By Ron Giofu
With Gabriel Dufault-Truant on the way back from a life-threatening illness, his family wants to give back to an organization they used during his time in hospital.
As Dufault-Truant spent 74 days in the London Health Sciences Centre battling a sinus infection that went to his brain, the Amherstburg family spent time at the Ronald McDonald House. The family now wants to give back and is holding a fundraiser April 1 at Dominion Golf Course.
“It was around Canadian Thanksgiving when Gabe had cold-like symptoms,” recalled mom Krista Truant. “He was off school for a couple of days.”
After taking cold medication, he felt better and returned to class at Anderdon Public School, where he is in Grade 8. However, Krista said she received a call from the school not long after he returned about Gabriel not feeling well. Noticing he was lethargic and acting strangely by doing such things as turning his iPod on and off repeatedly and fumbling with his seat belt, she called an ambulance for him. After the lights and sirens were activated on the way to Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus, she learned Gabriel had a seizure in the ambulance.
Gabriel spent five days in the hospital and a few days after being discharged, the paramedics were called again and he ended up having another seizure in the emergency room. He spent two days in the intensive care unit (ICU) and things didn’t improve.
“They didn’t have any answers,” said dad Rick.
Gabriel was sent to London via helicopter just in time, Rick added, as if they had waited six more hours, Gabriel would likely have died.
Doctors put three burr holes into the left side of Gabriel’s skull to relieve the pressure but that didn’t work. Half of his skull was then removed with the other half following a day later when that didn’t work. Gabriel then spent two weeks in a drug-induced coma.
“They mentioned to us he may not be the same child you brought in,” said Krista.
When Gabriel did pull out of his coma, Rick said he had a bit of movement on his right side, none on his left and couldn’t speak. At one point, a total of 64 IV lines were connected to Gabriel.
Other issues that had to be dealt with included Gabriel’s allergy to anesthesia and when his blood refused to clot. While the bone flaps from his skull were off, he had to wear a helmet whenever he left his bed with a friend of the family painting a baseball helmet for the young ball player.
The bone flaps were reattached during a Dec. 19 surgery with the surgery lasting 12 hours instead of the usual four. Rick explained the pieces of the skull no longer fit right so parts had to be shaved down. Skin from a human cadaver also was placed in Gabriel’s skull to act as further protection for his brain.
Even the doctors were praying for Gabriel, Krista added, with the 13-year-old becoming a “miracle child.” He was on the prayer list at St. Joseph Church and the family even brought in healers to help him improve.
“We attribute (his recovery) not only to good health care, but the power of prayer,” said Krista.
His speech and movement improved thanks to physiotherapy and he was able to bypass further rehabilitation that was supposed to be in Toronto and return home Jan. 6, which is also his younger brother Jaxson’s birthday. The Truant family said Gabriel’s class at school was wonderful and they sent him gifts, cards and positive messages throughout his ordeal.
“The whole community was awesome,” said Rick.
Currently, Gabriel is being home schooled as he is still recovering from the surgery and lights and sounds bother him. He also gets tired more easily, Krista said. However, he had a video game party at his home recently and does visit the school once a week.
“He’s looking forward to touring with Ornge to meet his flight crew and tour the helicopter,” said Krista.
Asked how he felt, Gabriel simply said “fine” and that he feels like himself again. He said he is looking forward to going back to school.
Gabriel noted that his friend Al runs a T-shirt business and created a special Superman-type logo only with a “G” inside of it. A cape was received from the Happy Soul Project and the family also created the #TeamGabe hashtag.
The fundraiser April 1 sees doors open at 4 p.m. with dinner at 5:30 p.m. Proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwestern Ontario. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children under 12 and will be available at the door. It is all-you-can-eat pasta, salad and rolls with raffles and a 50/50 draw also part of the evening.
“They were so good to us,” Krista said of the Ronald McDonald House. “It was a refuge for us. Everyone was amazing. We always knew it was a great charity, but never until this situation how good it is.”
For further information, e-mail email@example.com or call 519-736-3149.