associated with possible leukemia, but I think it was so early on that it was hard for them to see it,” he said. she explains. “I asked how long we had to stay in the hospital, he said, ‘he has to be hospitalized full time for six months.’ I lost him. I really couldn’t imagine doing this for six months.
No family can imagine or prepare for this kind of news, marked by uncertainty and difficult decisions. The family had left behind a full life, with their eldest son Theo, who remained in the care of his grandparents. There would be no coming home for a while; Vancouver would become their home and there was no choice but to find a way forward.
Friends in the community suggested the family contact YANA for help, and soon after, a social worker put Michelle and Chenyu in touch with the organization that would accompany and support them every step of the way. path.
Aaron’s prognosis was really good, and after the second, most intense cycle, Aaron went through his treatment. Aaron has Down syndrome, and Michelle pointed out that while it’s not uncommon for children with Down syndrome to have greater challenges with their immune systems, Aaron continued to overcome the obstacles.
“Even throughout treatment, I still considered him a healthy child, even though he had this serious illness,” said Michelle, who describes Aaron’s nature as strong and resilient, even learning to walk. for the first time in the halls of British Columbia. Children’s Hospital with help from her parents and an IV gallows.
“He just needs mom and dad,” Michelle said. “He was so small that he didn’t really care about being in the hospital as much as we did. All he cared about was that we were there with him, we were his most important people.
Aaron had his mom and dad with him every step of the way, thanks to their community, family and YANA who made this possible. In addition to the monthly funding, YANA also provided the family with one of its furnished apartments downtown, within walking distance of BC Children’s Hospital.
“The apartment was exactly what we needed,” says Michelle. “More than we needed.”
Michelle and Chenyu took turns at Aaron’s side and stayed at the apartment during their seven months in Vancouver. The apartment became a simple, safe sanctuary where they could recharge, cook and gather as a family when Aaron was finally given the green light for short visits. The short visits eventually led to longer visits to the valley until the family was finally able to return home last September.
Aaron and his family continue to take trips to Vancouver as part of his ongoing care, and YANA continues to provide funding and support for each trip, and the family has no doubts how special an organization is to continue to be there every step of the way.
“It’s above and beyond. People were so jealous to hear about (the support) that we have…a lot of people are from out of town. We haven’t really talked to anyone else who’s had this,” Michelle says.
Aaron and his family were to stay in Vancouver for seven long months. Thanks to the incredible support of a deeply caring community, YANA is able to say ‘yes’ to families like Aaron’s and countless others. YANA is able to let them know that however long they are away to be by their child’s side, whatever happens, “You are not alone”.
YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a community organization offering assistance to families in the Comox Valley who need to travel for medical care for a child or a pregnant mother.
For more information, visit https://www.yanacomoxvalley.com
Andrea Rose is Family Services Coordinator at YANA
Valley of ComoxYANA