May 31, 2017
Melanie Nielson calls it the “worst day of our lives.”
One year ago, her son Ethan was walking home from piano lessons when he was struck by a truck and sustained life-threatening injuries.
Yet, through the care Ethan received during a four-month stay at Alberta Children’s Hospital, the nine-year-old boy is back home and doing most of the activities kids his age do, including climbing, skiing and walking the dog.
“I credit the Alberta Children’s Hospital with saving my son’s life and, in doing so, healing my family and preserving my family,” says Nielson. “We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to give back.”
About 12 months after Ethan was injured, the Nielson family gathered friends, family and neighbours at a toy drive event in their southeast Calgary community.
Together, they celebrated Ethan’s progress — he still requires therapy to improve speech and other skills — and gathered hundreds of toys that were donated to Alberta Children’s Hospital for distribution to other young patients.
The Nielson family story is the subject of the 14th and latest video in the Because You Cared series, which gives Albertans an opportunity to thank their health providers for outstanding care and compassion.
“I feel like I can say thank you a hundred times and I can hug you and I can give you a million gifts but no one will know the depth of my gratitude,” says Nielson.
“The quality of care is second to none. When Ethan was in a coma in the ICU (intensive care unit), the nurses would come in and talk to him and they treated him like a real person and not just an invalid in the bed.
“Then throughout the journey, there have been so many positives,” Nielson adds.
“Like, anyone who is a mother has experienced that first time your kid walks, that first time your kid talks. And it’s exciting and exhilarating.
“Well, we had all of that and we lost it and then he got it back — and it is infinitely more exciting and more invigorating than the first time around.… There are still firsts and we just celebrate it all. I want to thank the staff at the hospital for never giving up on us, for believing we could take another step and for celebrating with us along the way.”
Dani Lahoda’s daughter, Jade, is among the Alberta Children’s Hospital patients whose hospital stay has been brightened by some of the toys the Nielson family donated.
“It really means a lot,” says Lahoda. “Being in the hospital for so long, it can be really difficult to find things to entertain (Jade) and to keep her going, really. Something like this really helps to lift her spirits.”