There’s nothing more precious than the life of a child. It’s my job to help them, to care for them, every day. And you make this possible. The surgical procedures I perform to treat brain and spinal cord conditions help ensure these kids have a fighting chance at a better quality of life.

Why did I choose to go into pediatric neurosurgery? A child needs a healthy brain to be able to grow and develop. The brain shapes who we are. It determines our personality and affects our ability to learn. What drew me to pediatric neurosurgery is the tremendous sense of responsibility that we all have toward the future of these children. 

When I perform surgery on a young patient, there's always one thought in my head and in my heart: that what my team and I are doing will change their life for the better.

I can never guarantee a specific outcome for any patient. But I can promise them they'll get the best care in the world. And that's all because of you – our generous donors. Like the researchers, nurses and attendants we have here on staff, you are a vital part of the Sainte-Justine community. Your role is a crucial one. And the impact you have is life-changing. 

Our dream

Ever since I finished my fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery, I've felt driven to heal and save the lives of as many children as possible. Today, thanks to your support, my dream – a dream I share with my colleagues – is coming true every day. Many children who weren't previously candidates for conventional neurosurgery now have new hope. 

With our pediatric neurosurgery laser, a revolutionary piece of equipment, the first Canadian acquisition of which was made possible by your generosity, we can heal children with tumours in hard-to-reach areas of the brain and others, like Megan, with drug-resistant epilepsy. 

The laser lets us do what we used to do more invasively, only now all it takes is a tiny 4 mm incision. We burn away the lesion while an MRI guides us in real time. Our donors are also to thank for this amazing technology.

© Laurence Pilon

But there is still much more to do. 

Every year, there are 7,500 appointments in Sainte-Justine's neurology unit. Of these, 4,000 are with patients who have epilepsy. A full third of these are drug-resistant cases. Those that are multifocal, bilateral or in a functional part of the brain cannot be operated.

As a result, only 25 to 30 children with epilepsy are brought in for surgery during the course of a year. The post-op success rate is somewhere between 40% and 80%. 

With you, we can continue to heal more and more children by gaining a better understanding of epilepsy so we can adapt our treatment methods accordingly.

The role of genetics

I can see my dream within my grasp – and that's because I have some incredible colleagues at Sainte-Justine who share this vision. 

Over the past decade, we have had the good fortune of being able to benefit from the leading-edge research done by Dr. Elsa Rossignol and her team. They have been taking a closer look at the genetic causes and mechanisms of childhood epilepsy. In fact, her lab is one of the first in the world to create genetic models of epilepsy, which today are providing a clearer picture of the various types of seizures experienced by young patients. Her goal is to continue her work for the half of epileptic children whose genetic analysis has yet to shed significant light on their condition. 

We are also exploring innovative alternative therapies for these children, whose epilepsy has not been cured by surgery or other forms of treatment. We are working with the neurology team to focus on neuromodulation: an option that uses deep brain stimulation to reduce the frequency and severity of epileptic episodes. The efficacy and risks of this procedure need to be studied more extensively. But the potential is considerable. 

When you see a child with a serious health problem, how can you not feel compelled to do everything in your power to help them? Every day, I renew my commitment to taking care of my patients as if they were my own children. And I'm counting on you to help me. 

Because, at Sainte-Justine, you are an invaluable member of our team. It all comes down to a simple equation: your heart + my hands = their future. 

Thank you for giving generously to provide a better, brighter and healthier future for these children.