Spunk sparks TV spot

The Salmon Arm teen is very determined that she will become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Connection: A safe social network allows patients in children’s hospitals to reach out to each other and share their experiences.

Connection: A safe social network allows patients in children’s hospitals to reach out to each other and share their experiences.

She may be proud of being chosen for a Telus television commercial, but a film career is not included in 14-year-old Maggie Manning’s plans.

The Salmon Arm teen is very determined that she will become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Maggie is well-acquainted with the field and the inner workings of children’s hospitals, as are her parents Sally and Frank.

Twelve years ago, doctors diagnosed the then two-year-old with bilateral developmental hip dysplasia, a condition in which the hip sockets are not fully formed.

Since then, Maggie has endured eight surgeries, with the next one coming up in November.

In her life, a trip to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver is a chance to check in with special friends like her physical therapist and child life specialist.

It is the latter who has provided the irrepressible teen with things to do while she’s in hospital, and broadened her horizons to include at least 50 new friends.

Maggie’s in-hospital life has been broadened by Upopolis, a private social utility that connects young hospital patients to their families, friends and school network.

Kids can build a blog, learn kid-friendly information about their conditions, play games, email, and share experiences by connecting with others who are in hospital as well.

This connection is provided by Telus in partnership with Kids’ Health Links Foundation, and Toshiba who provides the computers and sets them up with the secure settings.

Not all Maggie’s roads lead to hospital.

As well as less taxing activities like playing violin and piano, or interacting with her two pet rats, the self-described competitive teen also plays ringette, volleyball, basketball and badminton and is a member of the Me to We club at Shuswap Middle School.

She and her father completed the recent 35-kilometre Ride For Life, biking to Silver Creek and back.

“I thought she would be a bookish girl, who would like to do crafts,” laughs Sally.

Despite repeated months locked within a body cast that extended from chest to ankle on one side and chest to knee on the other, Maggie never stayed in one place too long.

“She learned how to run in that body cast,” says Frank. “Totally amazing!”

Randall Peters, senior producer at Telus Studios is also impressed.

“We ran into Maggie and kinda fell in love with her; she’s a spunky, funny, lovely young lady,” says Peters. “We just saw a young girl overcoming obstacles, with real leadership qualities.”

Peters uses a Telus slogan to describe the country’s future with  people like Maggie in the wings  – “The future really is friendly.”

Maggie has already appeared in a smaller film, shot entirely in Salmon Arm.

But Peters says Telus was interested in doing a full-blown commercial to make people aware of the corporation’s community involvement.

“We took her to Toronto to meet a young lady of about 18 who had mentored her,” he said of a seriously ill young woman by whom Maggie was befriended four years ago. “We thought it would be cool for them to meet and talk, and to show about the power of the connection.”

Provided primarily in major children’s hospitals across the country, Peters says Telus wants to expand the service but notes it take a sizeable commitment on the part of the hospital.

The Manning family has high praise for Children’s Hospital, where Maggie’s next surgery is scheduled.

The family has been told recovery will be between four to eight weeks. With her usual optimism, Maggie is planning to be back in the ringette game in January.