More than one month after her daughter Chelsea was air-lifted to BC Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery, Kara Kazimer still cannot find the words to express herself.
“It’s just been amazing how people have come together for us,” Kazimer marvelled, referring to the dozens of hot meals, provided by many of the parents of Chelsea’s fellow members of Elite Rising Stars team at the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, and gifts from her son’s soccer club, bestowed upon the family over the past month.
“We’ve never been in this kind of situation before — we’ve been overwhelmed with all the support.”
It started, she explained, with a stomach ache on Sept.17.
When it persisted two days later, Kazimer took her daughter to the emergency room where the nine-year-old Vernon girl remained for three days before being air-lifted to the children’s hospital in Vancouver and diagnosed with Hemolytic-uremic syndrome or HUS, a condition caused by what Interior Health later called “a very rare strain” of E-Coli that resulted in Chelsea’s kidneys shutting down.”
“She was put on dialysis so they had to do surgery and put a tube in her stomach,” Kazimer explained. “Initially she was on dialysis for 20 hours a day, but her body responded really fast, and they were able to take it down to half the day on and half the day off. And then she was taken off it completely.”
In regard to how Chelsea came into contact with E.Coli, Kazimer said doctors have been unable to pinpoint a direct source, but that the team working on her daughter at BC Children’s Hospital told her it is fairly common for children to carry E.Coli and not know it.
“She could really have picked it up anywhere — she could have touched something that somebody else (who carried the bacteria) touched. She could have eaten a cookie and not washed her hands,” Kazimer noted.“There was no restaurant or food we could pick out. We just know her system couldn’t battle it.”
On Oct. 16, after roughly one month, Chelsea and her father Jason, who remained in Vancouver for the duration of her hospitalization, finally came home.
“It was quite a long haul, but everything seems to be going in the right direction now,” Kazimer said, adding that while Jason had stayed with Chelsea, she had remained in Vernon to work and care for their son, Alex, who just started Grade 8, and travelled to the coast every weekend.
“We consider the experience overall to be a positive because of how lucky we are that Chelsea is getting better, and that people were so supportive. I never could have imagined there was that much kindness and generosity out there.”
According to Camille Martens, Chelsea’s instructor at the gymnastics club and the organizer of the Meal Train, taking care of each other is “pretty normal.”
“It’s just what we do,” she said. “We all know how it feels to go through a tough time, and we consider ourselves a family—so when someone in the family needs a hand, you just pitch in and help where you can.”
Martens said the concept of a Meal Train—an interactive online calendar that helps friends coordinate the giving of food to help ease the burden (whether it be time or cost) of meal preparation, appealed to her because it’s a useful and simple way to make a difference in someone’s life when they’re faced with a challenge.
“It’s just been an amazing thing for us,” Kazimer said of Martens’ effort.
“We didn’t even know very many people at the gym because we had only been there for a little while so it was amazing how the Rising Stars family came together for us.”
And the hospitality didn’t stop there, Kazimer added.
“My son’s soccer team gave us a gift basket filled with gift cards for places like M & M Meats ,Home for Dinner, and Papa Nick’s (Global Cuisine) and my coworkers (at Okanagan College) purchased a tablet for Chelsea to use while she was in the hospital. And last week we were all invited to see the Whitecaps play in Vancouver. I still can’t believe it. We’re a soccer family and the Whitecaps are Chelsea’s favourite. “
As far as Chelsea’s health, Kazimer says her little girl is currently back at school, in much better health and in great spirits.
“It was a hard month for sure, but we have so many good memories that we will take from this,” Kazimer said. “When we look back on this, we will remember more good than bad, and that’s because of the community we live in.”