Dear Friend of The Dream Factory,
My name is Tricia Rempel. My husband Nathan and I are the proud parents of two beautiful girls, Ella and Ava. I would like to tell you their story and how The Dream Factory became a very special part of our lives.
In September 2010, we were a very excited family of three. We had just been told, after years of trying, that we were 3 months pregnant. The excitement turned to worry on October 29, 2010, when we were sent for a fetal assessment at High Risk within the Women’s Hospital here in Winnipeg.
That visit was the start of us getting to know the brave little girl who was already starting to fight desperately for her life. Ava received her first of six, in utero, blood transfusions, and it would not be the first time we would be told, “We don’t know why.”
Ava was born just over a month early on February 8, 2011. The doctors had hoped her condition would correct itself and, once born, she would be okay. Within a week, Ava relapsed and was in need of her seventh blood transfusion. We were told at this time for her to sustain life, she would need continual blood transfusions but still they said, “We don’t know why.”
Our family became a permanent fixture in Pediatric Cancer Care Manitoba. The weekly visits for blood transfusions and tests were always emotionally and physically draining. Ava was so very small and her veins were no bigger than a hair. It was not unusual for her to receive 6-8 “needle pokes” to find a vein that would take and hold an intravenous needle.
Over the next few years Ava had 10 scans, 2 spinal taps, multiple visits to other specialists, a surgery to remove her spleen, too many to count hospital stays for infections and fevers, countless medications, and every 2-6 weeks, a life sustaining blood transfusion. We were no further ahead and were still being told, “We don’t know why.” Ava’s daily fight was against an unknown, nameless enemy that wreaked havoc on her body. Her veins had begun to scar from years of needles and it was becoming more difficult to place her lines. But Ava’s doctors and nurses continued to fight her battle alongside us and their determination, kindness, and gentle nature always gave us hope.
Our turning point came in the form of a doctor and his research team from Yale University who told us Ava had an extremely rare blood disorder, so rare in fact that Ava was the only known case. They called it Alpha Protein Deficiency. We were told this was unknown territory and they weren’t quite sure where to go next but we were encouraged not to lose hope and they were going keep trying to find a cure.
A few months later, we were approached by the head of the bone marrow transplant team. Her idea was to remove one “engine and put in another.” We were told it wasn’t a sure thing and that it may not work. We were faced with making a decision that, either way, we were risking the life of our baby girl. Eventually, our trust was put in our doctors and Ava was placed on the transplant list. She was four-years-old. A few months later, with no match, we were tested. An extremely rare result was found: Ella, Ava’s big sister was a 97% match to Ava.
Without any hesitation, Ella volunteered to be her sister’s donor. She was only eight-years-old and we were faced with the second hardest decision of our lives; we were terrified. We had been told the donor goes through unbearable pain and it would be a difficult recovery but Ella was determined to help her sister get better.
July 3, 2015 is a day forever celebrated in our family. It is the day Ella saved her little sister’s life. She gave Ava a chance at a future. A life to live outside of needles and pain, doctor appointments and hospital stays. It was a gift that no other person could give.
Through all of this, a little semblance of normalcy and overwhelming kindness is given by angels whose purpose is to give and, in our case, this was The Dream Factory.
In April 2016, we met with The Dream Factory. They spent hours listening to our story and talking with the girls, getting to know each of them.
At the time, Ava was still in home isolation. She lived for the weekends when we were all together, calling them “stay home days.” So it didn’t come as a surprise that her dream was to have a family vacation where she could swim with dolphins, play on the beach with her sister, swim in the ocean and, most importantly, we spend time together as a family.
We spent an unbelievable week experiencing the island of Oahu. Ava’s dream to swim with dolphins was the highlight for each of us. She was so happy when she was able to dance with her dolphin and receive a special kiss. We watched surfers on the Northshore beaches and saw where they filmed Jurassic Park. We ate a lot of shrimp from many shrimp trucks, had a heartfelt tour of Pearl Harbor, and an unbelievable morning of surf lessons. Every detail of our trip was touched by The Dream Factory.
Ava’s dream gave her many moments of freedom to just be a kid.
There are no words of thanks that we can express to The Dream Factory and to generous donors like yourselves. What one week of dreams gave to Ava and our family are new, untouched memories clean from the world of sickness and hospitals. We will always have our greatest adventure, our forever memories, and what lies in the magic of a little girl’s dream come true.