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Resilience in the Spotlight: Navigating Chronic Illness

Mori pictured showing her determination while in hospital
February 13, 2024
Mori was dogged by a series of stubborn infections that just wouldn't go away, which ultimately resulted in a diagnosis of Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR), a medical condition affecting the bladder and kidneys.

Like many toddlers attending the germ-fest that is daycare, Morghan ‘Mori’ Freitag often got sick. But unlike her peers, it wasn’t a series of sniffles and quick-breaking fevers that followed her home each week.

Mori was dogged by a series of stubborn infections that just wouldn't go away, despite multiple rounds of antibiotics. Concerned for her well-being, her parents took their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter for bloodwork. Her results were puzzling. She had a rare bacterial infection, the kind usually preceded by a remote, tropical vacation. But Mori and her family hadn’t travelled anywhere. Further tests revealed complications with her left kidney and ureter, ultimately resulting in a diagnosis of Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR), a medical condition where urine reverses its normal flow, moving from the bladder back into one or both ureters, and occasionally even reaching the kidneys.

In 2019 at the age of four, Mori underwent a Deflux surgery to address her VUR, but her journey was far from over. Despite ongoing prophylactic antibiotics and the expectation that she would grow out of VUR – as most children do – breakthrough infections remain a challenge. To this day, hospitalizations are an unfortunate, but accepted, intermittent part of Mori’s routine.

“She gets frustrated,” says Meghan, Mori’s mother. “But she also knows that she’s always taken care of. It’s just part of her life instead of being her life.”

Her family is always on the watch for signs that Mori is getting sick. She’s an outgoing and sensitive child; a shift in her mood is often the first indicator something is wrong.  Each school year starts with a conversation with Mori’s teacher about her unique needs and the likely absences for treatment. At every turn, Mori and her family have faced the challenges of her chronic condition with unwavering courage and the support of a hospital that understands her unique needs.

Over the years, Mori has received many different types of care at McMaster Children’s Hospital. The tests and treatments she received varied depending on the infection. She underwent voiding cystourethrograms (VCUG), a test using special x-ray technology to visualize the urinary tract and bladder, CT scans, and consultations with various specialists in nephrology and urology. Child life specialists worked with her to ensure she was as emotionally and psychologically comfortable as possible throughout each hospitalization. Tutors helped her stay on top of schooling – which she loves – during her longer stays.

In addition to school, Mori adores the performing arts. She likes acting, dancing and singing. In 2022, these passions were scheduled to come together in a series of performances in a local theatre production of Annie. Unfortunately, a ureter blockage requiring immediate medical attention collided with the show’s performance dates. Mori was devastated at the prospect of missing out on the shows she’d been rehearsing for all year.

“Her care was number one and her health was number one,” says Meghan. “but [the health care team at McMaster Children’s Hospital] also knew that part of her health was her mental health. So they made sure she was able to do her show.”

Mori’s care team carefully scheduled her medicines and treatments in a way that allowed her to perform in a few of the shows. Exceptional, holistic care like this has been the hallmark of Mori’s journey with McMaster Children’s Hospital and just one of the many reasons she is ready to champion her hospital and inspire others with her story of resilience and hope.

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