Rare disease plagues mom

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by Joel Balsam on August 27, 2014

Karena Belaar Spruyt with daughters Kaya, and baby Sabine. Photo courtesy Karena Bellar Spruyt

Karena Belaar Spruyt with daughters Kaya, and baby Sabine. Photo courtesy Karena Bellar Spruyt

When baby Sabine was born six-weeks prematurely at just 3.24 pounds, doctors didn’t know if she would survive. But close monitoring at the hospital ensured that the baby pulled through. Forty-three-year-old Karena Bellaar Spruyt was elated to finally take her daughter home to Wakefield. A nurse provided by the CLSC checked on Sabine’s health, and the baby was doing well. But the fight wasn’t over: what can easily be described as a heart-wrenching tragedy struck.

Nine months after Sabine was born, Bellaar Spruyt, mother of two, noticed spots all over her body; her gums started to bleed. When she consulted with her doctor in Wakefield, it was originally thought she had leukemia, but after being transferred to the Gatineau hospital, then the Ottawa General, it was discovered that Bellaar Spruyt was suffering from an extremely rare, life-threatening disease called severe aplastic anemia.

The disease – which is diagnosed in just two to 12 people per million per year, according to the Aplastic Anemia and Myelodysplasia Association of Canada – occurs when bone marrow fails to produce blood cells, making the body extremely weak and susceptible to uncontrollable bleeding.

During her stay in the hospital – now pushing a month – Bellaar Spruyt has been given repeated blood transfusions, pumped with powerful medication, and is wired up with a permanent intravenous from her arm to her heart. At one point, Bellaar Spruyt got a nosebleed that lasted 20 hours; it took close to 60 hours of her nose being packed painfully tight to stop the bleeding. “[That was the] worst physical suffering I’ve had so far,” explained a weak-sounding Bellaar Spruyt in a phone-call to the Low Down.

Doctors have now told Bellaar Spruyt that she needs a bone marrow transplant to fight the disease. But there’s a problem: a transplant is 25 per cent more likely to be a success if a donation is made by a sibling, but Bellaar Spruyt is uncomfortable asking for their help. Originally born to an Inuit family and adopted into the Bellaar Spruyt family as a baby, she barely knows her birth family, having only met them once, briefly, eight years ago. “It’s too weird to call them up and say ‘Hi, Suzie, do you have some bone marrow?’” she said. Still, the medical team has tried to contact the family, and there is no word yet as to whether they are willing to donate.

Despite the painful and complicated battle that is going on for Bellaar Spruyt in the hospital, it is clear that she is not as worried about herself as much as she is about her infant daughter. At home in Wakefield, Sabine is being taken care of by her birth father, James Racicot, Bellaar Spruyt’s 19-year-old daughter, Kaya, and a friend. However, Racicot and Bellaar Spruyt have separated and he is unable to work while he takes care of the child, Kaya is going off to Montreal to attend Concordia University for her first year, and the friend is leaving for Western Canada. This has left Bellaar-Spruyt deeply concerned about who will feed and take care of her 10-month-old. “I’m very strong minded. I’m very strong. But, of course, this is going to mess with my head and my feelings,” said the ailing mother.

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Death by a thousand cuts: clear-cutting near Chelsea Creek

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by Anastasia Philopoulos on August 27, 2014

This photo taken on Aug. 17 shows signs of clear-cutting along the Gatineau River. Photo courtesy Jean Claude Riverin

This photo taken on Aug. 17 shows signs of clear-cutting along the Gatineau River. Photo courtesy Jean Claude Riverin

Despite having publicly stated otherwise, a major Gatineau developer in the midst of building over 800 new homes near the Chelsea border has clear-cut 250 metres worth of waterfront trees along the Gatineau River.

“By cutting the trees along the river, we put at risk the aquatic fauna and quality of the water by removing its natural protection,” said Jean-Claude Riverin, a concerned resident who lives along the Gatineau River near the development site.

Riverin contacted several media outlets and municipal officials last week with photo evidence that construction company Groupe Brigil had clear-cut a number of trees along the river. Back in 2012, Brigil President Gilles Desjardins told Le Droit that the planned 40 acre development, located between Vieux-Port and the Alonzo-Wright Bridge, would not involve cutting down trees near the river.

