SickKids will always have a special place in my heart (and my brain)

Guest Blog – Kyla Norris, Public Relations student at Durham College and former SickKids patient

In September 2002, most of my nine-year-old friends were eating a bowl of Cheerios and heading to class. I, on the other hand, was not. I was on my way to SickKids.

Several weeks earlier, I had started experiencing constant headaches and double vision. My parents thought it was a good idea for me to see an ophthalmologist to have my eyes checked. The ophthalmologist told my parents that he suspected something more serious was going on, something that a pair of eye glasses was not going to fix. He referred me to The Hospital for Sick Children.

At SickKids, I saw several different doctors before ending up in the Division of Neurosurgery. Two CAT scans later, I was diagnosed with a benign cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma brain tumour that needed to be removed.

In September 2002, I underwent a six hour surgery by SickKids neurosurgeon, Dr. Dirks, to remove the tumour.

Following surgery, I spent a week at SickKids where friends and family visited me. It wasn’t much fun spending time in the hospital but the good news was that my surgery was a success and my tumour was gone. I also got to know all the hospital staff really well so it was sad to say goodbye. But as I left the hospital, I made a promise to myself. I promised that one day I was going to give back to the hospital that saved my life. Twelve years later, I’m doing just that.

I am 20-years-old now and studying to become a public relations professional at Durham College in Oshawa. In my spare time, I work with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College’s athletic department to help promote charitable events in our community. One such event was a fundraiser night held by the UOIT men’s hockey team. As part of my work on the project, I was invited to select a charity that the event’s proceeds would be donated to. Only one charity came to mind – SickKids.

Kyla, former SickKids patient

The event was held on January 25, 2014 and was a tremendous success. My passion and enthusiasm for the hospital came across from start to finish. After contacting SickKids and providing information for the event, I got right to the strategic planning. I kept asking myself, “How can I get people to donate?” After a few emails, phone calls and personal visits to local businesses, I was able to obtain a Toronto Maple Leafs goalie stick donated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and signed by net minder, Jonathan Bernier, in addition to UOIT Ridgeback gear and restaurant gift cards for a chance-to-win draw. The event raised $600 for SickKids neurosurgery division. Mission accomplished!

SickKids Fundraiser at UOIT

Aside from the draw prizes, I also felt the need to add something more. Remembering that a friend’s two-year-old brother is a SickKids cancer patient, I invited him and his family to perform the ceremonial puck drop at a UOIT men’s hockey team game. Jaxson, who has been in remission for a year, was the cherry on top of the event. His presence engaged spectators, raised awareness for SickKids and, more importantly, made his day.

SickKids speaks for itself. When people hear about the wonderful work all the staff at the hospital do to help kids like me, they want to give. It seems that everyone I speak to has a SickKids connection. They know someone who has been a patient, have been a patient themselves, or has had a child who spent time at SickKids.

Today, I can finally say I gave back to SickKids. But this isn’t it for me. After seeing the success of this fundraising initiative, I can’t wait to organize more events in the future in support of this wonderful hospital.

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