Young Gore Bay girl gets compassionate medical flights from namesake Hope Air

Hope Merrylees aboard Hope Air.

GORE BAY—Hope Air, a national charity that arranges free non-emergency medical flights for Canadians, has touched the life of a Gore Bay family—helping its youngest member more easily attend medical appointments in Ottawa, lifting a financial burden and allowing the family more time together.

Single mother Edeana Merrylees of Gore Bay had been struggling, spending countless hours travelling to Ottawa with her daughter Hope who suffers from an undiagnosed disorder that causes uncontrollable seizures.

“I’ve been travelling to Ottawa (to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)) since Hope was born,” explained Ms. Merrylees. “It was very apparent from the beginning that something wasn’t right with her medically. We’re still working on getting her diagnosed but they think it is a rare genetic disorder that affects her neurologically leading to uncontrollable seizures. She also has problems with her central nervous system and can’t feel hot or cold and has an irregular heart beat.”

Ms. Merrylees said that up until learning about Hope Air, she and Hope would have to leave Hope’s siblings, 15-year-old Seth and 12-year-old Nate, at home, travelling to Ottawa with Hope’s uncle to Ottawa numerous times each year.

“Hope can’t be alone in the back of a car, so I would sit with her and my brother would drive us to Ottawa, drop us off at CHEO, drive back to Manitoulin and then come back to get us,” Ms. Merrylees told The Expositor. “I was away from Seth and Nate for days and it was really hard on the whole family.”

Driving between Gore Bay and Ottawa for Hope’s treatments meant leaving at 8 am and arriving in Ottawa later that evening. A drive that should have taken eight hours, took 11-12 hours because Hope was on an apnea monitor to check her breathing which rang frequently, causing them to pull over and check on her status.

In 2010, Ms. Merrylees learned about Hope Air from a nurse at CHEO. “I called them and they asked a couple questions and then started flying us right away,” she said. “Hope Air flies us directly from the Gore Bay Airport to Ottawa and we take a cab to the airport and then they fly us home again. The flight only takes an hour and there are no costs associated with the flight—it’s free.”

Eleven-year-old Hope is able to travel back and forth to Ottawa, now in and out on the same day, and because getting to the appointments is easier, it allows the neurologists at CHEO to monitor her better.

Since its inception in 1986, the charity has arranged over 100,000 flights.

“Hope Air is the only registered, national charity that provides free flights to people who cannot afford the cost of an airline ticket to get medical expertise or specialized medical technologies that usually exist only in larger urban centres,” notes the Hope Air website. “Hope Air is unique among Canadian charities and are proud to provide all flights to our clients completely free of charge: no cost is transferred to clients. We’re not an airline, we’re a lifeline.”

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