TEMAGAMI – A young Temagami boy is on his way to living a life without an abundance of limitations.
Elliot Lacroix Belanger, seven, underwent tendon lengthening surgery on February 16 at Health Sciences North in Sudbury.
“Elliot had to quarantine from the sixth of February until the 16th of February, he needed to do a five-hour pre-op and then a COVID swab, which he didn’t enjoy too much,” said Elliot’s parents, Dan and Miranda Lacroix Belanger, in an email message to The Speaker.
They noted that prior to his surgery, Elliot was “very nervous and scared” and that he needed medication to calm himself down.
“It was even harder that only one parent was allowed in the hospital with him,” the parents said.
“We had to spend two nights at the hotel, because he was the first surgery of the day, and we have a family history of Malignant hyperthermia (where your blood boils under anaesthetic), so they wanted us to stay close by to make sure. We are 17 kilometres short for the Northern Health Travel Grant, so it does not cover the hotel room.”
The couple noted that Elliot’s surgery was conducted by a surgeon from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa who came to Health Sciences North in Sudbury to do the surgery because of COVID-19 precautions.
Elliot’s health issues began early on as he suffered a stroke at birth, causing Cerebral Palsy and a right Hemiplegia (limited use of his right side.)
He had been undergoing Botox injections for the last four years, but unfortunately they were no longer working.
Elliot’s foot brace also wouldn’t fit anymore because it was so tight around the leg.
The orthopaedic and paediatric teams believed Elliot would benefit from serial casting to help stretch the muscles.
The Lacroix Belangers said that for seven years the family has been steadily going back and forth to medical appointments and making it work financially.
However, the orthopaedic team mentioned to them that the serial casting procedure wouldn’t be covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, but recommended that the family reach out to local organizations to see if they would help with covering the costs.
The family was looking at three casts at $275 apiece for Elliott, along with the cost of travelling back and forth to North Bay to get the casts put on and taken off, which is a total of four trips.
In order for all of the casting procedures to happen, a 50/50 draw fundraiser was set up on the Jamie’s Army Facebook page, raising a total of $1,050 for the family.
“We weren’t expecting it to blow up as much as it did, but we are forever thankful,” the family said of the Jamie’s Army efforts.
“We also got many people sending us donations privately, as far (away) as Ohio. There was so much generosity from the people in our community and abroad, we can’t thank everyone enough. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, we truly know what it means.”
On January 20 the family travelled to North Bay to the Nipissing Orthopaedic Lab, where Elliot was supposed to be serial casted. Instead, they say he was fitted for a new ridged brace that he will need after the tendon lengthening surgery.
“Karen of the Orthopaedic team decided it would be of our best interest not to do the serial casting, for a few reasons,” said Dan and Miranda.
“If they were going to do the surgery, they didn’t want him casted beforehand, it’ll be too much on him. Secondly, if he needs to self-isolate, the dates wouldn’t work out, so they will be post-surgery.”
After undergoing the tendon lengthening surgery on February 16, the Lacroix Belanger family says Elliot will continue to have many follow-up appointments and they have “great hope” that he will be able to fit back into his brace, skates and boots, and be able to be a child without so many limitations.
They also say the support keeps rolling in for the family from Jamie’s Army, the purchasing of the 50/50 tickets, various donations, sharing of posts and getting their story out there, offering to bring them coffee or whatever they need, offers of places to stay, simply reaching out, sending thoughts and prayers, bringing get-well gifts, and so much more.
“We can’t begin to tell you how much it means,” stressed the parents.
“There are so many people to thank and you are all amazing.”
They also noted that even CBC Canada reached out to the family about Elliot’s health journey.
Elliot now is scheduled to have a follow-up appointment on March 29 in hopes that he can take the cast off, see how the surgery went, and then he will be required to wear a ridged AFO brace.
“Elliot is sore and it hurts to put pressure on his foot,” noted Dan and Miranda.
“He’s finding it hard not being able to play outside, have a normal shower, go to hockey, or walk properly.”
Along with follow-up appointments, the family says they also have out-of-town orthopaedic appointments and brace fittings, Botox injection appointments for Elliot’s right wrist, and an upcoming trip to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto where they’re looking at five trips or more in the month of March alone.
“As always, any and all appointments and updates get posted under #strengthforelliot on Facebook, so make sure to follow that to follow Elliot’s journey.”
Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker