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Aaliyah is a positive, determined and happy young girl. She loves making friends, playing outside, drawing, colouring, and playing with dolls.

Aaliyah and her family moved to Canada in 2018. When they arrived, they were unaware that Aaliyah had sickle cell disease. During their first Canadian winter, Aaliyah began to experience painful symptoms after playing in the snow. Cold temperatures are a known trigger for sickle cell patients.

Aaliyah began a program of transfusions when she developed a complication. Aaliyah had two strokes in mid-March 2020. Her hospitalization was complicated by additional health crises, leading to surgeries and a 6-week hospitalization. During the time Aaliyah was hospitalized, her baby sister was born in the same hospital.

Aaliyah was referred to BCCFA’s Community Brain Injury Program for Children and Youth in BC (CBIPCY) in May 2020, for community-based rehabilitation following her acquired brain injury. Back at home, Aaliyah began physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy with the goal of starting Kindergarten in September 2020.

“Our family will always be grateful to the medical team at BC Children’s Hospital, the blood donors, and BCCFA, especially Manjit, Dona, Kristen and Whitney. Aaliyah is now able to run and write and she has improved a lot with grammar. She is close to where other children of her age are… She is our hero.” – Abdi, Aaliyah’s father.

Aaliyah made excellent progress in her rehabilitation and achieved all her communication and occupational therapy goals and worked extremely hard in her gross motor development. She is settled into her kindergarten class nicely and is attending school full-time.

Aaliyah’s therapists describe her as a kind, happy, positive, and highly motivated young girl. Aaliyah’s strength and perseverance are truly inspiring, and we are honoured to recognize her as a 2021 Hero of Ability.

Image: Aaliyah (front and centre, left) receiving her award with her older sister (front and centre, right), and father, Abdi (left); presented by her service providers (from left to right), Manjit, Whitney and Kristen. Missing: Dona.