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Helping Eva Feel Like a Regular Little Girl

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Anita Nouka
Anita Nouka

This spring, be sure to take the time and enjoy the moments you are having with your kids... because it's truly the little things that make all the difference. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but the last few years have made me come to appreciate that statement every single day.

My husband and I have three beautiful girls, all under the age of four... and two of them are twins. Two days after our twins' premature birth, we found out that our little Eva had severe congenital heart abnormalities. When the hospital staff told me, I could feel my own heart just sink. Eva was immediately sent to a pediatric hospital where she spent most of her first year. Our world had changed in an instant, but we didn't have time to catch our breath.

After Josie, Eva's twin sister, was strong enough to come home, we still continued to spend our days in the hospital by Eva's side while she struggled with many issues related to her prematurity and her heart condition. All we could do was pray that our little girl would beat the odds. Amazingly, even after open-heart surgery, she did. Looking back I can't believe what our family endured during that tumultuous first year.

We finally got to bring Eva home and regroup a little, but even at home she didn't have the energy level of Josie. It was still difficult to have relaxed family time as we always needed to make sure that Eva didn't over-exert herself. For a long time the only excursions we made were to doctor's appointments to check on Eva's oxygen levels, her fragile growth rate, and her slow development. We cherish every second we get to spend together as a family, but it can often be hard to make time to go out together.

That is why we were so excited when we first heard about Starlight Children's Foundation Canada, as they provide such wonderful family events that we could enjoy together.

Our first experience with Starlight Canada was in January of 2012 when the twins were nearing their third birthday. We were invited to attend a Leafs game at the ACC in a suite as a "Day Brightener." Even though it was only one evening, Starlight made our family feel like VIPs. We really enjoyed the game and got to connect with other families who were facing similar challenges and could relate to what we were going through.

Since that time, Starlight Canada has given us the opportunity to participate in a number of other fun outings. Starlight provides both the means and the opportunity for us to spend some quality and worry-free family-time. Each event is a highlight of our year, especially since the events allow us to create positive memories with our little girls that are away from the hospital, treatments and therapies.

Sadly, last May Eva was hospitalized again for almost two months for major heart surgery and subsequent complications led her to a thoracotomy surgery in that same time period. During all of the stress at the hospital, any small opportunity that made Eva feel like a regular little girl is an appreciated one. Which is why when Eva's DVD player in her room didn't work, Starlight's Fun Center really came to the rescue. Eva was able to watch videos through the Fun Center's Wii system which was a real relief. It was so nice to see my little girl transported out of the reality of her life in the hospital for a little while.

Starlight continues to support us whether Eva is in the hospital or when we are out of the hospital, and while the programs we use may seem like little things to healthy children, they really do matter and make a real impact. Even though we don't always have the time to go out and relax, when we do, we try to make the most of it. So whether you are watching your child's favourite movie cuddled up on the couch or going to catch a hockey game together, make sure to savour every moment -- I know I do.

On April 6th, 2013, Starlight Children's Foundation Canada will host their 18th Annual Gala at the Fairmont Royal York. Hosted by CTV's Anwar Knight, the evening will feature many notable Canadians along with live entertainment, a live and silent auction, and 4-course dinner with cocktails. Limited tickets are available by visiting http://starlightmatters.com/gala.

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