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West Kelowna family to be featured in Show of Hearts Telethon

Five-year-old Brendan Ritchie will be featured on the upcoming Variety Show of Hearts Telethon. Variety has helped pay for some of the medication Ritchie—who has primary pulmonary hypertension—is required to take. - Contributed
Five-year-old Brendan Ritchie will be featured on the upcoming Variety Show of Hearts Telethon. Variety has helped pay for some of the medication Ritchie—who has primary pulmonary hypertension—is required to take.
— image credit: Contributed

Kristine and Don Ritchie first realized their son had a serious health issue in November 2012.

Brendan—four years old at the time—was walking to school with his parents when he suddenly collapsed and had a seizure.

"I had no idea what was going on," said Kristine.

She and Don drove their son to Kelowna General Hospital's emergency department, where several tests were done on Brendan.

On Dec. 12, 2012, Kristine and Don learned their son had primary pulmonary hypertension.

"The arteries between his heart and his lungs are constricted. It causes enlargement of the heart as well, because his heart is working pretty hard to pump the blood through the arteries," said Kristine.

Brendan's condition is terminal; Kristine said she and Don don't know what to expect, long-term.

Additionally, Brendan has to make sure he doesn't overexert himself at any point.

"He can't run and play tag with other kids…he can't do competitive sports, because of the oxygen requirements."

Kristine and Don take their son to Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton every three months for check-ups.

When asked how Brendan's condition has affected her and Don, Kristine paused for several seconds.

"That's hard to say.

"It's not easy."

Variety the Children's Charity has helped make one part of the Ritchies' journey easier.

One type of medication Brendan has to take is Viagra: A drug not initially covered by Kristine's insurance plan.

"It is unusual, but when Viagra was first developed, it was in trials for pulmonary hypertension. During trails, it was found to have this wonderful side effect.

"So when I told my insurance company this was going to be our method of treatment, they said because my employer doesn't cover erectile dysfunction drugs, they would not cover it."

At that point, a hospital social worker in Vancouver put Kristine and Don in touch with Variety.

When the Ritchies returned home, they found money was put in an account at Dyck's Pharmacy, covering the total cost for the medication.

Variety's B.C. chapter has raised more than $170 million since it was established in 1965.

That money has gone to children who have special needs, and their families, throughout the province.

The 48th annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon takes place Jan. 25 and 26 on Global TV.

Money raised through the telethon will go toward assisting families throughout B.C., who have children with unique medical challenges.

The Ritchies will be one of the families featured on the telethon. Kristine said they are looking forward to being part of an "amazing" charity's fundraiser.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Twitter: @PatersonWade

 

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