A Tribute in celebration of
Ayshe Calisal

Family (2016)
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This year, I celebrate 25 years since I received my clean bill of health and I want to say thank you to BC Children's Hospital for their role in my surviving a life-threatening illness.  At the age of fifteen, I was diagnosed with an arterio-venous malformation (AVM) in my brain, a rare condition that affects 1 in 10 000 people, but only 1 in 100 000 has a stroke, usually as an adult.  Over a period of three and a half years, I experienced three strokes, was fully paralysed on the left side of my body twice (hemi-paresis), and underwent surgeries that were experimental at the time.  I re-learned how to walk twice and learned how to use my non-dominant hand to feed myself and to write.  

As an active teenager involved in competitive swimming and water polo, the diagnosis of an AVM was the beginning of an unexpected journey.  Children's Hospital was there for me and my family from the day I received my diagnosis and would become a place I spent many weeks throughout my teens.  Whether I was in the intensive care unit (ICU), recovering from a stroke on the neurosurgery ward, or being referred to specialists, Children's Hospital was there during a very difficult time.  Through each challenge, family, friends, and my community were my cheerleaders.  

I lived each day knowing it was a gift and wondering if I would celebrate my next birthday.  I knew how fortunate I was to have survived each stroke, to have access to excellent health care, and hoped for the opportunity to experience adulthood.  Twenty-five years later, I still feel amazed that I am here.  Today, I am thankful to have achieved life goals that I created when I was sixteen years old and paralyzed.  I graduated from university and chose a career where I can contribute and serve Canadians.  Making a difference has always been and continues to be very important to me.  

As a student at the University of British Columbia and now as a public servant, I have had the opportunity to contribute to a dialogue about accessibility and removing barriers for people with disabilities.  A highlight last year was being quoted in the Clerk’s Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada: My view is that normalizing conversations about disability and accessibility can foster change in our public service culture and lead to better experiences for all employees. Understanding can allay fear, knowledge can empower, and discussion can unite.” 

February 28, 2019 marks my 25th anniversary of living without a life-threatening illness and I would like to celebrate this milestone by thanking Children's Hospital for their vital role in providing care.  Over the years, I have made donations to Children's Hospital and more recently have also donated my hair to be used in making wigs for children.  I can still remember what it was like to have to cut my hair to 1 cm in length for radiosurgery.

Today, I am reaching out to my family, friends, and community to ask for donations to Children's Hospital, so they can continue to help other children get through their challenges and if you feel inclined, to cut 8 inches of your hair, to donate to "Wigs for Kids", which is affiliated with the BC Children's Hospital Foundation.

Thank you for supporting kids' health!