Your support of Festival of Trees helps kids like Mckenna
As a young girl, Mckenna spent her days riding her bicycle, playing with friends, and dancing—her favourite pastimes. But at 9 years old, everything changed for her.
“I had just finished a regional dance competition and thought I had pulled a muscle in my leg or overworked myself,” Mckenna recalled.
Over the days and weeks that followed, the pain continued to persist. Mckenna visited many doctors and a physiotherapist, but no one seemed to have any answers. When the pain became unbearable, and her leg began to buckle and crack, Mckenna’s family turned to BC Children’s Hospital.
Experts confirmed Perthes disease, a condition that occurs when the blood supply to the ball part of the hip joint is interrupted, causing the bone to die.
“They told me I wouldn’t be able to walk or dance for two to four years, and I would be in a wheelchair the whole time,” Mckenna said. “That was a lot to take in.”
Mckenna underwent two hip surgeries to insert a metal plate and help the bone regrow, and it was two years before she regained full movement in her leg. Mckenna spent close to two years attending school on crutches and endured a lot of bullying as a result. “It was really hard not to dance or run, and I missed a lot of things. I wasn’t able to do PE (physical education) or play outside at recess and I just felt very off to the side,” Mckenna recalled.
As the movement in her leg improved, Mckenna began to slowly start getting back to the activities she loved. But at 10 years old, disaster struck again when Mckenna broke her jaw during a bicycle ride. It was after this terrible incident that her chronic pain and depression began.
Mckenna tried everything to deal with the pain that now consumed her. Instead of spending her time with friends and family, her days became shrouded by chronic pain.
By age 16, Mckenna reached her breaking point. Her life felt out of control; she suffered from stress and anxiety and, no matter what she tried, nothing seemed to help. Desperate, she turned to her family doctor, who referred her to the Healthy Minds Centre at BC Children’s Hospital. “I heard a lot about how mindfulness could help and even my hip surgeon suggested I give it a try,” Mckenna recalled.
The Centre for Mindfulness, made possible by donor support, is one of the first of its kind at a children’s hospital globally. It serves as a hub to connect and support kids, teens, families, and health care providers as they cope with challenges they may face. One of the many programs the Centre offers is Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescents (MARS A), the program Mckenna enrolled in.
The eight-week mindfulness group program was transformative in helping McKenna come to terms with the pain that had consumed her childhood.
Participants learned skills, tips, and different ways to practice mindfulness. For Mckenna, it was a place of comfort and connection with peers her age in the program.
“I learned that the only way you can change things that are out of your control is to think differently about them. We developed skills to acknowledge the things that are there. Instead of saying ‘I’m in pain, don’t think about it,’ I started to acknowledge ‘I have chronic pain, and it’s always going to be there,’” said Mckenna.
Mindfulness helped Mckenna deal with the depression she had battled throughout her school years and gave her the tools she needed to navigate life with chronic pain. “To all the donors who have supported the Centre of Mindfulness, I want to say thank you.”