To donate to the radiothon, call 780.407.KIDS (5437), text STOLLERY to 45678 or visit the foundation’s website.
April 9, 2020 had the flow of an ordinary day in Red Deer. Leslie Bangamba was loading the dishwasher after lunch while her three children played together.
Then, life changed in a split second. Bangamba’s 18-month-old daughter Amélie collapsed in front of her.
“I thought she was joking but as soon as I went to grab her, her body was stiff, her eyes were rolling to the back of her head, blood began to pour out of her nose.
“It was very traumatic.”
Bangamba’s husband was not home and the mother of three knew she had to get help. The pandemic turned out to be the silver lining in this emergency because neighbours were home.
“It was pretty cold, I remember I was in my PJs, but I ran outside barefoot and just banged on my neighbour’s door. I was saying, ‘Help me! My daughter’s dying! My daughter’s dying!'”
Amélie was rushed to Red Deer Regional Hospital where an X-ray revealed the toddler had ingested a foreign object. It was wreaking havoc on her tiny body and her family had no clue.
“Oh my goodness, she napped, she was suffering. Not to be morbid, but she was slowly dying in front of us and we had no idea.”
The medical staff in Red Deer decided it was best to transfer Amélie to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, where world-class doctors and nurses would be better equipped to deal with her injuries if they got worse.
“Things, in fact, did get worse and because of the amazing hospital and the amazing medical services at the Stollery, our daughter had a fighting chance.”
Just as Amélie was settling in at the Edmonton hospital, she went into cardiac arrest twice.
Doctors worked to save her life, and performed heart surgery on the toddler through the night, until sunrise.
The extensive operation revealed that the foreign object inside Amélie’s body was a button battery. Combined with her saliva, the battery had created an electrical current and burned multiple holes in her internal tissue.
“The battery had ruptured her esophagus, trachea, aorta and carotid left artery… which basically brings blood to your brain, your neck and your face.”
In the operating room, Amélie also had to receive 4.2 litres of blood.
Bangamba and her husband had been regular blood donors since 2013 and in a twist of fate, the parents now found themselves on the receiving end of that lifesaving gift.
“Never did I think that it would come full circle the way it did.
“I don’t know if you know the statistics but 52 per cent of Canadians are eligible to donate, but less than four per cent do, and it’s those less than four per cent that saved my daughter’s life.”
Research has shown that ingesting a button battery can be fatal within hours. Doctors believe the one inside Amélie had been there for a couple of days. Her mother says there were no warning signs and her survival is truly a miracle.
“She was fine. She was actually cutting two teeth and we had checked her temperature, we had given her Tylenol.
“But on that day in question, her appetite came back, she was very playful.
“She was going up and down the stairs with her brothers… nothing to indicate that within hours, our life would change upside down.”
Amélie remained in the ICU for 11 days, where she received more blood transfusions.
She was an in-patient for about a month, where she underwent intensive physiotherapy.
Then, on May 25, 2020, just over six weeks after her collapse on the kitchen floor, she returned home and was reunited with her older brothers.
Bangamba attributes this miraculous outcome to the Stollery’s outstanding medical team, which was with Amélie every step of the way.
“She had so many different people interacting with her and they were just amazing. I may not remember their names, but their faces are etched in my memory.”
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