It can be overwhelming coming to a new community.

It is even more overwhelming when travelling there because your child is so sick that she can’t get care where you are from. 

Jennifer Monias urgently needed to make an 8-hour trip to Winnipeg to ensure her five-year-old daughter Jenalyn got the help she needed at HSC Children’s Hospital.

“I’m not familiar with city driving so my cousin said he’d drive. We quickly packed a small bag that included her teddy bear and a sippy cup and got in my truck to drive through the night to Winnipeg,” says Jennifer.

Jennifer is thankful she did. She says staff at HSC Children’s Hospital listened to her, assured her she was in the right place and made her feel like everyone there really cared about her daughter’s health.

In October 2021, Jenalyn had flu-like symptoms of headaches, dizziness and tiredness, during an outbreak of Covid-19 in her Cree community of Norway House. The family took her to the Norway House Hospital where Covid-19 testing took place.

“I couldn’t keep her awake while we waited for tests, but when the test came back negative, we were told to let her sickness ‘run its course’ and were given antibiotics.”

At home, little Jenalyn’s condition worsened over the next several days, often vomiting up her medication and unable to eat much. She was becoming more lethargic. The family called an ambulance to take her back to the local hospital and one ambulance attendant mentioned it could be meningitis, but no physician diagnosis was made for this condition.

It was now Halloween and the family had planned a series of fun in-home activities while the community was under heavy pandemic restrictions. “We had apple-bobbing, cakes with gummy worms, musical chairs and face-painting. Jenalyn had been so excited to spend it with the babies (two-year-old’s brother Ty and sister Kyree) but now she was barely staying awake for it,” says Jennifer.

Halloween night, Jennifer also noticed that Jenalyn seemed to have neck stiffness. The next day, Jenalyn did not remember participating in the party and could not get up.

“She had vomited and messed herself and I laid beside her crying ‘please get up my girl, please just get up.’”

That’s when Jennifer made the decision to take her daughter on the 805 km trip to Winnipeg.

At HSC Children’s emergency department, Jenalyn was diagnosed with meningitis causing acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. After a series of tests, the exact strain of meningitis was confirmed, and correct medications determined. Fourteen days later, Jenalyn was her happy smiling self and ready to go home.

Unfortunately, Jenalyn came down with the same strain again in 2022 and the symptoms came on faster and stronger than before.

“I was praying and crying, holding her in my lap while I spoke with paramedics on the phone.”

This time Jenalyn was urgently medivacked to HSC Children’s where medications were started right away. But Jenalyn spent several days sleeping and not responding.

“I was weak, I was sad, I was so scared and lost. It was the scariest time of my life. I got down on my knees and prayed. That’s when Jenalyn spoke, ‘mom, don’t cry – I’ll get up.’”

Jennifer says Jenalyn sat up that day and stayed up for a full four hours. Every day after that they saw progress and soon Jenalyn was spending time in the hospital playroom doing art projects that Child Life specialists had set up for her. She also was able to go for walks and participated in Canada Day activities.

Jennifer is grateful to the Children’s Hospital doctors, nurses, and Child Life specialists who took such good care of her daughter and to donors who support the hospital to ensure it is ready for emergency situations for all kids across the province.

“It feels like we can talk to people here and our care needs are met.  Nothing is too impossible here.”

Jenalyn will undergo additional tests including an MRI to determine if additional treatment is needed to hopefully prevent further recurring meningitis.

Let’s make anything possible for kids like Jenalyn.  Visit to #GiveBetterFutures for kids who need Children’s Hospital.

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