Hope Air Patient Stories
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RowanRowan, Kelowna, BC

Bumps and bruises come with the territory when you’re a two-year-old. But when Katie’s son, Rowan, returned from a camping trip with his grandparents in the summer of 2017 with a swollen knee, she could tell it was something more serious. The swelling didn’t decrease, and Rowan was experiencing more and more pain.

Katie and Rowan didn’t get answers for a month, as five trips to the emergency room in Kelowna, BC built frustration and concern.

Finally, after more pain and struggles to see a paediatrician, Rowan and Katie received a diagnosis.

“The doctors were gathered around and said possibly the worst thing he could have ever said,” says Katie. “It was either cancer or arthritis.”

After tests ruled out the chance of cancer, Rowan was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). It is a chronic disorder where Rowan’s immune system attacks cells and tissues in his joints. ’Idiopathic’ means the cause is unknown.

Rowan might not seem like he faces a chronic, painful condition, as he lives the busy, happy life of any three-year-old. He loves swimming at his grandparent’s pool and riding his bike, which is equipped with a special set-up so he doesn’t have to pedal.

Once they learned about the specialized treatment Rowan would need, it meant visits to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. It is the closest treatment centre to their home in Kelowna, a four hour minimum drive.

In the summer the trip would mean a long, uncomfortable car ride for Rowan. “Maybe with some vomit,” laughs Katie. In the winter, however, the highway connecting Kelowna to Vancouver is frequently closed and the site of many accidents. It is a long, dangerous drive. Katie says even if the road was open in the winter, she isn’t sure she would risk their safety to make the treacherous trip. Flying to Vancouver adds substantially to the costs already facing a mother whose child has a chronic medical condition.

At first, Rowan had to visit BC Children’s Hospital, getting routine injections in his knees to help with inflammation. Now, he visits so that doctors can manage the complications that can come from his medication for JIA. There is a risk of kidney issues, and other side-effects, which need to be closely monitored. Every three months, Rowan and Katie make the trip from Kelowna to Vancouver for these appointments.

They have travelled with Hope Air eight times says Katie. She found out about Hope Air through her daycare, and an organizer of a former shuttle service from Kelowna to BC Children’s Hospital. At first she didn’t know what to think. Hope Air sounded too good to be true: flight costs provided for people in need of faraway medical care.

“We couldn’t imagine not having Hope Air,” says Katie. “It’s honestly just been amazing.”

As of February, Rowan has been free of painful flare-ups of JIA. They will be travelling back to BC Children’s Hospital this summer for another necessary appointment to manage his symptoms.

Because of the chronic nature of JIA, Katie says she takes things one day at a time and keeps a positive outlook on the future.

Rowan is still the same happy kid, and does his best to find different ways to express himself and get his energy out. He’s an avid singer, loves going to his daycare, and ‘running around like a maniac,’ says Katie with a laugh. Despite the frustration of not always being able to keep up with other kids, he takes it all in stride.

“He’s the strongest kid I know,” says Katie.