Antoine Van Der Meulen, 17, was born with an auto-immune disease that was seriously impeding his quality of life.
Fourteen years ago, when he arrived in Canada from Europe, he was treated at BC Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with cryopyrin-associated autoinflammatory syndrome, known as CAPS, a disease caused by mutation of a gene that results in unusual activity of the immune system.
“It was comforting not only to have a better idea of what was causing my sickness, but also to get treatment, which really helped my case and helped reduce the amount of times per year or per month that I was sick,” Antoine told Black Press Media in a phone interview.
He and his family were living in Germany and Belgium before moving to Canada in 2005. Here, he underwent numerous tests to try to learn what was causing symptoms such as high fever, stomach pain and extreme fatigue.
After he developed a limp and had troubles with his hips, he was referred to a pediatric rheumatologist and was suspected to have an autoinflammatory disease.
“Once we knew what the gene mutation was, it became clear what actual medication he needed,” Dr. Lori Tucker, a rheumatologist at BC Children’s, said in a news release. “So he started daily injections, and he became entirely well.”
“[BC Children’s] almost feels like a second home to me. I feel very safe there,” said Antoine, who lives in Port Moody in the Lower Mainland.
Tucker said a case like Antoine’s is an example of why programs and research at BC Children’s are vital.
“We have all the pieces here,” she said. “We have patients interested in being involved in research. We have a registry where we can collect information. We have our bio bank here that is starting to collect information. We have a researcher with a lab. We have connections to other national and international centres.”
Those programs and research receive support from the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Choices Lottery.
This year’s draw runs until April 11. The grand prize winner gets to choose from one of seven luxury home packages located throughout the province or $2.2 million in cash.
“When Antoine goes to BC Children’s Hospital, he feels safe and secure,” said Sylvie, Antoine’s mom. “It’s unique how they can make sick children feel at home.”
The boy hasn’t had any injections since September 2015.
“Just that fact that Antoine today is able to play soccer with his friends at school even though he doesn’t have the same level of skill is something beautiful,” Sylvie said.