Spending almost a year mostly inside hospital walls, a Maple Ridge family has been able to keep hopes high with support from the community and the resilience of their three-year-old son.
Three-year-old Ollie Edwards has been by his baby brother’s side ever since Henry’s birth 11 months ago.
Henry was born with a plethora of medical complications, including liver failure and a blood disease called HLH.
His mother, Joanna Edwards, and her husband, have spent the better part of the past year in hospital, Henry receiving multiple different treatments including chemotherapy.
At one point a choice was made to try a liver transplant in Toronto, where the family spent seven weeks. There doctors discovered the HLH, which was causing Henry’s liver to fail. They began him on chemotherapy right away and eventually his liver healed itself without needing a transplant.
But when they returned to B.C. Children’s Hospital, his symptoms returned, and he needed daily blood transfusions.
It then became evident Henry needed a bone marrow transplant.
Ollie went to Toronto and has become accustomed to and familiar with various hospital equipment and treatments his little brother has had to endure.
In February this year, the infant received an anonymous bone marrow transplant, which was the lasting treatment that eventually allowed him to be taken to his own home in March.
Currently, he is on supportive and anti-rejection medication and he visits the hospital every week for check ups.
The Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation held their 16th annual Fund Run event this year on June 2, raising money for the local hospital.
When Ollie was sitting next to his mom one day, they saw the ad for the fundraising event and Ollie said he wanted to help raise funds so his brother could receive equipment he needed, as well as toys in the pediatric department of the hospital.
Ollie set to work collecting pledges from his family and also through a post the family made online. His mother made the post, but Ollie’s words were behind the inspiration for people to donate to the hospital. In total, he collected $461 in pledges in honour of his brother.
Laura Butler, executive director of Ridge Meadows Hospital, said that she has never seen something quite like Ollie’s story.
“It’s just so incredibly beautiful to have a little boy who’s three years old who’s so aware and so thoughtful about looking after his little baby brother. It’s just really quite something,” she said.
In total, the Fund Run has raised close to $490,000 over the 16-year period, this year raising over $30,000.
The funds raised are allocated to the department that needs it the most. Butler, however, said donors are welcome to request where their funds go, and in this case Ollie requested “tubes” and “paw patrol toys” for the children who have to spend their time in hospital.
Edwards is a teacher at Laityview elementary in Maple Ridge, and said when Henry received his bone marrow transplant, everyone in the school wore blue, had posters that read “I believe” and sent pictures to her.
“(While) Spending all that time in the hospital having all of that support was really uplifting for us,” she said.
They had churches, the entire school as a network of support and neighbours have checked in on them throughout the period and taken food to them.
“We’ve all been inspired by how many people have been cheering for Henry and sending him all sorts of good energy and I think that has rubbed off on all of us and even though it’s been such a scary time it’s been a very kind,” Edwards said.
Today, Henry does not have the blood disease anymore and Edwards expects by the time Christmas comes the hospital visits will start occurring less frequently.
For her, to see how strong the connection has been between her two sons from the very beginning, has kept the family strong through a trying time in their lives.