For London, Ont., resident Andie Morrison, the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has become her “second home” after being diagnosed with a rare disease as an infant. Now, the 16-year-old patient is working towards helping others while wanting to give back to the hospital that saved her life.
Andie was born with Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), a rare bone marrow failure, which had her “fighting for her life” at nine weeks old, according to her mother, Jennifer Morrison.
“It’s funny how certain things are just ingrained in your memory and that day definitely is one,” she said.
“At one point, I had just fed her, and she’d gotten sick and couldn’t move. She couldn’t even move her arms. All she could do was move her eyes to look up at me, and I said, that’s it, we got to take her to the hospital.”
Children with DBA possess bone marrow that does not produce enough red blood cells. According to hospital officials, hemoglobin, which is a part of red blood cells, carry oxygen throughout the body and when red blood cell counts are low, anemia develops, and the body cannot work at a normal pace.”
“Her blood work came back, and she had a hemoglobin of 22. If you or I had that, we’d be unconscious or dead,” her mother recalled. “The fact that we went on a Saturday night to the hospital instead of waiting till Monday morning is the only reason she’s alive today.”
Since then, Andie told Global News that she’s received over 240 blood transfusions and this past June, she underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant, allowing her to create enough red blood cells on her own for the first time in her life.
“By the time I was two years old, I was calling this place my second home,” she said. “The people here are like family and are just amazing.”
Her mother added that since their first hospital visit, the health-care team at LHSC has grown to become “an extension of our family.”
“Andie has grown up in the hospital,” Morrison said. “They watched her learn how to crawl, how to walk, how to talk, how to be an adolescent, how to be a teenager, [and] everything in between. They’ve been with her through her journey.”
Andie added that she’s “always had fond memories at LHSC.”
“I know that sounds really strange, but just the people around here are amazing,” she said. “It definitely has been hard growing up and before the transfusions I would get really dizzy, extremely tired, and couldn’t play like a normal kid.
“I’ve never had really the endurance that every kid has. I’d also be missing school with appointments and transfusions, [but] I have an amazing supportive system.”
Andie still requires close monitoring at the hospital several times a month, most of which is performed by the Medical Radiologist Technologist (MRT) team at LHSC. Through a steady stream of X-rays, ultrasounds, CTs, MRIs and interventional radiology exams, Andie told Global News that she was always curious over cautious when it came to her appointments.
“I always wanted to know what was going on in my medical life [and] ever since I was really young, I wanted to be a part of it.”
She said that her experience both inspired and interested her to explore a career in the medical field with direct aspirations to become a radiology technologist to help future patients in need.
“Since I have been a patient myself, I know the whole experience, [and] I know how scary it can be. If I can positively use those experiences to have a positive impact on patients that I hopefully will have in the future, then I’m going to do that,” Andie said.
In hearing about her aspirations and goals, members of the MRT team at LHSC gave Andie a tour of the medical imaging unit.
“We are so privileged and inspired by her story,” said Marcia Trieu, director of medical imaging at LHSC. “To understand that we are inspiring the next generation of health-care workers is the biggest and best compliment we could ever receive.”
Andie, who is also a Children’s Hero Ambassador for the Children’s Health Foundation, was also offered the chance to have her Grade 12 co-op next year with the MRT team at LHSC.
“I love these people here and I love the impact they’ve had on me because I have seen their empathy and I’ve seen care to the best of ability here at the hospital,” she said.
She added that, “even though it’s been a difficult life, I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s created who I am.”
“To kids out there who are going to the Children’s Hospital for the first time, I know it can be scary, but these people are here to help,” Andie said. “That’s their job. That’s what they want to do and someday I will too.”
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