Challaine Dettling-Morton will turn 10 years old in a few months. Having faced some incredible odds, she has come out victorious and now her family is looking forward to celebrating this milestone birthday.
Challaine was born into a life of kidney dialysis in 2009 after an in-utero diagnosis confirmed that her kidneys were completely non-functioning. After undergoing months of testing, her father Darren was declared a suitable match for kidney donation in late April of 2011. Things progressed quickly from then on, with a transplant date set for just weeks later.
The transplant was a success and although it’s not a cure, it offers the closest thing to a normal life. Challaine will have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life, and since the transplant she and her family have been settling into a more “normal” routine; enjoying all of the small things in life we so often take for granted.
“Challaine has her challenges but in most ways she is just a normal kid,” said her mother, Rhonda. “She loves her friends, loves school, and wants to be involved in everything.”
Wanting to be involved in everything can present some unique hardships, as one of the complications of Challaine’s disease now requires her to wear braces on her legs indefinitely.
“The dialysis process from chronic kidney disease can cause bone damage,” explained Rhonda. “In Challaine’s case, she has to wear braces to support her ankles and lower legs; without them she wouldn’t be able to support herself enough to walk comfortably.”
Another complication was low muscle tone and reduced strength due to the strokes she suffered as an infant.
However, she has managed to build up an immense amount of strength through the dance program that was offered by Nimpo Lake resident, Miss Marie Jones.
“Her physio was just amazed at how much strength she built through dance,” Rhonda said. “She even managed to run the entire 200 metre race in last year’s track and field competition. She was so determined to finish she cracked her leg braces in the process!”
Unfortunately, that natural desire to fully participate was sometimes not fulfilled simply based on the Challaine’s physical limitations. This is where Variety Children’s Charity has stepped in to help.
“Sometimes she just can’t complete a walk with her classmates because it’s just too far,” explained Rhonda. “The leg braces are quite stiff and she does tire quicker than other kids.”
Seeing the need for Challaine to take part in school activities, Variety first supplied a special stroller that her caregivers could bring along on school outings. This allowed her to rest when she needed to.
But as she grew older Challaine naturally wanted to learn to ride a bike. Most of us can recall the first time we tasted the freedom of our own bicycle, and Challaine was no different.
However, the leg braces were once again a challenge, as they didn’t allow for the same movement in her ankles that is required to pedal a traditional bicycle.
On one of their many trips to Vancouver their physiotherapist, John Cumberbirch, helped to source an adaptive tricycle suited to her needs. He wrote a letter to Variety asking them to sponsor the purchase, which, at $4000 was beyond what her family could afford at the time, and in 2014 Challaine received it.
“We were in tears watching her ride it for the first time,” said Rhonda. “It was freedom for her, under her own power, and it was an amazing feeling for her.”
The special tricycle is designed so she can pedal in an up and down motion, rather than forward, to accommodate the restrictions of her leg braces.
It also features a back and front braking system and a harness to ensure she’s safe. Challaine uses the trike regularly and, in addition to physical strength, she has gained independence.
Seeing how much she has benefited from their help, Challaine and her family have undertaken a mission to give back to Variety. Over the past few years Challaine has been selling chocolates and pins on behalf of the charity, setting up tables and the local grocery stores and selling to friends and family. Her goal is to raise enough money to purchase a trike for another child.
“So far she has raised over $3000,” shared Rhonda. “That’s a lot of money in three dollar pins!”
Last month Variety honoured Challaine as their Champion Ambassador.
On January 21 she presented Variety with a cheque of almost $1,200, bringing her total so far to $3,010. She is now only $1,000 short of her $4,000 and she shows no sign of slowing down.
“She’s very determined,” said Rhonda. “I’ve got no doubt she’ll accomplish what she sets out to do.”