Stories of Care - Patients

Sophia with her parents

Sophia’s Story

May 27, 2024

When George and Joanna learned they were expecting Sophia, they never imagined the extraordinary journey that lay ahead. Complications during Joanna’s pregnancy revealed serious health issues for both mother and baby. Joanna’s kidneys began to shut down a little over a month before Sophia’s due date, so Sophia was delivered by emergency C-section at the family’s local hospital. Sophia entered the world with a fragile heartbeat and struggling to breathe.

“[The medical team] basically told us Sophia is not doing well. We're not sure if she's gonna make it, and we need to get her to Hamilton,” remembers Sophia’s father, George.

She was swiftly transferred to McMaster Children’s Hospital, with her father trailing behind the ambulance. Joanna remained in Oakville, her condition worsening. When she began coughing up blood, a biopsy was performed and revealed that Joanna had choriocarcinoma, and it had spread to her lungs. Barely post-partum, Joanna began chemotherapy to treat this rare and aggressive cancer.

Meanwhile, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team at McMaster Children’s Hospital sprang into action to deliver the critical care Sophia needed to survive. She couldn’t breathe on her own or feed properly, so she underwent multiple tests to ensure that Joanna’s cancer hadn’t passed on to her – a very real and terrifying possibility. Fortunately, Sophia did not have her mother’s cancer.

After two and a half weeks in the NICU, Sophia's condition improved enough for her to be transferred to be released and return to her mother, who was just beginning her chemotherapy journey. While the time following Sophia’s birth was painful, exhausting and traumatic, both Joanna and George were determined to be there and be strong for their new daughter.

“What the team of doctors and nurses did at [McMaster Children’s Hospital] made a big difference,” emphasized George, remembering those impossibly difficult weeks when Sophia was in the NICU. “I've seen a lot of hospitals but there was a different level of care that I saw there. It was impressive.”

In total, Joanna underwent 21 rounds of chemotherapy to defeat the choriocarcinoma, and Sophia continued to have follow-up appointments with an oncologist at McMaster Children's Hospital to monitor for any appearance of cancer. Today, both mother and daughter are completely cancer-free.

Today, Sophia is a thriving seven-year-old, full of life and compassion. "She's amazing," George proudly shares. "She's bright, witty, and has a huge heart."

George and Joanna's gratitude toward McMaster Children’s Hospital is immense, and they have channelled this gratitude into giving back. By supporting the hospital that saved Sophia’s life, they hope to ensure that other families receive the same level of exceptional care that they did.

We encourage you to follow in their footsteps. Donor support is vital in providing life-saving care to children like Sophia and their families when they need it most.

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