Lydia Allard sings, talks and signs, but the two-year-old from Timmins whose mother describes her as silly and incredibly patient has a rare condition making it impossible to lift her limbs and head. She also can’t roll over on her own.

To move against gravity, Lydia is dependent on others, primarily her parents Megan and Tyler. She needs 24-hour care.

Lydia and her parents are among the first Timmins-area families to benefit from a new clinic for medically complex and fragile children. Run out of the Cochrane Temiskaming Children’s Treatment Centre with many care providers in Timmins and Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO – OCTC), the Timmins Complex Care Clinic works to coordinate her care team, with Lydia and her parents at the centre.

“This clinic creates an open conversation between CHEO and Timmins,” said Megan Allard, Lydia’s mom, full-time caregiver and manager. “Timmins is our home, but CHEO’s our second home, and it’s very important that everyone is informed and well-versed in Lydia’s ever-changing condition. The clinic bridges the gaps and chances of missing something, or not being able to get a hold of somebody for answers.”

Joining the Allard’s complex care team is Karen Morris, a nurse practitioner from CHEO – OCTC’s Complex Care Program who leads the clinic’s assessments and consultations with all the local and Ottawa providers, calling upon specialist physicians when required.

“Karen will come down and have eyes on Lydia, assess her physically and then return with the questions we have, speak to the right people and get the answers we need,” said Allard. “It just makes it easier because it takes a lot of the work off us.”

That’s something Morris and all the partners involved in this clinic want to hear.

“Families like Lydia’s face extraordinary pressures and have to navigate so many providers and systems just to care for their children on a day-to-day basis,” said Morris. “By coordinating her medical care and working with all of Lydia’s health-care providers in Timmins and Ottawa, we are making their lives easier and improving care.”

In addition to making lives easier, everyone involved anticipates the Timmins Complex Care Clinic will reduce the number of days in hospital and the need for visits to Emergency. Over the last three years, children seen in the clinic of CHEO – OCTC’s Complex Care Program in Ottawa have spent less time in hospital by an average of a full month (30 days) every year and have had 42% fewer visits to the Emergency Department.

Morris travels to Timmins as needed, especially when bringing families into the program, but the CHEO – OCTC specialists are consulted using the Ontario Telehealth Network, bringing their expertise closer to home for the Allards.

On the flip side, the Allards hope the Timmins Complex Care Clinic will reduce the number of trips they need to make to Ottawa, although they will still travel to CHEO – OCTC to see Lydia’s specialists twice a year. Yet, any reduction would be significant. The family’s trips to Ottawa are emotionally, organizationally and financially taxing. Lydia, Megan and another family member travel to Ottawa by Ornge. Tyler follows by car with all the necessary equipment. Each trip is a week long and means Tyler has to take time off. Then there are hotel and meal costs, plus the stress of travelling.

“This is an outstanding collaboration between all the partners to best meet the needs of children who are medically complex and technologically dependent,” said Dr. Gary Smith, pediatrician and Clinical Chief of Pediatrics and Neonatal Medicine at Timmins and District Hospital, who along with pediatrician Dr. Willem Verbeek helped bring this complex care clinic to northern Ontario.

This clinic is only possible because of the great collaboration among the partners who want to improve
care for children and youth with complex medical conditions in Ontario’s north.

They are:

  • Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO – OCTC)
  • Cochrane Temiskaming Children’s Treatment Centre (CTCTC)
  • North East LHIN
  • pediatricians from Timmins
  • Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health (PCMCH)
  • Timmins and District Hospital
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