February 18, 2018
From PyeongChang With Love: Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser Delivers Surprise Message
Nine-year-old Payton Sernick got an Olympic-sized surprise this week, when she received a special video message from Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser, all the way from PyeongChang, Korea at the 2018 Olympics.
Friends with connections to both southern Saskatchewan and the Olympic hockey community alerted the five-time Olympian about Payton’s grueling medical story after seeing one of Payton’s online video diaries for Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. The video included a photo of the Estevan girl in her hospital bed in Edmonton reading Wickenheiser’s book, Gold Medal Diary: Inside the World’s Greatest Sports Event.
It inspired Wickenheiser, a five time Olympic medalist originally from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, to send a heartfelt message of support for Saskatchewan’s child ambassador for the Champions Program presented by Walmart Canada.
Payton was selected as the Saskatchewan ambassador for the Champions Program this past fall and began her year-long term in January. The program honours remarkable children who have triumphed despite several medical challenges. Each child acts as an ambassador for his or her Children’s Miracle Network hospital. Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation is the sole Saskatchewan member.
Payton relapsed in late 2017 after believing she was cancer-free following a two and a half year long battle with Stage 4 Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Lymphoma. Payton and her family made the difficult decision to relocate from Estevan to Alberta for the next six months to receive treatment at the local childrens hospitals for surgery, chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant.
Payton was only six years old when she was first diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Lymphoma, after Saskatchewan doctors discovered hundreds of tumours growing inside her. It all began with unexplained stomach pain so severe she could hardly walk. Payton’s treatment included 40 days in isolation in hospital, x-rays, tests, ultrasounds, CT and MRI scans, biopsies and bone marrow aspirations, plus many painful episodes of blood work before beginning nearly a full year of intense chemotherapy. She was exhausted, lost her hair, and even some teeth and spent well over 200 days in hospital.
“With Payton receiving ongoing treatment out-of-province for lymphoma, this message is a moving reminder of how Saskatchewan people, and all Canadians, rally around their own. This is what Saskatchewan is all about,” says Brynn Boback-Lane, President and CEO of Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. “From one champion to another, Hayley’s heartfelt gesture to our beautiful and brave Champion Payton demonstrates a deep understanding that we can all help each other in times of trouble. Regardless of the miles in between, Hayley’s heart reached out and gave hope to a little girl in hospital.”