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A New Lease on Life for Élizabeth

Disconnecting half of a child’s brain to treat refractory epileptic seizures: this is the kind of avant-garde procedure that happens regularly at Sainte-Justine. Through your support for state-of-the-art treatments, you are the transforming the lives of young patients like Élizabeth and the families who love them.

Élizabeth was born preterm by emergency C-section on December 26, 2020. The doctors at the hospital in Saint-Eustache noted that her intestines were sticking out of a hole in her abdominal wall. She was immediately transferred to Sainte-Justine, where she would undergo surgery two months later.

At that point, her parents thought the worst was behind them. Only that wasn’t true. They were told that Élizabeth had suffered a perinatal stroke. There was irreversible damage to almost all the tissue in the right half of her brain, which left the left part of her body paralyzed.

“Every piece of news was more catastrophic than the last. First the emergency delivery, then her bowel, then the stroke,” said Yan, Élizabeth’s father. “It was one shock after another.”

In the months that would follow, Élizabeth experienced up to 30 seizures a day, severely hampering her development. Unless they could find a way to treat them, there was a real risk she’d never be able to speak or move around.

A complex operation

Despite the valiant attempts of her medical team, her condition was resistant to any form of drug therapy. So her neurologist, Dr. Aris Hadjinicolaou, suggested something different: a hemispherectomy. The right half of her brain — where the stroke had hit and where the seizures were originating — would be disconnected.

The procedure is a rare one, and Élizabeth’s parents were worried, but they knew she was in good hands. And your generosity is the reason the specialized know-how and leading-edge medical technology that make this highly sophisticated procedure possible all come together right here at Sainte-Justine.

Seeing Élizabeth being carried by her nurse through the doors to the operating suite was the hardest part of it. We didn’t know if we’d ever see her alive again.
Laurianne Élizabeth’s mom

On October 16, 2023, some 30 professionals were on hand for the procedure that was coordinated by Dr. Hadjinicolaou and neurosurgeon Alexander Weil. A little over 12 hours later, she was wheeled back out again. The operation was a success.

(In French only)

Élizabeth’s progress since then has been nothing short of incredible. Not only have the three-year-old’s seizures stopped, but she is also starting to put words together, is on the verge of standing up by herself and is a bundle of smiles. Her parents are confident that she will eventually learn to walk.

“Before the operation, the days we spent with her were challenging to say the least. She was hard to manage, probably because she was in such pain,” said her mother. “Now, she’s a whole other child. She’s happy and we have fun together. We can finally start to enjoy a normal life as a family, with her and her siblings.”

The expert care Élizabeth received at Sainte-Justine has given her a new lease on life. And us, too.
Laurianne and Yan Élizabeth’s parents

Gratitude

Advances like these are directly attributable to donors’ generosity. Which is why Laurianne, Yan and Élizabeth will be the ambassador family for the 37th annual Cachou Tournament, the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation’s longest-running fundraising event. “If our story can give hope to even one other family, it will be worth it,” said Laurianne.

Supporting Sainte-Justine means supporting families like Élizabeth’s and reassuring them that a better future lies ahead. One gift at a time.

Thank you for being there for them, and for Growing Beyond with us!

Élizabeth and her neurologist, Dr. Aris Hadjinicolaou © Photos: Arianne Bergeron

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