At Jessica’s one year checkup in the summer of 2005, her doctor noted that her one leg appeared longer than the other and we were then referred to McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. Her diagnosis was Hemihypertrophy - one of her legs was growing faster than the other.
At the age of three Jessica was admitted for her first surgery on her hip and her tibia was shortened. Before this surgery her leg length discrepancy was just over 3cm. She had a large lift on her shoe to assist with this as well as a brace to keep her leg straight.
Until the age of eight there is an increased risk of certain types of aggressive tumours. This is monitored by ultrasound and bloodwork every 3 months. The ultrasounds went fine but the bloodwork wasn’t as easy because she often had to be poked 2 or 3 times so she came to dread it. Fortunately, all the testing came back ‘clear’.
Following her first surgery she spent several days in isolation at the Guelph General Hospital for pneumonia.
For many years she had surgeries once a year and got quite used to the routine. All of her early surgeries required a full leg cast and a wheelchair.
Just before she turned seven she went for surgery to have an external fixator installed to keep her bones stabilized and in alignment. At her post-op appointment, it was discovered that she had a bone infection. On the day she turned seven she had a birthday party with family and friends and then went back to the hospital and had surgery that evening, followed by another surgery the next day. She eventually was discharged with a PICC line and IV antibiotics. Eventually she made it through and had a clean bill of health.
Within the last year we have learned that Jessica has arthritis in her ankle and more recently it was discovered in her foot. She did like to participate in 5k races but has now been advised against this. We are looking into getting an elliptical machine as that is one of the things deemed acceptable for her to do.
Despite a positive attitude there have still been lots of tears, pain, bullying about her scar, struggles to take medicine and I’m sure tiredness of constant surgeries, therapy, and pain.
As a parent I’m not sure it gets easier. I have now gone into the operating room 13 times , given her a kiss once she is asleep and have had to walk down the hall and leave her there. Routines are worked out carefully to ensure we are also there for her sister, the dog, and the cat, while we are in hospital.
Despite missing a lot of school Jessica continued to excel in school. She is currently in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and is looking toward a possible career in medicine. She is very interested in the brain and had been looking forward to participating in the Brain Bee at the University of Waterloo until it was cancelled due to the virus outbreak.
We are currently waiting to have her next surgery which has been temporarily cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jessica used part of her Wish Kids fund to go and see Elton John in concert. It was a night she will never forget! She looks forward to planning for her next Wishes and is so grateful to have something positive to look forward to.