The Alberta Children’s Hospital has been a second home for the Heaton family. Lyndsay and Kevin’s daughter, Jessica was cared for by specialists here throughout her short, but entire life after being born with an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma. To treat the cancer, Jessica underwent chemotherapy and major brain surgery at the hospital and showed great progress. Finally, Lyndsay and Kevin had their happy baby girl at home and their family was whole.
About a month before Jessica’s first birthday, the Heatons learned Jessica’s tumour had returned and this time, there wasn’t much the team could do. Despite this, Lyndsay remembers their determination not to give up, even pushing for Jessica to be enrolled in clinical trials as a last resort. Unfortunately, Jessica’s condition deteriorated quickly and when her condition was deemed palliative, Lyndsay and Kevin had a request. They asked to stay on Unit 1, so that Jessica’s last days could be filled with the love of the team they had come to know so well. Of course, the request was granted and the final weeks of Jessica’s life were exactly what her family had hoped for. Constant company from her incredible team of doctors, nurses and specialists and even a beautiful birthday party when she turned one.
Jessica passed away 10 days later, leaving her family absolutely gutted and heartbroken. But Lyndsay and Kevin were convinced their sweet baby girl had an even bigger purpose than her short time with them on Earth. When they were asked whether they would consider donating her tumour, they knew exactly what that purpose was – advancing cancer research and developing better treatment options for other children like Jessica. Currently, scientists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute are working to develop ways to attack glioblastoma cells and reduce the risk of reoccurrence. Tumours like Jessica’s provide an invaluable opportunity for these researchers to gather a specific understanding of the properties of glioblastomas right here in Calgary and help expedite their very important work. For Lyndsay and Kevin, donating their daughter’s tumour is a beautiful way for her legacy to live on and will hopefully provide more answers and better treatments for families who face a similar diagnosis.
The Heatons remain connected with their team here at the hospital and are regular visitors. Though it is the same place they lost their daughter, it is also a place that fills their hearts with love and gratitude and a place full of people who have become family. They have also found the grief support services at Rotary Flames House to be helpful for them as they adjust to this different chapter of life.
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