I remember it was snowing the night of March 9, 2018. Yes, more snow. Yes, we were sick of winter. But we would’ve taken another hundred years of winter with you, Maélie. So you could keep dancing like all the little snowflakes.
Just 12 months earlier, something about you seemed amiss. You weren’t your usual self. You, who had never shown any signs of a health problem. You were rushed to the hospital, where they found out your heart was working at 7% capacity.
You were immediately hooked up to a Berlin heart device, while you waited for a donor heart to replace your own. That was followed by a year in intensive care at Sainte-Justine – your home away from home. A year of making friends with your floormates and caregivers. A year of bringing a ray of sunshine to everyone who crossed your path.
No pity. No feeling sorry for what you were going through. No Why me? moments. Just giggles. And fun. And enjoying the life you loved so much, and that loved you back.
It didn’t matter what tomorrow would bring. It was all about living in the present. Which princess dress will I wear today? Who’s coming to see me? What game can we play now? Do I colour with the yellow crayon or the blue?
Because childhood can never really be taken away. Despite the hardships – all the machines you were hooked up to and the physical discomfort, your first and only priority was to play: be it a bike ride in the hallway, a makeshift toy store in your hospital room or a thousand and one gowns fit for a princess.
While you were at Sainte-Justine, you finished kindergarten, you started Grade 1, you saw Céline Dion in person, you turned 6 years old, you celebrated Halloween, you gazed at the Sainte-Justine Tree of Lights and you saw Christmas come and go. And your mother, Caroline, was by your side every step of the way, making sure you were as happy as you could be, no matter what.
Today, your mother is giving her time to a fund named after you to keep your energy and joie de vivre alive through a number of initiatives designed to humanize patient care in the ICU.
You will live on in our memories as the monarch of the realm of intensive care. As will your mother’s commitment to making every day as joyful as possible, with a love that was unconditional. And we are reminded how cruel and unfair life can be.
March 9, 2018: the night when a white carpet was rolled out for you, Maélie, the Snow Queen of Unit 3-11. Our hearts were ripped out of our chests because yours could not be saved. Your smile, your zest for life and your resilience will stay with us forever. Your ray of sunshine may not be glowing anymore, but it will never stop warming our hearts.
*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.