In the summer of 2007, Tanika’s family welcomed her into the world. She became a little sister for her brother, and the family was overjoyed. In March of 2016 Tanika got sick with the flu. Tanika’s mom Nicky went into her room and found her aspirated (when someone breaths foreign contents into their lungs) and breathing shallowly. Nicky called 911, and after being transported to the local hospital Tanika and Nicky were airlifted to McMaster Children’s Hospital.
The medical team at McMaster Children’s Hospital found Tanika’s body in septic shock and she had diabetic ketone acidosis (when someone’s body can’t produce enough insulin). She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and due to a blood clot in her right leg Tanika had it amputated below the knee.
From McMaster Children’s Hospital Tanika and Nicky went to SickKids Hospital in Toronto, which is about one-hundred kilometers from their home so she could be assessed for a possible lung transplant. In May she was put on Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which is a device that pumps blood through an external lung and provides heart-lung support. In June, Tanika was listed for a lung transplant. After five months spent in the ICU and 3 months on ECMO, Tanika received a double lung transplant in July 2016. The transplant was successful, and in September Tanika was discharged to the SickKids rehabilitation centre. In December of 2016, Nicky and Tanika were able to return home.
Tanika getting sick was a huge shock to the whole family as she was a healthy and active child. Nicky and Tanika’s dad had to take 10 months off work to care for Tanika while she was in hospital. Nicky remembers that she felt like she was neglecting her 17-year-old son, who stayed at the family’s home, as she was always in Toronto with Tanika. Nicky remembers, “We were constantly in crisis mode and almost lost Tanika on a weekly basis. It took an emotional and physical toll on us all.” Finances worried the family as they were paying for their regular household expenses with a reduced income and paying for accommodation in Toronto as well as food, gas and parking. The family’s social worker told them about the David Foster Foundation and the Foundation was able to provide funding for food, accommodation, gas, and parking so the family no longer had to worry about finances and could focus on Tanika.
Nicky says that “2017 was an amazing year for Tanika. She went back to school. Took part in all the activities she used to enjoy like running, swimming, horse riding, basketball and dancing. Nothing could stop her. She also became a Sick Kids ambassador and promoted organ donation, therapy dogs and encouraged people to donate.” Unfortunately, in 2018 Tanika had antibody rejection and is now listed again for another double lung transplant. Today she has nurse care daily, needs 6-7 glucose checks, 5 insulin injections, takes over 30 medications and receives oxygen through tubes continuously. Nicky takes Tanika to SickKids twice a week for physio to keep her strong while she waits for her lungs.