Thomas Dignum

When Thomas was six years old, he complained about having a sore neck from playing sports. His parents, Tracy and Colin didn’t suspect anything serious until they received a call from Thomas’s school one morning informing them that their son had suddenly collapsed and wouldn’t stop crying. When Tracy picked Thomas up, she knew immediately something was wrong. “On our way to the hospital, I handed him something to play with, but he couldn’t move his left arm to grab it,” she says.  

An MRI scan at BC Children’s Hospital revealed that Thomas had suffered a massive stroke in his brain stem and that his window for treatment was rapidly closing. The medical team consulted with their colleagues from around the world and determined that the only way they could save Thomas’s life was by performing a procedure that had never been done before on a child at the hospital.

BC Children’s interventional radiologist, Dr. Manraj Heran, performed the highly complex intra-arterial balloon dilation procedure, which along with a clot busting drug, helped to break up the blood clots that had spread throughout Thomas’s brain.

Thomas survived the procedure, but initially he could only blink and was ventilated in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He gradually recovered his ability to breathe on his own and was transferred to Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children to begin rehabilitation. Thomas spent several months at Sunny Hill learning to regain movement on both sides of his body and his balance. His speech and swallowing were still quite delayed, so he was tube fed when he returned home. 

Today, Thomas is 11 years old and has made a complete recovery from his brain injury. He plays baseball and is part of a swim team. Tests have shown that his cognitive ability is now virtually the same as other children his age.

Tracy says that Thomas’s stroke and miraculous recovery was a life-changing experience for the whole family. “Our family is so much better off not just because he lived, but because we have a true appreciation for how fragile life is. We now make sure to live life to the fullest.”

Watch Thomas's feature story for the A Night of Miracles gala.