One stuffy gets a CT scan. Another teddy bear has a plastic tube inserted in its nose.
When Megan and Gavin Leverrier play doctor with their stuffed animals, their version is a little different than most kids.’
Megan, now six, was diagnosed with a rare tumour on her liver when she was four. In July last year she received a liver transplant.
After more than seven months in Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children as well as time in BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, her family moved back home to the Shuswap in October 2014. Their lives since have involved many trips to Vancouver for medical tests and treatment.
Michelle and Jaimie Leverrier are Megan and four-year-old Gavin’s parents.
They are feeling happy and lucky to be back, all living together as a family, explains Michelle. It was a weird feeling when they first came back, she says, as they hadn’t returned since finding out Megan had a tumour – and driving through the night to BC Children’s Hospital.
They have now resumed ‘normal’ activities, with a few differences.
One of the nurses from Toronto who cared for Megan came to stay with the Leverriers recently – after getting all the required professional approvals – and noticed from Megan’s play how well she knows the CT scan procedure.
“She tells you to hold your breath,” says Michelle. “They play different. We’re okay with that.”
Michelle adds that her family has developed great relationships with doctors and nurses.
“It made it easy for us – with some people we’ll be lifelong friends.”
Megan is still being weaned off medications and when that’s done, the NG (nasogastric) tube can be removed.
“She can’t wait to start school,” Michelle says. “She’s back in dance class and taking swimming. It’s absolutely pure delight when she goes to her classes… She’s just so happy.”
Gavin, too, has come through the past two years well.
“They wrestle, they laugh, they’re best friends,” she says. “It’s Megan’s story but, at the same time, he’s had a lot to go through. He’s got through with flying colours.”
Because of the anti-rejection medication, Megan is immune-suppressed, so the Leverriers have to be cautious around people who are sick.
“We’re trying to have as much fun as possible, just enjoy – I don’t sweat the small stuff as much anymore.”
During the interview, Michelle laughs spontaneously a few times as she watches Megan working on a Christmas ornament.
She says her family probably does more driving for medical appointments than other people.
“It’s just our life, we just roll with it, we don’t question it. We stay positive. I don’t look at it like I’m different than other people.”
She says the diagnosis was the worst thing to happen in their lives, yet it has prompted different ways to look at life.
“It’s more like I want to be involved in big things, not little things.”
As an example, “if their clothes get wrecked, I don’t care,” she says, explaining she doesn’t need much “stuff” anymore, after living in a hospital room for so long.
“You kind of realize there are things more important, more worth my time.”
Jaimie is a corporal at the Salmon Arm RCMP detachment and returned to work about a month ago. He says things are much better.
“It’s been pretty stressful. It has been a staggering amount of medications to administer and monitor,” he says. “We’re kind of a quiet family, so we’ve just done a lot of family stuff and tried to be as positive as we could. She’s a very positive little girl.”
He says Megan probably knows more about her liver than most adults know, and has had a good attitude throughout.
“She was faced with a lot and she just ploughed through it.”
He and Michelle agree “the community has been unbelievable.”
“We’re very thankful for all the help everyone’s sent our way,” Jaimie says, “whether through thoughts or other ways.”
Michelle notes how helpful the community and the RCMP’s fundraising has been, allowing the whole family to stay in Toronto.
“You talk to some families and they’ve lost their houses. It’s a lot of money – paying the mortgage, staying at Ronald McDonald House, eating out three times a day.”
The Leverriers plan to “pay it forward” by assisting families in the Interior who are undergoing transplants. They have contacted the BC Transplant agency to see how they can best volunteer. Michelle emphasizes donors must not only sign up, but should make sure their family knows how important it is to them. She also expresses thanks for blood donors.
“Blood donors saved Megan’s life. She had multiple, multiple blood transfusions.”
Megan’s parents remain amazed by her strength.
“She’s so incredible,” says Michelle. “She’s my hero and she’ll always be my hero.”