It’s been 18 months since Emily Ferreira’s life was turned upside down, and her sister Isabelle is doing all she can to ensure her sibling can have a better quality of life.
In February 2018, Ferreira, 26, was involved in a serious motor vehicle incident on Mission Hill in Courtenay, which closed the Island Highway for several hours. Two people, including Ferreira, were sent to hospital via air ambulance.
Isabelle explained her family initially found out Ferreira’s back was broken at hospital in Victoria (C3 and C4 vertebrae) prior to being flown to Vancouver General Hospital where she was in and out of a coma.
“We didn’t know what her quality of life would be. We almost lost her a few times,” explained Isabelle.
While in hospital, doctors found Ferreira developed an infection from the hardware placed in the back of her neck. Additionally, she had rods placed down her spine, plates in her neck, rods and plates in a fractured arm and fingers.
Despite multiple surgeries, Isabelle said her sister was able to gain slight movement and was given the green light to return to the Comox Valley prior to Christmas and placed at Glacier View Lodge.
“We didn’t know where Emily would end up, but the care aides at the home are absolutely amazing and treat her so well.”
She added Ferreira works with a physiotherapist who specializes in spinal cord injuries. As a result of her work, Emily has gained some movement in both of her arms and is able to touch the top of her head.
“It’s super amazing; she’s been a trooper. Her strength and determination are incredible. She’s pulled through so many ups and downs, and I am floored at how much she has improved and how well she kept it together. Her mind is a beautiful thing.”
Through her research, Isabelle found a treatment in Panama that specializes in stem-cell treatment for spinal cord injuries. She explained stem-cells have the ability to rejuvenate cells when a spinal cord is severed. It can be successful when nerve impulses cannot get through the pathway into the spinal cord.
Isabelle added in the case of a quadriplegic like her sister, there is a possibility of going from not being able to use hands or arms to being able to perform regular functions such as brushing teeth and other tasks many people take for granted.
Lifetime costs for a quadriplegic are in the millions of dollars, and gaining use of upper limbs can lower the health care costs and significantly improve a patient’s quality of life, she said.
Currently, the Canadian health care system only funds stem-cell therapy for paraplegics, she added.
Following an application process, Ferreira was accepted for the therapy. Costs for the treatment range between $10,000 to $35,000 USD (about $50,000 CND).
Now, Isabelle is undertaking fundraisers to help her sister so that she can reach her goal of treatment. She has organized a GoFundMe page and a burger and beer event at the Prime Chophouse and Wine Bar in Courtenay on Oct. 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. with an auction.
She is working at collecting various prizes for the event, with one prize of a trip for two anywhere WestJet flies.
“Our community is super amazing. I really want to get her there and for her to have a better life.”
She explained if the fundraising goal is met, any additional funds would go towards an accessible van for Emily to use. Currently, Isabelle said “it’s virtually impossible” for her sister to get out unless they book a van a week in advance.