When Ava Serluca asked if she could raise some money to help McMaster Children’s Hospital, her parents, Jayne and Dan, were both proud and pleased to help organize a fundraising event.
Their son Matteo also kicked into high gear, planning his contribution to what became a fresh fruit and bake sale at their Concession 2 home, which is also the Serluca family farm.
Last week, with help from friends and family, they raised $2,315 for the hospital, to be divided between two units.
Both Matteo and Ava have received wonderful care at the hospital. Their parents are grateful and also feel very fortunate their kids have received top quality, expert health care, delivered with kindness by doctors, nurses and staff who go out of their way to provide the best for their patients, says Jayne, herself a nurse working for the Niagara Health system.
Matteo was just a baby when he became seriously ill, she relates, and had to be rushed from the hospital in Niagara Falls, where he had spent a night under observation, before being transported to McMaster by ambulance the next morning.
Matteo knows the story well — that the doctor who saved his life told his parents if he had arrived at the hospital just a couple of hours later, he would not have survived.
“I know, I was two hours away from death,” the 11-year-old laughs when his mother reminds him, but for his parents, it was a terrifying time they will never forget. He was suffering from intussusception, a rare and life-threatening condition of the bowels, when one part telescopes into another, that was not correctly diagnosed until it was almost too late to save him.
He was just eight months old when he suddenly let loose with “a piercing scream,” Jayne says. She took him to the Niagara Falls hospital, and by the next morning, he seemed much worse. He was listless, says Jayne, and exhibiting other worrisome symptoms. “I’m not a pediatric nurse, but I knew the red flags,” she says. She insisted on a scan, and next thing she knew their baby was in an ambulance, being transported with lights and sirens, to McMaster’s gastroenterology department.
“They saved his life,” says Jayne, becoming emotional at the memory of how close they were to losing him.
“Everyone at the hospital, from the specialists to the nurses to the cleaning staff, was unbelievable,” she says, of the care both her kids received.
Because that’s only part of the Serlucas’ story.
Ava, nine, had just returned home from her own stay at the children’s hospital when she suggested the fundraiser.
With 86 per cent hearing loss in Ava’s left ear, an ear, nose and throat specialist had performed a complicated surgery that will hopefully improve Ava’s hearing.
It involved a graft of her ear drum, which was severely scarred from frequent ear infections when she was younger, that would occur as often as several times a month, says Jayne. Ava had tubes inserted in her ears, but they fell out soon after and were not replaced, allowing the infections to continue. She also had a bone protruding, pressing on her ear drum, causing friction.
“Hopefully, with this surgery, her hearing will be restored,” says Jayne.
“Without the operation, I would lose all my hearing in that ear,” adds Ava, who says “when someone is screaming, it sounds to me like they’re whispering in my ear. I couldn’t really hear people, and I always had pain in my ear.”
When Ava entered Junior Kindergarten at St. Davids Public School, her teacher, Miss P (Lindsay Parravicino), “was really nice, and she helped me a lot. She’s a good teacher. I think she really likes kids.”
Jayne points out the “unbelievable support” Ava received from her surgeon. Before surgery, the operation was explained to Ava so that she felt she understood what was going to happen. And after surgery, “the doctor didn’t leave her bedside until she woke up,” she says.
They also allowed Jayne to be in the operating room and hold the mask to Ava’s face, until she was asleep, and Ava was permitted to take a stuffed bear, given to her the night before by her cousin to comfort her, with her, so it would be beside her when she woke up.
“It meant so much for her to have me there, and as a mom, I was so glad to be there with her,” says Jayne. “They were so compassionate, so kind and caring to all of us.”
It was just two days post-surgery when Ava said she’d like to do something for her doctor and the hospital, and Jayne agreed.
They decided they would have a baked goods and fresh fruit sale, with peaches and plums and grapes donated by the family farm and other local farmers.
Jayne also called on a group of her close friends from Niagara District Secondary School to help with baking and on the day of the sale, including Jessica Friesen and Leanne Visser. Family members and friends held up signs, flagged down drivers, and helped at the fruit stand.
People were very generous, says Jayne, some donating money without buying anything. Many shared stories about their positive experiences with the McMaster Health system, she added.
Ava has an appointment for a check-up at the hospital coming up soon, and the Serluca family will present the funds they raised, to be divided between the gastroenterology and the ear, nose and throat departments, says Jayne.