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N.B. mother pushes for age mandate changes at childrens' hospital in light of son’s 16th birthday

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Kendric Campbell is your typical horror movie-, video-game- and basketball-obsessed teenager.

“He studies so hard in school, he wants to be like everyone else, and go to university and he wants to become a psychologist, but his teachers, coaches, always say how strong and determined he is,” said his mother Erica Campbell. “Those are the words I hear the most, and brave, of course.”

At just 16-years-old, Kendric has had his share of obstacles, including a brain cancer diagnosis at three-years-old.

Although from Moncton, N.B., for more than a decade now, Kendric has been treated at the IWK in Halifax.

“He received brain surgery, it was a 10-hour surgery, and then radiation treatment and about a year-and-a-half of chemo,” said Campbell. “Since then we’ve been followed by most departments at the IWK — cardiology, endocrinology, neurology, oncology, all the ology’s really. Every couple of months I’d say we go there.”

Kendric Campbell is pictured. (Supplied)

Shortly after his 15th birthday, Kendric suffered from a stroke called ischemic pontine infarct, which Campbell says is a clot in his brain stem.

He was taken to the local hospital in Moncton and had to wait for an ambulance transfer to the IWK since he couldn’t fly due to the pressure in his brain.

“Unfortunately, it paralyzed his whole right side, so he had no movement at all for months,” she said.

After months of treatment and recovery in Fredericton, Kendric was home for only 30 days when Campbell noticed the symptoms happening again.

Immediately, she drove Kendric to the IWK Emergency Department herself.

“The IWK is just a different feeling when you get there,” she said. “There’s so many different people, the staff is always available to help, they’re quick to triage, it’s just a magical feeling when you go there with your kids. You just know everything’s going to be okay.”

While it’s been the family’s go-to hospital over the years, its age mandate is 16-years-old, so the family has been told Kendric will transition to adult care.

“I’m holding my breath. Since he turned 16, I’m not able to sleep, I’m terrified that we’re going to have to go to emergency and they’re not going to know what to do and I’ll ask them to call the IWK, but will they? I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Campbell.

She would like to see the age mandate increased to 18-years-old like other Canadian children hospitals, or even 21-years-old as seen in the United States.

Kendric Campbell, left, is pictured. (Supplied)IWK Health told CTV News it’s evaluating its current age mandate.

“Across the country, the age mandate for services at similar facilities ranges from 16-to-19, so there is a lack of consistency,” said Andrea Slaney, media relations, communications and public affairs with IWK Health. “The age mandate at other facilities is an important consideration for IWK Health, and is one part of the information we will use to determine what is best for the patients and families we serve, and the broader health system we work within.”

She adds it’s a complicated question that impacts a number of different people and departments.

“We know that in some [cases] specialties care may continue beyond this age and geographical location may be a factor in where care is delivered as well,” she said through an email.

Sean Hatchard, communications officer with the New Brunswick Department of Health, says when a New Brunswick child requires specialized care, there is a process in place for them to be transferred to IWK Health.

“Its emergency department provides care to children and youth from those three provinces until their 16th birthday and to those with mental health concerns until their 19th birthday,” he said. “However, care for patients may continue beyond these ages in some instances. New Brunswick’s Department of Health and the RHAs have a long-standing relationship with IWK Health and work collaboratively to ensure patients receive the care they need.”

For Campbell, having Kendric transfer to an adult hospital just isn’t an option she’s comfortable with at this time.

“He is 16-years-old, but he’s not a true 16-year-old and for him to take care of his own health just isn’t an option. I’ve always been his advocate,” she said. “Ultimately, if he was transferred to an adult hospital, it would be his responsibility, but I would never let that happen. I’m always fighting for Kendric and his health, so I’ll make sure that I’m right there beside him.”

She says she is advocating for all Maritime children who still need family support, advice and guidance throughout their healthcare journey.

Dr. Paula Keating, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said she is confident the IWK “will base any decision on the collective best interests of the patient and population they serve.”

“While most hospitals offer some level of paediatric care, children’s hospitals tailor their programming, support services, staff, and facilities specifically to serve the needs of children,” she said. “Age limitations are in place to ensure these facilities can provide care efficiently to those who cannot receive the same highly-specialized services elsewhere; however, in some instances patients with complex needs who have technically aged out could still benefit from remaining under this model of care.”

Kendric heads back to the IWK later this week where Campbell says they’ll get a better idea of what comes next in his health-care journey.

They’re also heading to Toronto’s SickKids in May, which is mandated to provide care for patients up to the age of 18.

Campbell says she hopes that consult will give them more answers as to why the strokes happened and also give them access to a specialized children’s hospital for two more years, but her first choice is staying at the IWK.

She says her family doesn’t want to move, but if it’s the only way to get her son the care he needs, it could mean saying goodbye to the home in New Brunswick.

“Sixteen to me is just a little bit young to be transition children into the adult world,” she said. 

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.  

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