The mother of a Swift Current toddler with a host of rare medical conditions is turning her struggles into strength in a new book that explores how women can reduce stress in their lives.
Kyla Thomson contributed a chapter for the book Dear Stress, I'm Breaking Up With You, by Ky-Lee Hanson, which profiles the stories of women from all walks of life who have dealt with life-altering levels of stress.
"I've spent the past three years trying to be a mom that is basically a nurse for her daughter to live," said Thomson.
Thomson's three-year-old daughter, Bella, was born with Hirschprungs Disease — a blockage of the large intestine.
The toddler has spent most of her life in Calgary at the Alberta Children's Hospital, where she was eventually diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) and cartilage–hair hypoplasia (a form of dwarfism) — both rare genetic disorders.
Over the past three years Bella has undergone 13 surgeries, spent 620 days in hospitals (more than 200 of those in isolation), survived chemotherapy, two bouts of septic shock, and a blood and marrow transplant.
She's "about the size of a one-year-old," with a severely lowered immune system, her mother said.
Thomson said the "ups and downs," of watching her daughter grow up in a hospital "just ate [her] up inside," and it wasn't until Bella was two years old, and the family was able to return home, that she was finally able to get mental health support and focus on "trying to recover and deal with my PTSD."
'Writing has helped'
Thomson's published some of those recovery strategies in the new book, in hopes of "helping other people who aren't doing so well.
"I talk about how writing has helped, how I sought mental health support, and how I made the hospital an environment that soothed me."
Thomson said living in isolation unit of the hospital was "like living in an insane asylum or jail, always having to put on booties and masks, so I started putting up funny posters, jokes, notes, just a lot of visual reminders that our world is happy.
She also started making videos, creating a YouTube channel called "Hospital Mom Hacks" to share tips and tricks for people parenting children with complex needs.
Thomson's 40 videos cover everything from how to accommodate feeding tubes to protecting an immune-suppressed child when out in public.
'She taught me to wake up'
While Thomson acknowledges the past three years have been more than difficult, she said she "doesn't even like to think about the kind of person [she] was before Bella.
"In a nutshell, she's taught me the kind of person I should me, she taught me what actually matters in this world, and how I can help others who need it.
"She taught me to wake up, and realize what actually matters."
Bella is currently living at home at the family's acreage outside of Swift Current, but she may have to go back to Calgary in the near future due to an unknown bowel condition that required emergency surgery in January.
Nevertheless, Thomson still hopes things "will smooth down, and one day Bella will be able to go to daycare and go to school with other kids.
"She'll be followed by her bone marrow transplant team for the rest of her life, but so far every condition she's had has been able to be treated, so there are no more life threatening scenarios right now."