It’s a sunny August afternoon and Hannah and Ava Webber are sitting around a patio table at Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta playing Pie Face. As the lever snaps up, sending whipped cream across Hannah’s face, they both burst into laughter.
“They’ve always been close,” says their mom Limor, “but going through this together has brought them even closer.”
The Webbers arrived at the House nearly a month ago. They came from Edmonton to work with a surgeon at Alberta Children’s Hospital who specializes in scoliosis, a condition Ava was born with affecting her spine and internal organs. The nine-year-old has had more than 30 surgeries and is currently in Halo Traction as she prepares for a MAGEC Rod for her spine. This means Ava must wear a halo-shaped device around her head at all times to help straighten her spine.
But while the Webbers came to Calgary for Ava’s treatment, Hannah, 12, is undergoing a medical journey of her own.
“She’s had a tough go,” says Limor.
Born with Club Foot and a significant discrepancy in the length of her legs, Hannah had started leg expansions earlier this year. But just a few months in, she began experiencing severe nerve pain which brought the treatment to a halt. Now, as she waits for the pain to subside so doctors can re-break her leg and restart the treatment, she’s at the House lending support to her little sister.
“They’re pretty incredible,” says Limor of her daughters. “Hannah’s my quiet one. She has an introspective mind.”
“– And she’s moody,” Ava chirps from where she’s playing just a few feet away, “you know it’s true!”
“That’s Ava for you,” Limor says with a laugh, describing the quick-witted younger sister who knows what she wants and is wise beyond her years. She also has incredible fashion sense. Her black leather jacket is the envy of nearly everyone here.
Staying at the House and being able to be together as a family—including dad, Curtis, when he isn’t working – has meant a lot to the Webbers.
“It’s been a godsend. Like a real godsend,” says Limor. “When we first got here, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but now I can’t imagine leaving.”
As the family gathers in the great room for a photo, young Ava’s confidence waivers for the first time since we began talking. She moves closer to her mother, and gesturing to her Halo whispers, barely audible, “Mom, I look like a maniac in this thing.”
It’s a sobering moment as we’re all reminded of the difficult medical journey she’s on at just nine years old.
Limor holds her and whispers something back, too low to hear. Curtis leaves, returning a few minutes later with her leather jacket. She had left it at the hospital across the street.
With her look complete and a pep talk from her mom, Ava’s confidence is back in place. She joins the rest of her family in front of the camera, smiling the widest of them all.