A nine-month-old baby from Keremeos and her family are in the fight for her life.
About two weeks ago Vicki Parisien took her daughter Santana Joy Parisien to children’s hospital in Vancouver to remove stitches following a cataract surgery.
The surgery should have only required the pair to be in hospital and away from the rest of the family including five siblings for a few days.
But routine blood work results showed irregularities in Santana’s white blood cell and platelet counts. Further testing determined the happy baby, who had exhibited no signs of discomfort or pain, has myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a form of leukemia.
“In that moment, when they gave me the diagnosis, I immediately asked for a second opinion,” Parisien said. “I didn’t want to believe it. I was in shock and they said there is no second opinion. That she had leukemia and that we needed to start treatment right away.”
Because Santana has down syndrome and was born with two heart murmurs she is deemed at high risk so the pair could not return to their Keremeos home even for a few days to get extra clothes or make arrangements for the other children or the family pets.
“It’s really hard being away from the kids. It’s difficult for them. They are staying with their father in Keremeos so that’s good. But it’s hard to be away from them and not able to talk about what’s going on with their sister,” she said.
Santana has already started receiving chemotherapy treatment. Her schedule will be four days of intravenous chemotherapy treatment and three days off for anywhere between six to eight months.
She’s also underwent several blood transfusion to try to increase her platelet counts. Unfortunately she had an allergic reaction to one of the transfusions and broke out in hives.
“She never cried before we came here. She’s always been a happy baby but I’ve heard her cry more in the last few weeks than the rest of her life,” Parisien said.
Santana is described as a “fighter” and “miracle baby,” by her mother. Although born with two holes in her heart, heart murmurs, one being very large, the baby was still developing just as others her age. The murmurs had started to repair themselves so open heart surgery was not required.
“She’s just such a little fighter. She’s been through so much already but she’s done it,” she said.
As Parisien is on assistance the family’s rent will be paid on their apartment in Keremeos through emergency funds through the ministry. But Parisien still must pay a variety of bills associated with the house. She cannot leave Santana’s side and is still in hospital but is also facing added expenditures from being so far away from her other children.
Parisien’s boyfriend John Wawea, who has been involved since before Santana was born planned to go to work in northern BC but has put that off for a few months to spend time at the hospital.
“Our life has just kind of stopped. It’s terrifying. I’m just praying and hoping for the best,” she said.
A gofundme campaign has been started to help the family with costs associated to Santana being in hospital as well an account has been setup at CIBC.
To donate to the family visit www.gofundme.com/ky0q84 or at CIBC Bank Transit # 07560
Parisien said there’s been outpouring of support from the community and that it’s given her strength.
“I’d like to thank the community, friends and family for all their prayers and support through Santana’s journey to her recovery,” she said.