Let me introduce you to Danielle Arbour of the Goulds, NL. I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle and her mother Heather this March at the Husky Easter Seals Building in St. John’s. We talked for about an hour, and from the time she entered the room, my day became brighter in the presence of this smiling, very positive thinking, and determined young woman, as she shared her life story with me.
Danielle was born with Spina Bifida, which is a birth defect that affects the spinal cord. In Danielle’s case it has affected her lower limbs and mobility. In 2001 when Danielle was six years old, her mother found out about the Shriners Hospitals, and sought help for Danielle through the local Mazol Shrine. Shortly thereafter, Danielle became a patient at the Montreal Shriners Hospital for Children, and that was the start of her life changing journey.
September of 2015 marked her 20th birthday and 14 years as a Mazol Shriner patient. In that time Danielle has had many surgeries and has visited the Shriners for 1-2 clinics per year. Her most recent surgery was in January for her hip. Danielle says that the Montreal Shriners Hospital for Children is her home away from home. She considers everyone there as family. She has a deep love and respect for everything they do and her life has been greatly influenced by the positive attitudes and attention of everyone, and the friendships she has formed whenever she is there. She is especially grateful for the work of Dr. Ouellet and Dr. Montez.
To be a Shriners Patient is to enter a world where highly skilled and specialized Doctors and medical staff, who are the best at what they do, make you the centre of the Universe. They do everything possible, with the latest in technology, medical practise, and many, many years of research and experience, to give their patients the best chance at life, all at no cost to the family.
The loving care, attention and encouragement of her parents and many friends at home, and the exceptional environment of the Montreal Shriners Hospital for Children, over many years, has given Danielle a unique and special outlook on life, and helped mould her into the strong and ambitious young woman she is today and to keep doing the best she can.
Danielle is a 2013 graduate of St. Kevin’s High School with a diploma in French Immersion and she is fluently bilingual. In 2011, at age 16, Danielle had the opportunity to meet with Olympians and Paralympians and learn about their respective sports. Wheelchair Basketball caught her interest, and soon after she was playing with the local Easter Seals program, and has never looked back. In that same year she served as the 2011 Easter Seals Ambassador and was the voice for all children and youth with physical disabilities in the province. She is an accomplished singer and public speaker and is presently a speaker with the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
In 2015, Danielle participated in the Canada Winter Games in B.C. by playing with the PEI wheelchair squad. In 2014 she was one of 22 athletes invited to the selection camp held at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough, Ont. From this group she was selected as one of 11 athletes named to the 2015 Canadian Women’s Under 25 Wheelchair Basketball Team for the World Championships in Beijing, China, in June/July 2015. She very much enjoyed the trip to China where Canada placed fourth out of the six teams that competed. She told me that, otherwise able-bodied people, including some who cannot play the sport standing up because of injuries, are able to participate in wheelchair basketball. Danielle is very grateful for the opportunities that Wheelchair Basketball has opened for her. Her dream is to be a member of the Canadian National Senior Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
Someone once asked her, “What is the best thing about your sport?” She replied, “The best thing about my sport is the inclusion, the fast pace and high intensity of the game. Anyone from a disabled athlete to an able bodied athlete can play, but once you’re on the court the disability aspect of the game is gone. It is considered a non contact sport but if you have ever seen the sport in action you would agree that it is very fast and aggressive.” Danielle is known as a team player and will do whatever it takes to help her teammates and to win the game.
I asked Danielle about her objectives outside of her athletic life. She told me that she has spent so much time in the Montreal Shriners Hospital for Children that her ambition is to become a nurse, and would enjoy very much taking care of children while they are hospitalized.
After spending an hour with Danielle, she left me with a lasting impression of a young lady who knows what she wants in life and there is nothing in this world that can stop her from achieving her life’s objectives and helping others as much as she can.
Take one child with a disability, arrange for her to get the best medical attention in the world through a Shriners Hospital and their exceptional medical team and very personal care, mix in the unconditional love of Mom and Dad and a close circle of friends and support networks, and you get a pumped up Danielle Arbour, ready to take on the world and whatever lies ahead. When she throws that basketball it is headed not just for the hoop but for the stars, which shine brightly for her.
I, and many other Shriners are invigorated and committed, time and time again, to work hard for our patients like Danielle, when we experience first hand the tremendous impact that our Shriners Hospitals have had on their health and their personal lives. They are all stars to us and our greatest hope is that no child will be missed.
Noble Keith Boone