Ontario family wins fight for treatment to stabilize child’s leg. They say it shouldn’t be this hard

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Ontario family wins fight for treatment to stabilize child’s leg, says it shouldn’t be this hard
Grace, 10, along with her parents Melanie and David Anstey are in London Ont., for knee surgery at Children’s Hospital at London. After the cartwheel in May 2022, Grace, then aged eight, dislocated her knee, which doctors hoped would heal on its own but would soon become the new normal. After a year and half of waiting she is finally getting the surgery she needs – Oct 18, 2023

The family of 10-year-old Grace Anstey is breathing a sigh of relief after a year and a half fighting for their daughter to get the treatment she needs.

Global News first brought you the story of the then-nine-year-old in July when her parents reached out about their struggles to find a doctor for Grace’s knee surgery.

“We have mixed emotions currently of the whole process, but mainly a feeling of happiness and excitement that Grace will finally be able to get her day-to-day life back,” Grace’s dad, David Anstey, tells Global News.

After a cartwheel in May 2022, Grace, then aged eight, dislocated her knee, which doctors hoped would heal on its own but would soon become the new normal.

“We’re in the ballpark of eight to nine different dislocations over that time, which has rendered her non-weight-bearing and on crutches,” Anstey says.

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Grace’s mom told Global in July that her daughter was paralyzed by fear, dislocating her knee from doing something as simple as walking up the stairs and leaving her in constant need of crutches.

Grace Anstey, 9, on crutches after dislocating her knee.
Grace Anstey, 9, on crutches after dislocating her knee. Supplied by Melanie Anstey

After exploring alternative treatments, a doctor ultimately determined Grace needed surgery after she went to the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which referred her to a specialist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Sunnybrook told Global News in July it did not have the ability to operate on a child under 12.

Now, months later, the family says thanks to the advocacy of a local doctor, surgery will happen this Thursday, with the family travelling from their home in Barrie to Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre for treatment.

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“He made some personal attempts and phone calls to try to help us along and see the correct person, so if it wasn’t for him, we would still be stuck in the system, and Grace would be nowhere close to getting our medical issue resolved,” David Anstey says.

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Although there is joy that Grace is getting the surgery she needs, there is still frustration over how long it’s taken and the distance they need to travel for help.

“I would say that the health-care system has drastically failed our family in this process, as I’m sure every person has a close family member or friend that has experienced something similar,” Anstey says.

Grace Anstey, 10 with parents Melanie and David in London Ontario for knee surgery at Children’s Hospital at London. Oct. 18, 2023.

With London being around a three-hour drive from the family’s Barrie home and not the closest hospital, they are still left wondering why SickKids, the hospital they were first referred to, could not help.

A letter obtained by Global News in July written by Grace’s physician at Sunnybrook says Grace needs a “soft tissue procedure” but that “Sick Kids is no longer allowing arthroscopic surgery in young people.”

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When asked why Grace was unable to get the surgery at SickKids, a hospital spokesperson told Global News in July that the hospital “does perform surgeries associated with knee or kneecap instability or dislocation, but due to privacy reasons, we are not able to speak to specific cases.”

In response to SickKids’ previous statement, Anstey says the family has “not heard any type of communication or contact from his hospital whatsoever.”

Global News followed up with SickKids to clarify why Grace could not get surgery, but they declined to comment on this story.

“Initially a healthy, active child being robbed of now a year and a half of sports enjoyment, physical activity, building those relationships she started with on her initial sports teams, that’s all been just stopped cold turkey,” Grace’s father says.

If you ask Grace which sports she enjoys playing, it’s hard for the 10-year-old to pick just one, giving a long list of she hopes to be able to play again soon.

“I’m really excited, but I’m also very nervous,” she says when asked how she feels about surgery.

While the idea of surgery does make the 10-year-old a bit worried, once she is healthy, she will be ready to run and play again and is already planning to start training for cross-country this summer.

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But given the time that has passed, Grace’s dad said recovery could take longer.

“If you look up any type of research or current information about any type of surgeries for children in the orthopedic range, knees and so on, this well exceeds that timeline in Ontario,” he says.

“There is a possible case where her growth plates might not be equal, and they might have to be modified down the road.”

Grace Anstey, 9, has dislocated her knee six times within the last year and is in need of knee surgery that is proving to be hard to get. Supplied by Melanie Anstey

Despite the possibility of a long recovery, Grace and her parents are optimistic and very grateful things are moving forward.

“We know the medical staff is doing their professional duties with the intent of helping people, and that’s all they want to do, but the system is completely broken. If we didn’t have assistance, Grace would still be waiting, and that’s just not acceptable, not only for a child but for anyone else looking for medical care.”

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In response to Global’s request for comment on Grace’s case, the Ministry of Health acknowledged the long wait times for surgeries nationwide. The statement said it is working with pediatric hospitals across the province to make permanent investments in critical care beds to almost double capacity at their facilities and ramp up the delivery of pediatric surgeries.

“Our government is investing an additional $330 million each year for over 100 high-priority pediatric care initiatives across the province to ensure children and youth in every corner of the province can connect to the care they need for years to come. These include hiring more pediatric surgical operating room staff to increase the number of day surgeries and increase access to diagnostic procedures for children,” the statement reads.

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