Community support amazes boy’s family
By Darren Lum
Published May 9, 2017
People of all ages and walks of life put their best superhero foot forward a few weeks ago to show six-year-old Rowan Pettinella he is not alone as he recovers from serious health complications experienced a month ago.
The lover of comic superheroes was at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for seizures when a classmate and friend named Neil Mihlik came up with the idea to encourage the public to don capes. When you're wearing a cape, you can fight anything, Neil believed.
On April 11 and 12, people from the Highlands and around the world wore capes in photos posted to social media tagged with #seizuressuck. There was a steady stream of photos of children, adults, and groups of students, road workers, teachers and administration.
With his mothers Karen Pettinella and Jane Isbister by his side, the support for the Stuart Baker Elementary School student continues with not just thousands of dollars donated through a GoFundMe page, but an outpouring of generosity from food and clothing to messages of support.
His parents are overwhelmed by this support.
According to the GoFundMe page set up for Rowan, he experienced prolonged and sustained seizure episodes on Saturday, April 1.
As a result, he was taken to Haliburton Hospital and subsequently to the Hospital for Sick Children. He spent three weeks in critical care where a “diverse team of medical specialists” struggled to diagnose and treat the seizure episodes.
The seizure activity has left Rowan with permanent brain damage because of the lack of oxygen.
He is now on the general paediatrics floor. Although he is not in critical care, there is a lot of uncertainty for Rowan’s future. He has a long road ahead that includes upcoming months of assessment and recovery.
Friend of the family and local resident Angela Andrews started the GoFundMe initiative a few weeks ago on behalf of Isbister. It was started to help the family cover accommodations, food and parking and other expenses associated with staying in the city.
More than $10,000 was raised in one day.
Isbister appreciated how the public donated through GoFundMe and the widespread participation of people wearing capes.
“I am so humbled and overwhelmed by your support, action, and comments for and about Rowan. Your quick response and generosity, in a period of time that I’d just as soon forget, will stay with me forever. Every day I talk to Rowan and tell him that he’s getting the help he needs, that it is hard, and that he is not alone ... I whisper the last part to him repeatedly ... Thank you for sending us the same message,” she wrote on Facebook on May 3.
She is also thankful for the support from people outside of GoFundMe, whether in the form of food, clothes, calls or checking on their homes.
“We feel really lucky and humbled,” she wrote.
Since April 24, the GoFundMe page has raised $18,350 from 189 people (as of Friday, May 5).
Andrews posted on Thursday, May 4 that “in some way you’ve all helped, either by taking the time to read the message and donate, or just passing it along.”
“We’ve all been so overwhelmed with the response. Even though we’ve now reached the intended goal, we hope to still continue to pass the message along and raise as much money as we can for Karen, Jane and Rowan. It will be a long road ahead yet ... Thank you again for caring enough about our dear friends.”
Rowan has faced adversity ever since he was born from life-threatening medical complications, followed by developmental delays and complications such as a seizure disorder and issues with his heart, hearing, vision and his mobility.
Doctors have been bewildered by his ongoing challenges since birth.
Late last week, Pettinella expressed gratitude for the concern and support in a text message to the Echo.
“I feel positively overwhelmed by the ripple effect of love and generosity that we have received. Family, friends and even strangers from near and far have supported us with their thoughts and actions ... it’s truly powerful.
“That, as well as the more recent moments of Rowan smiles and giggles that we have seen, have been carrying us through this journey ... one moment at a time,” Pettinella wrote.
You can find the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/rowanpettinella.