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CHAMP program helps Pictou County toddler deal with amputation

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Janet Bradbury left her infant son Benjamin at the IWK Hospital where he was awaiting surgery to grab a quick meal with her older children.

She left him in the care of a nurse and thought everything was perfectly normal.

But everything changed in a moment.

About 10 minutes after she left, she got a phone call saying that her son was in distress and they weren’t sure he was going to make it.

What Bradbury would learn after dramatic efforts to save Ben’s life was that his sodium levels had dropped dangerously low causing his brain to swell. He had a massive seizure and then a stroke. For a time his heart stopped.

“There were no symptoms ahead of time, he just crashed,” Bradbury said. “When they were trying to save his life, they were aggressively trying to put IV lines in.”

Medical staff saved his life, but in the process the blood vessels in one of his little legs was damaged so much the blood flow couldn’t return. The leg would have to be amputated.

Suddenly the Bradbury family was thrust into a world they knew little about.

 

In the weeks and months that passed, they’ve been very thankful for the help they’ve had in learning how to raise their son without a limb. Immediately their social worker at the IWK signed them up for the War Amps CHAMP program. Through it Ben is eligible for financial assistance for artificial limbs and recreational devices, as well as regional seminars through the CHAMP Program.

“I’ve been aware of their programs my whole life because you hear about them and see their key tags and you know the program’s been around forever,” Bradbury said. “You don’t realize how much they actually do for people.”

Just this past May 26-28 they got to take part in the War Amps 2017 Atlantic Child Amputee (CHAMP) Seminar in Moncton, which brought together young amputees from across the Atlantic provinces.

Seminars like this are great, Bradbury said, because it gives her a chance to talk with other parents and learn how to prepare her son for everything from talking to other kids about his missing limb to dealing with pressure sores from the prosthesis.

“It’s also a social thing for the older children to meet other children,” she said. “Sometimes they might be the only child with an amputation in their community.”

While Ben, now two, is a bit young to socially interact much with other children, Bradbury is happy to know that at least once a year he’ll have the opportunity to meet others his age going through what he experiences.

Because he was just five months old when he had his amputation, Ben doesn’t remember having two legs and happily crawls around his home and his mother’s ballet school. He is a smiley and active toddler. He is already attending physiotherapy to learn how to adapt to his amputation. Eventually he’ll learn to walk with the prosthesis.

For now, he wears it a bit every day to get used to it. What’s a bit challenging at this age is getting the proper fit because toddlers grow so fast, Bradbury said.

“I guess we’re lucky to be in Nova Scotia because MSI covers everyday limbs,” Bradbury said. “I didn’t realize it differs from province to province. In New Brunswick there’s no coverage at all. They’re very, very expensive.”

At the recent conference, she met a teen trying to get the money for a new knee joint. The price tag was $30,000. War Amps is helpful when it comes to covering the costs that MSI wouldn’t, such as paying for recreational limbs: adaptations so kids can bike or compete in running or even play the violin.

Bradbury knows there will be some difficult discussions and difficult days as her son deals with his amputation, but she’s confident with the support they have they can deal with it.

“He’s doing so much better than they ever anticipated,” she said.

 

 

What is the CHAMP program?

The Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program offers comprehensive services to child amputees and their families, including financial assistance, regional seminars and peer support.

CHAMP serves children in Canada (under 18) who are born missing a limb or have lost a limb due to an accident or medical causes.

 

How to support?

The War Amps does not receive government grants or use professional fundraisers. The Association is able to operate its programs through donations from the public to the Key Tag and Address Label Service. Donations help amputees from coast to coast. For more information on how you can help visit: www.waramps.ca.

 

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