“Near the bridge and up the small island, we have no work to do along the river, we will leave it in its natural state,” Desjardins told Le Droit in a March 2012 article. “The trees will not be touched and there will be no bank stabilization as we did in Vieux-Port.”

Media spokesperson for the City of Gatineau, Yves Melanson, confirmed that permits were awarded to Groupe Brigil on Aug. 8 for the 250 metres of deforestation. “An area of deforestation was in the plans that were submitted to the City of Gatineau by the sponsor. Municipal regulations allow the cutting of trees for bank stabilization work, including stone work,” he said.

According to Melanson, Brigil intends to stabilize the riverbank by setting stones, adding earth, and planting more trees. So far, the city has not received a request from Brigil for permits to build homes along that stretch of riverbank, but Melanson expects that is the plan.

Ottawa River Keeper Meredith Brown says the reasoning behind the city’s decision to award the permit is questionable. “What is clear to me is the City of Gatineau is issuing these permits a little too loosely,” she told the Low Down. “Obviously mature trees and vegetation help stabilize banks, and when you remove them, the bank is much more susceptible to erosion.”

Trees and vegetation also provide a natural filter that protects the river, keeping storm runoff and pollutants out of the water. Additionally, the river is home to cold-water species and the natural shade that trees and shrubs provide help to keep water temperatures cool and habitable. Finally, the diversity of the vegetation along the riverbed serves as an important home for flora and fauna and is what Brown calls the ‘ribbon of life’. “The interface between the water and the land, that 10 metres . . . is a critical piece of real estate to protect aquatic species.”

“I don’t know how [Brigil] can get away with getting a permit,” Brown said. “Clearly [Gatineau] has this incentive to allow big development, in order to bring in more tax dollars . . . we see this happening all over the river. It’s evident that Gatineau is expanding, with an exploding population . . . but the municipality is not taking into consideration [the health] of the river.”

Brown also worries about the spawning grounds underneath the Alonzo Wright Bridge, which host a number of endangered and at-risk species such as the River Red Horse. According to spokesperson Melanson, the City of Gatineau consulted with the Department of Fisheries who gave the project the green light, as long as the work happens before the fall.

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Mould makes Meredith close

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  It turns out the Meredith Centre arena is not just closed for repairs to the outer wall. In an email circulated by the Chelsea Foundation, the most recent air quality report was identified as the reason behind the sudden shut down. “This report raised concerns about the quality of the air in the arena […]

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Spring saved! Water to stay free, protected

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Taste of the wild: Ferme et Fôret brings out flare in local fare

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In their first year of commercial production, the dynamic duo behind Ferme et Fôret finds that what sets them apart from the competition isn’t necessarily the delicious veggies they’ve planted, syrup they’ve tapped, or granola they’ve baked. It’s the wild fruits and vegetables they’ve harvested that have captured the imagination of Chelsea market goers and […]

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Go-to-gal: Life as a pivot nurse in the Hills

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  If you have cancer and are a resident of the Hills, Nellie Kim Gagné is your go-to-gal. As the only oncology pivot nurse in the CSSS, Gagné is the point of contact between patients and the Gatineau Hospital from the moment of diagnosis onward. She is a resource of information on whatever type of […]

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The Strain and The Belle Game on fire at The Sheep

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By Mark Leahy Special to the Low Down   It was another night of epic tunes at the Black Sheep on July 31 as local darlings The Strain and Vancouver’s up-and-comers The Belle Game set the place – almost literally ­– on fire. With powerful vocals, crashing cymbals, thundering bass, killer keyboards, and strong song […]

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Down and out without drivers’ ed

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On violence, victims, and navigating the legal system

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What strikes Dawn Moore most about her research on interpersonal violence is how disconnected the legal community is from the reality of women’s lives. The associate professor of legal studies at Carleton University recently launched a new research project looking at how evidence is used in cases of domestic violence, or what she calls ‘interpersonal […]

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Chelsea council battles over bylaw process

August 13, 2014

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MAMROT) might have finally given its nod of approval for the water and sewer project in Chelsea, but information concerning the controversial bylaw that held the project up for close to two years continues to plague the municipality. Councillor for District 3, Barbara Martin, took to Facebook on Aug. 8, […]

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