Having to make a choice between two life-changing courses of treatment for a newborn child is a predicament no parent should have to face. But that was the situation for Sunjai Sharma’s parents when their baby was barely seven months old.
Sunjai was born with a congenital anomaly called sagittal synostosis, a condition that results when one or more sutures of the skull fuse too early. At birth, the skull is composed of multiple bones held together by sutures. Normally, these sutures stay open as the brain continues to grow to allow the skull to expand along with it. When this doesn’t happen, the child faces a risk of an abnormally shaped skull and increased pressure in the brain.
The Sharmas were given two options: surgeons at BC Children’s Hospital could operate on Sunjai as a baby, or to wait two years to see how his head developed. The worried parents decided to have Sunjai undergo the surgery right away. Sunjai’s father Rajinder says the two-hour surgery felt like a lifetime to him. To this day, he remembers something that Dr. Ash Singhal, Sunjai’s brain surgeon, said that helped calm his fears. “He looked at me right in the eyes and said, ‘I will treat him like my own.’ If he hadn’t said that I’m not sure if those two hours would have ever passed,” says Rajinder.
Today, Sunjai is in good health and eager to support the hospital he had spent so much time in early in his life. In his home town of Prince George, Sunjai had been selling lemonade and collecting cans and bottles to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital. Recently, in partnership with his local Save-On-Foods, Sunjai has been selling chocolate bars.
For a determined child like Sunjai, selling bars for two dollars just wasn’t enough. After meeting Dougie Luv of DougieDog hot dogs – famous for his $100 hot dogs, Sunjai upped the ante and began selling his bars for $100.
With great success in his fundraising and the five-year anniversary of Sunjai’s surgery coming up on April 16, Rajinder says that Sunjai, “wants to see the $100 bar go a little bit further.” After April 16, they plan to retire the hundred-dollar bar. Before that happens, Sunjai aims to sell 98 chocolate bars – a goal made in tribute to the jersey number of Sunjai’s all-time favourite hockey player, Wayne Gretzky. Sunjai is saving bar number 99 for the hockey great.
Rajinder is proud of his son and grateful for how far he has come. “Right now he wants to be a hockey player who drives a monster truck on the days he has no games,” says Rajinder. “Both of us believe that there is nothing he can’t be, or do.”
If you would like to help Sunjai reach his goal of meeting Wayne Gretzky to sell him the 99th chocolate bar for $100, please sign his petition.