Cassandra and Brad Vandusen see their four-year-old daughter Blayke as a blessing in disguise--a little miracle who reminds them every day that anything is possible.
Diagnosed at five days old with Turner syndrome – a chromosomal disorder that affects one in every 2,500 females –Blayke beat the odds merely by surviving past birth. Ninety-nine per cent of unborn babies diagnosed with Turner syndrome do not even make it to full term.
It was her mother who first saw something wasn’t quite right with Blayke. Cassandra noticed extra skin folds around Blayke’s neck and thought she was smaller than she should be. A blood test confirmed Blayke’s condition and she was referred to Dr. Svjetlana Ruzic, a pediatrician at BC Children’s Hospital.
Turner syndrome is a chromosomal defect that affects one of the X chromosomes in females. Girls born with this syndrome don’t produce the normal amount of estrogen, so they do not go through puberty. Often short in stature, girls with Turner syndrome may have heart defects and learning disabilities, and appear to have webbing or extra skin folds around the neck.
Within five minutes of listening to Blayke’s heart, Dr. Ruzic diagnosed a murmur and referred her for a scan. That same day Cassandra and her husband were told their three-week-old baby needed heart surgery.
“I blacked out,” says Cassandra. “I don’t remember hearing a word from that point forward because I was in shock,” she says. Her one comfort in the days that followed came from doctors and nurses at the Children’s Heart Centre at BC Children’s.
“They are so fantastic,” she says. “That team is unbelievable. I don’t know what I would do without them. You walk through those doors and a comfort comes over you.”
At the age of four, Blayke is the size of a two-year-old, but she’s full of energy she keeps up with older brother Ethan and baby brother Carson, and is progressing well in her treatment. “She’s extremely bright and actually a real handful,” says Cassandra with a laugh.
In the future, Blayke will need to take medication to help with hormone imbalances. To deal with her complex needs, she visits doctors in diverse areas at BC Children’s – from endocrinology and ear, nose and throat, to general pediatrics and cardiology. She will continue to receive care there until adulthood.
Her daughter’s experience has inspired Cassandra to actively fundraise in the community for Children’s Hospital.
“I can’t thank Children’s enough,” she says. “They made it all possible. They made our family, our family.”