Fundraiser held for transverse myelitis patient on his 15th birthday

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

A local youth celebrated his 15th birthday in a big way this past Sunday.

A fundraising dinner, complete with live entertainment and door prizes, was held at the AMA Sportsmen’s Club both in celebration of his birthday – he turned 15 on the 15th –  and as a way to cover some of the costs associated with his treatment.

Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon is fighting against transverse myelitis, a type of spinal cord inflammation that prevents signals from passing through the spinal cord into the rest of the body.

For now, MacDonald-Gagnon is restricted to a wheelchair, but he’s been making steady progress since his diagnosis last year, according to his aunt, Kari Dufour.  She said that for now, the family is dealing with each challenge as it comes.  One of those challenges is accessibility.

Phoenix and his mother, Betty-Joe MacDonald, spend their weekdays at Holland Bloorview Kids’ Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.  On the weekends, they come back South to stay with Misti and Wayne Moyer.  The house in which they’re staying is not designed with wheelchair-accessibility in mind, according to MacDonald, so the next big project will be renovating the residence.

Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon celebrated his 15th birthday last Sunday with a fundraiser in his honour at the AMA Sportsmen Association.

MacDonald said she hasn’t been given an official figure yet, but she estimates the price tag for construction will sit somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.

“It’s not easy,” she said.  “We have good healthcare, but there are a lot of things that aren’t covered.”

Dufour said they applied to receive funding from the March of Dimes Canada, the Rehabilitation Foundation for Disabled Persons, but were denied.  She said for now it looks like the family will be paying out-of-pocket.

Still, the MacDonald’s are remaining in high spirits, especially on Phoenix’s special day.

“It’s really special to see all these supporters,” he said.

“He’s amazing,” said Dufour.  “He went in to see the head neurologist in the London hospital, and (the neurologist) used words like ‘incredible.’  He couldn’t believe how far Phoenix has come in such a short amount of time.”

Betty-Joe said that Phoenix has some movement in his arms, which she said is something the doctors told her Phoenix would be unlikely to achieve.

“We’re hopeful that one day he’ll have enough strength to walk again,” she said.  “For now, hope is definitely the key.”

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