It’s Spring Break, and once again Tristan is spending time at Canuck Place, the Children’s Hospice in Vancouver that is his – and approximately 400 other disabled B.C. kids – most favorite place in the world, and here’s why: At Canuck Place, special kids are allowed to be, well, just be kids; they get to do cool things like go on outings, hang out with friends or stay up really, really late – just because it’s fun, and they really want to. And what about the children who have severe mental disabilities? Not to worry; despite speech and /or mobility issues, they are constantly being gently held or rocked to sleep by the many nurses and volunteers, who provide them with the much-needed human contact that every human being wants and needs. The bottom line is there’s a lot of love and support for all the special kids who spend time here.
When their unique children are at Canuck Place, parents feel at ease knowing they’re being cared for 24/7 by a professional medical staff, something that allows some respite in what are usually difficult and challenging life circumstances; and in those instances when a family want (or needs) to be together with their child, Canuck Place has four suites where the whole gang – mom, dad, siblings, grandma, etc. – can all stay together under one roof, without worrying about things like cooking meals, etc. This allows them to focus on the family as a whole, which is sometimes critical, depending on what the family is dealing with at any given time. We’ve used this suite many times, and can tell you first hand that it alleviates all the stresses associated with trying to figure things out whilst in a strange city.
As identified by it’s title, Canuck Place is first and foremost a children’s hospice – it’s a place where families can turn to for help in their time of need. They help manage all stages of a child’s illness, (right up to and including end-of-life care) and provide much needed counseling services to help loved ones deal with their loss. And although it wasn’t life threatening, we’ve experienced this ourselves when Tristan underwent a 17-hour surgery to have two titanium rods being inserted into his back, then fused to his pelvis and each one of his vertebrae. As you can imagine, this was a very difficult and emotional time for us all, and we called upon Canuck Place to help us get through it. You see, after (what seemed like) a very short recovery in the I.C.U., (seven days) the hospital needed the bed and told us it was time to leave; but Canuck Place was right there, and took over his care for another seven days, making sure the recovery continued smoothly and safely. As a parent I can tell you these were the hardest two weeks of my life, and can’t even imagine what they’d have been like without the angels disguised as Canuck Place nurses, staff and volunteers to look after him, and us; we are incredibly grateful for everything they did – and continually do – for us.
Most people who aren’t in our situation don’t realize it, but raising a disabled child can be emotionally taxing, expensive and difficult at times; many parents wonder how on earth they’ll cope, especially if their child has a life threatening condition or scenario. Canuck Place addresses these concerns, and doesn’t charge anything for the many services they provide, instead relying on support from community fund raising initiatives. Not surprisingly, the Vancouver Canucks are major supporters, and players are known to occasionally stop by and spend time with the kids… I can only imagine what a thrill that must be, for both!
So with this being his last year at Canuck Place (families can use the services up until their child’s 19th birthday) I thought it would be a good idea to look back at some of the awesome things Tristan (and us) got to do and experience, all because we had Canuck Place to support us. Here they are, in no particular order:
• Concerts: I was able to take Tristan to his first concert – Cold Play – in Vancouver, all because we had a place to go at 11:00 p.m. once the concert let out – without that, we’d have been unable since hotels aren’t equipped to handle his needs. As a result of C.P., he’s seen other concerts and live shows that he’s wanted to
• Teen Group / Camping: Canuck Place offers a “Teen Group” each year up in Squamish where the boys can experience friendship, bonding, life lessons all in a in a mountainous camping environment. Parents come up for the last couple of days to spend some quality “family time”, and also attend workshops, etc. to help them deal with the unique challenges of our lives. It’s a great week, and an opportunity to meet like-minded folks.
• Back Surgery / Recovery: As mentioned above, the last half of recovery from Tristan’s back surgery was at Canuck Place while I stayed in a family suite. This was (and still is) an extremely emotional time for me to think about, so I can only imagine what a basket case I would have been without their support
• Doctors Meetings: Whenever we have meetings at the Vancouver Children’s Hospital we tend to show up a day in advance and spend the night at Canuck Place. This alleviates the need for getting up at 5:00 a.m. in order to catch a 7:00 a.m. ferry to make a 10:00 a.m. appointment, usually the first of four or five appointments for the day. By arriving the night before it allows us to show up at our appointments well rested, and focused on the tasks at hand. Besides, taking two ferries in one day is pretty exhausting for Tristan AND me…
• Respite: Each year Canuck Place allows kids to say in-house for 21 days of respite – whatever “respite” means to each individual family. For us, it means five or six days during Spring Break and then again in both July and August. This gives T something fun to do (As mentioned, he LOVES C.P.) while allowing his parents to continue with their routines of work, etc.
So there you have it; and I guess what I really want to say to the staff, the nurses, the doctors and all the volunteers of Canuck Place is a huge, huge, HUGE “Thank You!” for making our lives – especially Tristan’s – so much more than they would be without all of your efforts, caring, love and support… We are eternally grateful to you all, and HEART you big time!
Readers: Please go online here to find out more about this incredible service; you never know, Canuck Place may be able to help your family, or the family of someone dear to you during a time of need – David