Little girl overcomes long odds

Five-year-old’s indomitable spirit helps her through medical challenges

With casts on both legs

Tanya Westbrook-Porter knew her daughter Izzy would be a fighter.

When she was eight weeks pregnant, doctors thought Westbrook-Porter had miscarried because of blood loss. An internal ultrasound showed Izzy’s heart was beating strong.

“We were amazed. I guess we should have known our baby would be a fighter from there,” said the Summerland mom.

Izzy, now 5, has a grasp on more medical knowledge than most adults. The bright eyed little girl was born with sacrocoxygeal teratom. It’s a disease that has put tubes in her tummy so she can eliminate waste and urine. Izzy is on multiple medications and has to put medications through the tubes every day. The little girl also has walking problems and now is in casts.

“We might not be a special family, but our baby girl is special. My wish for her is that she will never think her scars make who she is, and that her strength is who she is,” said Westbrook-Porter.

She said she was told by so many doctors that Izzy would most likely die. On doctor’s orders, the frightened mother stayed on bed rest to try and keep the baby in as long as they could. Westbrook-Porter was told by doctors they had to play chicken and just hope they won. Izzy’s tumour was doubling in size but the doctors wanted her to stay in. Doctors rushed as the daily ultrasound result was not positive and Westbrook-Porter was told Izzy would not make it alive out of the delivery room.

“I went numb. I didn’t want to feel anymore,” said Westbrook-Porter. “I went into surgery and had my C-section. She didn’t even cry. My husband went to take a pic and she grabbed his finger. He was so happy but I was finished. I didn’t want to even breathe again.”

Westbrook-Porter went into recovery and once again was told Izzy would die overnight, but the next day the doctor came in and told her they had to do surgery on the newborn. Again she was told her daughter would die.

“They didn’t know how much she weighed because she was so full of water. Her tumour was twice as big as her,” said Westbrook-Porter.

By chance, by miracle or by Izzy’s fighting prowess, hours later Izzy’s doctors reported back to Porter that the whole tumour slipped right out. She said they couldn’t explain why, but it did.

“They warned me that Izzy was very young at 29 weeks, so she would have a huge battle. I told them not to worry, the little engine that could would make it, she did this far right?”

Although their days are filled with making sure Izzy gets the right medication and despite the tubes in her stomach, the family believes she will live a long life. Because there are no specialists that can help Izzy in the Penticton area the family must drive to Vancouver to get medical assistance. They will have to make about five trips this year alone. The costs of travel is taxing. They do receive some assistance from groups that help sick children but they only pay for one parent to stay with her in Vancouver.

Pentictonite Tiana Spencer happened to stumble upon a Facebook page for Izzy, created by Westbrook-Porter to keep friends and family updated on her health. Reading about what these strangers have to do every day touched Spencer so much she decided to help.

On Saturday from noon until 3 p.m. a bottle drive is being held at the parking lot of McDonald’s. She invites the public to drop off their bottles with the money going to the family to help them with their travel expenses.


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