Meet Niko

For most of us a bad day at work means a long meeting or a tight deadline. On Nina Yoon’s worst day at work her whole world came crashing down.

“It was just panic. I remember being so scared and I had no idea what was happening and I felt really helpless too. I just couldn’t do anything for him in that moment.”

In November of 2018 Nina was at work at the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in HSC Children’s, when she got a harrowing text from her husband Keo. All it said was, “Help, Niko is having a seizure.”

Nina texted back, “call 911,” but got no response. She opened her computer and turned on the feed from the security camera in her living room. Niko was lying down, unresponsive, with Keo and paramedics surrounding him. Nina watched as they tried to revive her one-year-old son and carried him out. She waited, feeling distraught, for the ambulance to arrive at HSC Children’s Emergency.

Niko was taken to the resuscitation room, where doctors intubated him because he couldn’t breathe. He began having another of the three seizures he would have that day. Niko was given medication to calm his body, so he could have a spinal tap, X-ray, and CT scan.

Doctors discovered the seizures were brought on because Niko had pneumonia and croup accompanied by a fever that spiked too high, too fast.

“There were so many doctors and nurses that checked in on us and they were amazing. It was really reassuring to know they just had it handled,” says Nina. “I just remember thinking, he’s in good hands.”

Nina is thankful for the support from her colleagues too, and says as everything was unfolding they stood by her side.

“They were so supportive and reassuring.”

Niko stayed at HSC Children’s for three days, until he regained enough strength to go home. He continued to battle croup, pneumonia and bronchitis for the next two years and went to HSC Children’s Emergency many times when he struggled to breathe.

“Having Niko and going through the hospital really opened my eyes. I feel reassured. I know that there’s help and good resources out there,” says Nina.

Niko’s bouts of sickness didn’t subside until 2020, when the pandemic hit and health orders prevented him from being exposed to germs out in public. Nina feels that was a silver lining of COVID-19 for her family.

Nina is the Foundation’s Manager of Finance and Administration. She manages an entire team responsible for processing donations, takes care of all the daily operational transactions and makes sure the organization has financial statements to share with all stakeholders like donors and the Foundation board.

“I definitely feel way more connected to my job and to the hospital. I see the full circle and I see the impact. Ever since, it’s made everything more meaningful. To me it’s not just a job anymore.”

Nina’s confidence in HSC Children’s inspired her to enroll Niko in a study at the conducted by dental clinician-scientist Dr. Robert Schroth. When he was intubated, Niko’s upper front teeth were chipped – a common issue during emergency intubation. The chipping has made his teeth susceptible to tooth decay. Dr. Schroth, who leads the Healthy Smile, Healthy Child research program at CHRIM, is doing research into treating kids’ cavities with silver diamine fluoride, a liquid painted onto the tooth decay instead of painful drilling and filling.

“It’s very rewarding to see how our research into alternative ways to manage tooth decay in young children can help them and their families,” says Dr. Schroth, who is also a Professor in the Department of Preventive Dental Science at the University of Manitoba. “It can turn a possibly stressful dental experience into one that is more positive. My team is so thankful for the support of CHRIM and the Foundation for ongoing support of our work in the area of early childhood oral health.”

The life-saving equipment and care programs at HSC Children’s Hospital and the life-changing research at Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba are both funded by donors through Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. To support ongoing research studies in pediatric care, that have direct impacts on innovative and leading treatments right here in Manitoba, click here.