Paulina’s Radiothon Story

25 years ago, community donations funded this hospital’s first laparoscopic surgery kit – enabling Calgary kids to become the first in western Canada to benefit from complex surgeries performed through tiny incisions. ACH has developed nation-leading expertise so kids like Paulina can experience less pain, reduced risk of infection, quicker recovery and minimal scarring.

As a competitive freestyle skier, Paulina takes injuries in stride. She’s been to ACH her fair share so isn’t easily phased. But after one crash that caused cuts on her face and a concussion, the last thing she was expecting to hear after an MRI was that she had a non-malignant tumour on her pancreas. Doctors decided they should keep a close eye on it to see if it changed. After another crash, this one breaking her pelvis and femur, Paulina needed surgery to repair her fractures. Specialists took another look at the tumour and told the family that if they left it alone, it could grow and become cancerous or cause blockages that would make her extremely sick.

No one wanted to take that risk. 

Surgeons say they have a great deal of respect for the pancreas because it “can’t take a joke.” Precision is a must since the pancreas has a complication rate higher than other organs. Every child’s anatomy is different, so there’s no such thing as a textbook surgery. The team would have to get in the OR and see how Paulina’s vessels and organs were configured before deciding how best to perform the operation. The traditional procedure would require opening her abdomen right up and cutting through muscle and tissue. Thankfully, once they got a look inside, the team found a way to avoid such an extensive operation. They completed the removal through 4 tiny incisions less than a cm each.

Paulina recovered very quickly and was home within 5 days. This weekend, she will be competing in the Alberta Winter Games. Next month it’s Nationals. And someday, she hopes – the Olympics. 

We are raising money during this hour for the next generation of minimally-invasive surgical equipment to make surgery safer and easier for more kids like Paulina.

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