Six year old Avery was diagnosed with “failure to thrive” as a newborn. By three months of age, she had already spent 39 days in hospital and had surgery on her airway. Over the first four years of her life, Avery had seven surgeries and more consults than her parents imagined possible. Her hypotonia, or lack of muscle tone, meant that her little body did not even have enough strength to breathe or swallow on its own. When she was just six months old, Avery had to have a tube inserted into her stomach to receive food. Her weight and size were so minimal that they could not be plotted on a growth chart – the gold standard used for measuring every child’s physical progress.
When three month old Avery finally went home to her parents, Chris and Michelle, and older sister, Madison, she was too fragile to attend regular appointments at the hospital, despite needing additional support. That’s when the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre became part of the family. Michelle, Avery’s Mom, describes having OCTC in their lives like having “a security blanket wrapped around us.” From that early age of three months, Avery and her family were regularly seen by a team from the OCTC. In the beginning, a dietician and occupational therapist came right to their home – working not only with Avery, but also with her parents, to teach them the tricks and tools to help Avery learn to eat on her own. At two and a half, Avery’s feeding tube was removed, and she was able to slowly begin eating solid foods.
With the support of her occupational therapists and physiotherapists, Avery also developed the strength to support her growing body. With their guidance and support, Avery took her first steps at age three at the Kanata site of the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre. She started to walk with confidence at age four.
By then, her family was able to coordinate all of Avery’s appointments at OCTC to minimize the impact on their lives, and to maximize the benefits for Avery. Avery’s team of a pediatrician, occupational and physiotherapists, dietician and speech language pathologists worked together to identify the goals and treatment that would best support Avery reaching critical milestones.Until she was five, Avery attended ongoing appointments with her specialized team at the OCTC. She began to attend preschool at two and a half at OCTC-Kanata, and then Avery graduated into JK and Kindergarten at OCTC School at the Smyth Road Site. This specialized school has small group classes and intensive therapy on-site.
Avery was unable to speak until the age of four and a half. In the beginning, she started to repeat sounds in her speech language sessions. Now at age six, Avery is speaking independently and even reading at a level above her age. “When you have waited close to five years to hear your child’s voice, it is the sweetest sound in the world to hear her say – Mommy, I love you!” says Michelle.
For Avery’s family, these were milestones that they had not imagined. “As a parent, we were prepared for a life much different than presents itself now,” said Michelle. A few weeks ago, Avery reached a new milestone. She started grade one. She grabbed her backpack and put on her new clothes - and joined a classroom at her local school. The little girl originally diagnosed with “failure to thrive” is now plotting perfectly on the growth charts, and is, by everyone’s standard, an absolute joy.
Her parents continue to be amazed by Avery’s progress. “Anything is possible for her. She is, without a doubt, reaching her fullest potential.” “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t stop and think and reflect on what OCTC has done for Avery, and for us,” says Michelle. “There is no doubt that the staff at OCTC changed her life – and we are eternally grateful. To us, it is nothing short of a miracle.”