Born and raised in Smithers, Matthew was a normally active boy who loved sports and goofing around with his friends. But at age 13, he started to lose his appetite, have pains in his stomach, and was always exhausted. His parents took him to the local hospital multiple times, but no clear diagnosis emerged.
“We knew something was wrong, we just didn’t know what,” Pat said. “He was disappearing before our eyes. He weighed 67 pounds. He hurt all the time. I felt helpless as a mom.”
After six months, Matt was referred to BC Children’s Hospital. Once there, doctors diagnosed him with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes symptoms such as abdominal cramps and loss of appetite. From top to bottom, Matt’s small intestine was full of lesions.
Matt said that for him the hospital felt like a life raft. “It was a light surrounded by darkness—a peaceful spot to heal during a pretty messed up time. The doctors treated me like a person, not just a little kid who didn’t understand.”
“It was a light surrounded by darkness—a peaceful spot to heal during a pretty messed up time. The doctors treated me like a person, not just a little kid who didn’t understand.”
Doctors wanted Matt’s intestine to rest, and decided that he would need to be tube fed for eight weeks. With the feeding tube in, Matt returned to Smithers. They made a countdown calendar for the day he could eat again, and he decided that his first meal would be chicken strips—his favourite.
“When he ate his first cracker, we cried,” said Pat. “That sounds weird but it was huge. It meant he was healing.”
Once the feeding tube was out, the family travelled from Smithers to Vancouver for special bloodwork every three months. It was a long trip that required two days for travel and tests, even when they opted to fly instead of making the 16-hour drive.
Once Matt was well into remission, the family learned that his physician Dr. Schreiber provides a Regional Subspecialty Clinic in Prince George—a 4.5-hour drive from the family’s home. BC Children’s Hospital Regional Subspecialty Clinics, which are supported by Child Health BC, were developed to help families across the province and are increasingly in demand. Over the past year, he pediatric gastroenterology team doubled their patient visits across the province.
Today, Matthew is doing great. “He’s now 160 pounds, and healthy and strong,” said Pat. “He’s been in remission for almost a whole year. I’m not sure where we would be without BC Children’s Hospital.”