Not just a number -a mom reflects on her children’s care at the IWK

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“The IWK is a model for what children’s hospitals should be. We never felt like ‘just a number’ at the IWK,” Jessica Follett says. “Doctors and nurses felt more like extended family, not to mention the receptionists, cafeteria workers and Tim Horton’s staff.”

Follett has plenty of experience with the IWK, having not one, but two of her children seeing specialists and undergoing surgeries at one time or another during their young lives.

A day after her daughter Abbigail’s second birthday, Follett was informed she would need cardiac surgery.

“Dr. (Santokh) Dhillon took all the time in the world to figure out what was wrong with my daughter without us fully knowing if there was something wrong with her,” Follett says. “Dr. (Robert) Chen operated on her and the pre-op care and post-op care that she received will be forever in my heart.”

Her son, Jacob, was born with microtia, meaning his external ear was underdeveloped, and he was deaf in one ear. This meant continuous care and check-ups in the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department (ENT), as well as audiology. He had “simple surgeries” from removal of his adenoids and having tubes placed in his ear, to the more nerve-wracking cartilage removal from his neck.

“Drs. (Gerard) Corsten and (Paul) Hong were amazing doctors and Jacob’s audiologist, Sheila (Fortier), never let us walk away if we had questions or concerns,” Follett says.

Jacob was also placed in the cranial facial clinic as a patient of Dr. Michael Bezhuly’s and given every possible resource available, from dentistry to plastics and ENT.

Follett and her family now live in Newfoundland. When Bezhuly held a clinic there at Janeway Children’s Hospital last year, he visited Jacob, remembering him like it was yesterday.

“His last major seven hour surgery was successful,” Follett says. “He is happy and healthy and loving that he is able to wear “normal” sunglasses because his ear is fully reconstructed.

Microtia Awareness Day, November 9, is dedicated to spreading hope and knowledge of Microtia, a congenital birth defect.