Kingston community supports family of child hospitalized due to medical mystery

Bella, 13, during her treatment at CHEO. Submitted Photo

Isabella Bush, known as Bella, is a 13-year-old girl who tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a soccer game in the summer of 2021. On October 13, 2021, she underwent successful surgery to repair her knee at Kingston General Hospital. However, after the surgery, Bella could not wake up from the anesthesia. 

“Sometime after her leg was finished and she was transferred to recovery, something changed. At this time, we’re still seeking answers,” said Yanet Bush, Bella’s mother.

According to her family, Bella was given Narcan (naloxone) to help bring her out of the anesthesia, and then slowly regained consciousness. She was dazed and confused, and her condition worsened — Bella began suffering new, unbearable pain and stiffness in her arm. She also had trouble speaking and walking, and eventually couldn’t eat without choking and leading her to be on a feeding tube. 

Currently, Bella is at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa, where her mother and father alternate days each week to be by her side. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, both of them cannot be with Bella simultaneously. CHEO is working to treat her symptoms, manage her pain, and figure out what has happened to her. 

While the cause of the sudden illness remains unknown, doctors are currently trying to figure out the cause of Bella’s symptoms, pain, and stiffness of the arm. It is possible these are the result of a brain injury developed from her ACL tearing — According to studies out of the United States beginning in 2019 (and explained more plainly here), ACL tears can lead to changes in the brain and brain structure. It is also possible that the issues have arisen as the result of the surgery itself, though what the cause could be if that is the case remains unknown at this time. Bella’s father explained that she is currently on pain medicines that have been somehow helping for the past few days, allowing her to sleep through the night.

Because one parent has to be with her all the time, Bella’s mother has had to take an extended leave of absence from work, while her father has been commuting from Ottawa to Kingston to pay the bills. 

Yanet shared that CHEO has given the family a day pass to go home for 24 hours today, Friday, Feb. 11, to help them figure out what’s going to work for their space to provide care for Bella, and to get some fresh air and sleep in their own beds, as they have been at CHEO for a month now. 

“Bella needs to see some light outside, see her animals back home, and feel better in her home,” Yanet added. 

While still on a feeding tube, Bella has started back to solids with a little bit of soft food and improved her speech, but cannot yet form complete sentences.  According to the family, this is a lot to tolerate for a young 13-year-old who would normally be worrying about other things like a typical early teenager, but instead is facing this uncertain condition and pain. Bella is a bright kid and trying to be strong during this time, but the overall experience has been a painful one in many ways, the family expressed.

Community support during a difficult time

A GoFundMe page was initiated by family friend, Josie Haynes Lucarelli, who saw the family’s situation and recognized the family’s need for support. So far, the page has raised over $16,000 out of a set goal of $25,000 

The amount raised will help Bella with ongoing therapies, including speech, emotional, and physical therapy. She is expected to be fully discharged from the hospital by the end of next week; however, her leaving hospital will depend on her pain and symptom management through medication and care. She will also need feeding pump equipment, a wheelchair, hand railings and support railings for bathroom use, a leg brace, an arm brace, and other supports to help her transition back to routine, along with medication. 

According to Bella’s parents, the support from the community has been an eyeopener. Apart from the GoFundMe campaign, parents at Bella’s school have also led some fundraising efforts for the family after hearing of their challenging situation.

“It means a lot,” Yanet said of seeing the community rally around her family in support. 

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