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Amber and Karine: A Harrowing Experience

Patricia Stewart,
Member of the CHS Program Committee

When 11-year-old Karine Loiselle went in for a routine tonsillectomy in North Bay, Ontario in 2005, her life, and that of her mother, Amber Chevrette, was changed forever. Karine’s surgery lasted twice as long as usual, and her mother began to worry that something was wrong. Afterwards, the surgeon explained that there was difficulty with Karine’s bleeding, and that they should get this checked out. They went home to Timmins the next day, but nine days later, before they had had a chance to arrange an appointment for testing, Karine woke up during the night coughing up blood. They rushed her to Timmins and District Hospital where she began vomiting blood. Once the bleeding was stopped, they returned home, but were told to return immediately if it happened again. Within hours they had to rush back to the hospital where Karine continued vomiting blood and eventually fainted.

“Karine’s father and I thought we were going to lose our daughter”, said her mother Amber. “I have never seen someone lose so much blood. The basin was full!”

Karine was weak, terrified and confused. It’s a nine-hour drive from Timmins to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, so their pediatrician, Dr. Willem Verbeek, immediately had Karine transferred by air ambulance. There, her bleeding was controlled by surgery and she then underwent testing and was diagnosed with mild Type 1 von Willebrand disease (VWD).

In hindsight, with the information she learned from the CHS Website, Amber says she now realizes that Karine had all the symptoms of a bleeding disorder... and so did she. They both bruise easily and suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia). Since this incident, Amber is still undergoing testing for VWD. As a young girl, she suffered from menorrhagia, but didn’t know it could be caused by a bleeding disorder. No one spoke about her menstrual periods. Amber also noted that she sometimes suffered from bleeding following sexual relations. She would regularly miss two to three days of work each month due to menorrhagia and eventually had a hysterectomy to solve the problem. Her daughter’s diagnosis with VWD arrived two days before her own surgery.

Karine, now 13 years old, also suffers from menorrhagia, sometimes having two periods a month, and is undergoing treatment to control it. She has learned to live with her VWD, and wears a MedicAlert bracelet. Both Karine and her mother are now registered at the Hemophilia Treatment Centre in Ottawa. Amber’s two other children, a 3-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, will be tested soon so as to avoid having to go through similar experiences should they have this disorder. Amber sent out emails to her whole family following Karine’s diagnosis with VWD, and referred them all to the CHS Website for information. Her mother is scheduled for testing.

“Reviewing my history and seeing the symptom list now gives me answers as to why my life experiences were what they were. I am so glad that we now know what to do and that Karine will not have to suffer through her “womanhood” like I did,” writes Amber. “Medication will help her have a normal life, and education about VWD will enlighten her life experiences.”

Amber wishes to thank the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB) Emergency Medical Services in Timmins, Derrick Cremin and Jeff Fletcher, and their pediatrician, Dr. Willem Verbeek, for their quick action in helping her daughter.

- Fall 2006