<   Previous    |    Next   >

A simple day outing gives a Walnut Grove family respite from years of medical concerns.

Posted on 21/07/2009 12:00am

Family on board for train adventure
A simple day outing gives a Walnut Grove family respite from years of medical concerns.
Heather Colpitts, Langley Advance
Published: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Maybe it was a mistake to tell three-year-old Elianna Brownlee that she would be going on a train trip last Thursday. She, her family and a dozen other families boarded the Whistler Mountaineer for the annual Starlight Children's Foundation daytrip last Thursday. The foundation provides fun events for seriously ill children and their families, and the train trip is one of the most popular Starlight events.

Certainly Elianna was excited about the coming adventure.

"The night before, she actually kept coming out of bed, saying 'I'm all done sleeping now. I'm ready to go on the train'," her mother Lynn recounted.

Of course, that was Wednesday evening, shortly after the little girl's bedtime.

Elianna, Lynn, Mark the dad and Elianna's two older sisters Faith, 11, and Jaira, nine, left their Walnut Grove home early Thursday to board in Vancouver. In addition to the train ride through spectacular scenery that day, the foundation provided breakfast, music, a caricaturist, treats in Whistler, a gondola ride and more.
With Lynn a stay-at-home mom, there's no way the family could have a day out like Thursday without the foundation.

Lynn explained that families with sick children face extra financial burdens, whether it's the $10 a pop each time they have to park at BC Children's Hospital for their frequent visits, or special formula. That's why the Brownlees are so grateful to the foundation and the corporate donors that provide the trips so that families can have a fun day when sickness takes a backseat. "They recognize that when you have a child with an illness, it affects the whole family," she said about the foundation.

The joke in the family is that Lynn is Elianna's "chief medical officer" because of Elianna's health issues. Lynn chuckled when she recalled the trip and the good-natured train car attendant who spent her day climbing over kids having balloon sword fights in the aisle.

"It was a pretty lively train car," Lynn told the Langley Advance.

The trip was a chance for the Brownlees to relax in a setting that doesn't involve needles and tests and doctors and big, long medical terminology. Health issues dominated their lives since they found out when Lynn was pregnant that the baby's kidneys didn't develop. That meant there was no amniotic fluid made by the kidneys which in turn prevents fetal lung development.

In the fifth month of their pregnancy, Lynn and Mike had to decide what to do. "It was a pretty grim outlook," she said.

They continued on and amazingly the kidneys (which develop in the first weeks of pregnancy) grew, fluid was created and lungs developed. Doctors could not explain why. There's a great deal about little Elianna that defies medical knowledge. "She's definitely teaching everyone," Lynn said.

The family was told the baby would likely die soon after birth. Instead, she was born and let out a holler, showing that she had a working set of lungs. Elianna continues to defy the odds.

Months after she was born, doctors diagnosed Elianna with Fraser Syndrome, a genetic condition so rare, she is the only patient with it at BC Children's. Doctors said there would be mental retardation but at three, she's hitting every mental milestone the experts use to assess kids.

Elianna is small for her age, due to having only one remaining kidney, which is impacted by kidney disease. She has wide set eyes, low set ears, narrowed airways and health issues that the family will deal with throughout her life.

"She has taught us that there's nothing that love cannot do," her mom said.

© Langley Advance 2009