15-year-old Sydnee Doiron’s story began in January 2018, when she tried on her grandfather’s blood pressure cuff “just for fun.”
Her initial reading of 165 over 100 wasn’t normal. “Oh the cuff must be broken,” she thought. But after checking it on everyone else in the room multiple times, the Doirons decided to take it home with them.
They logged Sydnee’s blood pressure every day for two weeks.
The first diagnosis was White Coat Syndrome; Sydnee was a competitive dancer, otherwise healthy, and had no other symptoms.
But after several months and several tests turned up few answers, the Doirons took Sydnee to a cardiologist.
The Echocardiogram was telling: Sydnee had a bicuspid valve. Where there were supposed to be three cusps, there were only two. This often causes a narrowing of the aortic valve (stenosis). Where doctors wanted Sydnee’s aorta to be open 18 millimetres; it was only open two.
Sydnee would need surgery. “Instantly I thought I was going to die because I watch Grey’s Anatomy,” she laughed. But after weighing various options – including putting in a stent –they decided on the surgery.
During their meeting with the surgeon, they were informed of the risks. “The doctor said, ‘there’s a one to two percent chance of Syndee having a stroke’,” explained Mom Michelle.
“’But it’s the lowest of the lowest of the lowest risk. I have to say that to you, but now let’s take it off the table,’ he said.’”
“Truthfully,” said Michelle, “I wasn’t even worried about it.”
As it turns out, doctors were surprised Sydnee had been able to survive at all with her heart functioning as it was. Her heart was extremely stressed. And, as it turns out, putting a stent in her heart might have been deadly.
The surgery went ahead and, after suffering a post-operative seizure, an MRI showed complete paralysis on Sydnee’s right side.
Sydnee was one of the one to two per cent who had suffered a stroke.
But Sydnee’s story is one of a girl who’s come up against many odds – and has come out fighting.
Sydnee has come a long way – to sit up on her own, eat on her own, walk on her own, and even talk on her own. For two weeks after the surgery, Sydnee was non-verbal. She spoke her first word (“Mom”) on her parents’ wedding anniversary.
That sentence was quickly followed with “…I want dog.” Sydnee laughs because they don’t have one; she just wants one.
The Doiron family was transferred to the Children’s Hospital near the end of August 2018, and stayed six months at the House.
Sydnee’s progress has amazed her doctors. She was discharged from hospital at the end of October, soon began to walk independently (sometimes with a walker to help with stability),
and spent hours every day at school, undergoing intense occupation, physical and speech therapy.
Michelle credits Sydnee’s progress to her determined spirit. “We are very lucky that she is who she is…we are very grateful for that.”
When you ask Sydnee what she likes about the House, her answers – in order of preference – are what you might expect from a teenage girl: the Calgary Flames players (who sometimes visit), the baking, and the food.
Mom Michelle has a few different reasons for appreciating the House: “I’m just amazed at this place,” she said. “I can say ‘did I know about the Ronald McDonald House?’ Yeah, I knew about the Ronald McDonald House, but I didn’t really know about the Ronald McDonald House.”
“RMHC is a TRUE gift – it sounds so cliché, but RMHC truly is a home-away-from-home,” she said. “We not only needed this place – many, many families do!”
“It’s a very positive experience,” she said. “Very. I can’t say enough about it.”