For Natalia Malagon, an increase of services available at Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Children’s Health Centre means families, like hers might not have to continue to go to Vancouver for treatment.
Malagon, 18, was diagnosed with cancer in October 2017.
“It all started when I had not been feeling too well for the past couple of months, easily exhausted by just being awake,” Malagon told a crowd gathered at the hospital’s children’s centre on Thursday (Nov. 15). “However, two weeks after my 17th birthday I finally went to the ER — after I had finished editing my friend’s resume.
“I was ultimately, diagnosed with cancer that very night and transferred in an ambulance here to Surrey Memorial.”
The Surrey Hospital Foundation kicked off its children’s health centre campaign Thursday with a $1-million contribution from a Surrey-based business.
Safe Software co-founders Don Murray and Dale Lutz said their number-one goal when they started their business was to “make a difference for our customers.”
“We never know what the future at Safe’s going to hold, but we’ve always said… while we’re doing good, we want to do good because that’s one thing that at the end of the day when we’re in our rocking chairs, we can say, ‘Wow, we made a difference.’ And that’s what it’s really all about,” Murray said.
Lutz said both his children were born at Surrey Memorial, but a few years ago his family ran into a medical problem with his son.
“We found ourselves going in and out of Vancouver every day for about nine months. I’m pleased to say that chapter has closed and everything is fine, but on a first-hand basis, I know what that kind of a daily ordeal is like.”
Knowing the stress of the daily commute, and when the opportunity came about to help serve for children locally, Lutz said he and Murray knew they were in a position to help.
“If we can take that (stress of a commute) off the table for families, then the outcomes can only be better for all involved.”
Malagon, who had her final chemotherapy treatment near the end of April, actually lives in Burnaby, but the commute to Surrey is easier than going to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Malagon said that while she and her family have the resources to go out to Vancouver, other families might not.
“With so much more resources, we could do so much more here. I still have to go to BC Children’s Hospital for many programs, despite the fact that I was treated here.”
The funding, said hospital foundation president and CEO Jane Adams, will allow for a “transformation” of the children’s health centre.
“Our campaign commitment of $6 million will be matched and bettered — what we like to hear — by more than $8.6 million from our partner, the health authority. With the end result, there will be $15 million in improvements to our extremely busy children’s health centre,” Adams said.
“In human terms, this means a doubling of the clinic rooms in our centre, enabling us to see 25 per cent more children and add high-demand services, like GI (gastrointestinal) and orthopedics, and the creation of a completely new surgical area.”
Adams said the construction of the children’s health centre began more than 20 years ago, “when Surrey’s population was half of its current size.”
“We saw fewer than 4,000 children a year. At that time, we did not perform children’s surgery, nor did we treat childhood cancers,” she said. “Fast forward to today; this year we’ll treat well over 50,000 children — that’s the size of Rogers Arena filled to capacity, twice.
“Of these, more than 43,000 children will seek life-saving care in our children’s emergency which opened just five years ago. We will treat approximately 20 per cent of B.C.’s newest diagnosed childhood cancers. We will perform 1,200 surgeries on children over (the age of) six, and we’ll care for over 1,000 children and teens struggling with mental illness.”
Despite an increasing need of services, Malagon said she has “loved” coming to the children’s health centre, adding her life is “in the hands of people who love me and they make me feel a part of the process, educating me on all the procedures.”
“An amazing poet, Maya Angelou, once said, ‘I’ve had lots of clouds, but I’ve had rainbows in my clouds.’ So we can have the possibility of hope. My health-care team is my rainbow, so thank you from all my little friends here at the clinic and me, to Safe Software in helping my rainbow shine a little bit brighter.”