Carlee Vasquez’ glasses hint at only a fraction of the medical challenges she’s endured in her young life. Born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, Diamond Blackfan anemia – a rare blood disorder – and a cleft palate, Carlee’s life has revolved around BC Children’s Hospital since the day she was born.
At less than a day old, Carlee had her first blood transfusion to treat her anemia, for which there is no cure. At six weeks, she underwent an emergency stent procedure. At nine months, she had an open-heart surgery. Countless other visits and procedures filled the family’s time in between, including at least 20 visits to the Emergency Department.
Carlee’s mother Lian will never forget seeing her baby in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for the first time. “When I walked in the room and saw her in bed with all those attachments, it broke my heart,” she says. “The best part of that was we were assured by the nurse that Carlee is in a good place and she’s being taken care of. Dr. Kevin Harris and the late Jan Rooks from the hospital’s Cardiology team both made such a difference in Carlee’s first year.”
Since those early days Carlee’s condition has stabilized, but she continues to visit the hospital regularly – so much so that Lian calls BC Children’s their second home. The Complex Care Program was created for children like Carlee, who must see specialists from more than 10 different departments. Carlee’s family is grateful for Dr. Tammie Dewan, head of the program, and her amazing team.
“Dr. Dewan is like family; she’s very friendly and compassionate,” says Carlee’s father Charles. “When we go to Emergency and we see Dr. Dewan walk in, we feel at peace knowing that she’s there and that she’ll take care of us and Carlee. And that brings us a sense of relief.”
“Carlee is our angel, our hero, our warrior and our everyday miracle. She has grown to be a sweet yet tough little girl, always ready to give hugs and kisses,” says Lian.