By Lissa Miles
Tristyn Tallio is like any other second-grader in Vancouver – except that you probably recognize his face. Tristyn has been featured on posters and advertisements encouraging support for BC Children’s Hospital, the place he called home for more than three years.
Bertha, Tristyn’s mother, says it’s a miracle he is alive. The vivacious six year old, who greets visitors with a firm handshake, has beaten the odds more than once and lives to tell the tale.
Since Tristyn moved home in November, 2010, Bertha has relied on home care to help out. Classic LifeCare provides health care workers to watch over Tristyn at night so Bertha can get some sleep.
“We love our home care workers,” says Bertha. “If it wasn’t for them, I would have to get up twice every night for Tristyn’s feedings, plus, I would have to get up when the alarm goes off alerting that his oxygen levels have fallen. When he has a cold, that alarm can be going off for hours. Thanks to Classic LifeCare, I get eight hours of sleep some nights.”
Tristyn was born to Bertha’s 14-year-old niece. He was diagnosed with a rare syndrome and not expected to survive past birth. As a newborn, with major heart and lung defects, half of a sternum, an enlarged liver and his intestines outside of his body, Tristyn was never expected to leave the hospital. He received a heart transplant in September, 2010 and moved home two months later.
When Tristyn was born, Bertha immediately knew she wanted to take care of him. She initially volunteered to be his foster parent because no one expected him to live for very long. When he was just eight weeks old, he got to come home for two weeks and Bertha says it established that the two of them were destined for each other. She has since adopted him.
“From the moment he was born, I just knew he was my gift. Anything right I had ever done had brought him into my life. I knew raising him was the right thing to do.”
Classic LifeCare employee Virgie started working evenings with Tristyn in October, 2012 and said he hugs her each morning when she leaves his home.
“He gives me a hug and then goes to the window so he can wave to me as I go,” says Virgie. “It has gotten much easier to take care of him because he doesn’t get sick quite as often. That means the alarm on his oxygen monitor doesn’t go off as much.”
When the alarm sounds, she turns Tristyn in his bed so he can breathe easier.
“When I first started with him, it was October and he kept catching the bugs that were going around like cold and flu, so his alarm would sound all the time. Now, it’s much better.”
When speaking of Tristyn’s years at BC Children’s and the countless operations and procedures, Bertha tells Tristyn, “These are all the things you’ll never remember, but Momma will never forget.”
For his third birthday, for example, approximately 60 people – doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, volunteers, and other patients – gathered outside his hospital room and sang an emotional “Happy Birthday” to him.
Some of the staff members at BC Children’s remain as some of Bertha’s best friends.
Tristyn, who says he wants to be a hockey player one day, attributes “play” to getting him through years of hospital living.
“My mom here is the best player in the world,” gushes Tristyn.
Bertha says she was able to spend a lot of time with him at Children’s playing and distracting him from his health woes.
“He will likely always have health concerns,” she says. “But he’s excited to be in Grade 2. With Tristyn spending time in school, I have started thinking more about what I want to do with my life. My passion is helping women and children and, being First Nations, I would love to get back into that field where there is always a need.”
Bertha once headed the Helping Spirit Lodge Society and would like to get back into a job like that.
Grade 2 is full of promise for Tristyn, since Grade 1 saw him awarded Most Improved Academic and Most Improved at Listening to the Referee for soccer. His favorite things about school, in order of importance are: recess, lunch and math.
His next feat is to learn how to swim.
To learn more about BC Children’s Hospital or to make a donation, visit http://www.bcchf.ca/donate/.
To read his BC Children’s miracle story and watch a video about him, visit http://www.bcchf.ca/stories/miracle-stories/tristyn-tallio/.
For more information about Classic LifeCare, visit www.classiclifecare.com.