A young girl with a passion for sports, a celebrity crush, and a fear of spiders, you would never know 15 year old Breanna Van Watteghem has overcome more challenges than most people twice her age. As she talks about her future husband, Twilight star Taylor Lautner, and all of the posters she has lining her walls, the fact that she braved major surgery only a year ago barely crosses her mind.
For her, this is a part of the past that she won't let affect her future.
Only 14 at the time, Breanna found herself in dire need of a kidney transplant. Her mom, Stephanie, recalls receiving a phone call on October 26, 2012 that gave the family hope; a kidney had become available and the procedure that would save Breanna's life could be done at London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario. Being from the Windsor Tecumseh area, the family had stayed at Ronald McDonald House for over a month earlier in the year, while Breanna was undergoing different surgeries and treatments. Now that a kidney was available, Stephanie knew she had to get her seriously ill daughter to the London hospital immediately, and felt a sense of security in knowing the Ronald McDonald House Southwestern Ontario would be there for the family again.
Breanna and her mom drove to our Ronald McDonald House in London on the 26th, and the very next day Breanna was admitted in to the hospital for the kidney transplant. Her mom felt as if she was in limbo as she waited to hear if the surgery would be effective or if her daughter would have more struggles ahead. During this time, Breanna's mother and father would take turns coming up from Windsor to stay at the House only steps away from the hospital.
At the House they experienced the comfort of a home with homemade meals and a welcoming bed, as well as support from other families and volunteers letting them know they were not alone. The family was relieved to find out the transplant was successful and Breanna would be able to continue playing hockey and crushing on her favorite celebrities, just like every other teenage girl.
Breanna was able to stay at the House with her family while she recovered, often playing Skip-Bo with mom in the dining room, making crafts in the multi-purpose room, and visiting with her siblings who would also come and stay with her. Today, one year after the major surgery, Breanna still comes to London for doctors' visits regarding her bladder reflux as well as the transplant. During these visits, Breanna and one of her parents- often mom, sometimes dad- will stay overnight at the House after the long drive from home.
When they are here, Breanna looks forward to the delicious food prepared by dinner groups, but loves the desserts most! She recognizes the staff and feels comfortable talking with the volunteers; she summed it up in four simple but powerful words, 'It feels like home.'
Breanna has big plans to start playing girls' hockey and is already looking forward to going to college and pursuing her dream of becoming a police officer. She can't wait to watch all the NHL teams play hockey this year, and hopefully watch her favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings, take the cup. A young girl with big dreams, Breanna says she will always come back to her "home away from home" to say hello, no matter where her life takes her!
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