Kolin Casagrande was born at the Ottawa Civic hospital on May 17, 1978 at a healthy nine pounds. Two days later, however, things took a turn for the worst and he was sent to CHEO where he was put under the care of Dr. Mercer.
“He was very distended,” explains his mother Lynda. “There was something wrong with his bowels”. Kolin underwent his first operation at the age of 10 days and the year that followed would prove to be a very challenging one. Following his first operation, he began to experience many set backs which caused him to be in and out of the hospital on a regular basis.
“He would come home on a Friday and by the Monday morning he was in distress and we would need to take him back to CHEO,” explains his mother. Lynda recalls that time in their family’s life as very difficult. Baby Kolin simply wasn’t getting better and Lynda and her husband were becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation. Eventually Kolin was admitted to CHEO’s 5 north unit where he ended up staying for close to a year. Linda recalls Kolin’s year-long stay at CHEO and the wonderful care and attention he received from his medical team; “The nurses were terrific,” says Lynda. “They basically taught him to talk and walk.”
Following a 10 month stay, Kolin returned home, but continued to have regular admissions at CHEO under the care of Dr. Mercer. Small for his age and not progressing, a visiting doctor who met Kolin during one of his admissions suggested that he be fed breast milk to help him gain weight and get better.
“I had no milk left,” says Linda. So CHEO turned to the community for help.
“In the beginning they were receiving milk from doctor’s wives and some of the nurses, but when that wasn’t enough they went city-wide,” says Lynda.
“They put out a call to the community for mother’s milk and put his picture on the front page of The Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Journal,” recalls Lynda. While nursing mothers in the community rallied around Kolin, Lynda’s husband was kept busy collecting breast milk every morning.
The front news story even reached Lynda’s parents who were staying in Florida at the time. “My parents saw it in their paper,” says Lynda.
And baby Kolin began to thrive. “He loved the stuff,” says Lynda. “He did very well on the breast milk. He became heavier and got better. It was a big reason why he was finally able to come home.”
At the age of nine, Kolin underwent a huge set back when his bowels burst. “So we went back to CHEO and met Dr. Shirley Chou -- who was also fantastic,” says Linda.
By then Kolin’s file was 12 volumes thick. “I remember they put the files on a chair and wheeled them out,” laughs Lynda.
Dr. Chou performed emergency surgery on Kolin. “It took all day,” recalls Lynda. “She took out all his bowels. His life was in jeopardy a few times during the surgery but I knew he was in good hands.”
Today Kolin is 35 years old and a married man. He has recently returned to school at Algonquin College where he is taking screenwriting. He has had a few medical issues over the years, but is generally in good health.
Lynda looks back at her time at CHEO and remembers fondly all the people who helped save her son. “They helped us to raise him that first year,” she says. “They were great!”