A local family recently received a full renovation of their backyard, donated by The Dream Factory, for their daughter who is still recovering from a second brain surgery just this past April.
Sarah Topham and her husband have two children, ages four and one. Their four-year-old daughter, Emma was initially born healthy, but then she started to experience very serious seizures.
"Em was diagnosed with Infantile Spasms at seven months of age," says Sarah.
It is a seizure disorder in babies. If children continue to have it, it turns into West Syndrome.
Sarah says, "She has a very rare form of epilepsy. From six months until she was two and a half years old, she would have med-resistant seizures 50-100 times a day."
In an effort to figure out what was happening to their little girl, the couple ran multiple tests.
"We flew out to Toronto to get a 'Meg' scan. We got the results a month after and the doctors thought it was focused enough to do a surgery for her."
The surgery is called a hemispherectomy. It is a serious surgery that disconnects half of the brain from working, sort of like a stroke.
"She was slowly developing and learning to walk, but the surgery would take that from her. But we decided that the seizures were worth trying to get rid of."
The couple made the hard decision to do the surgery and Sarah says, "Honestly it was the best decision we could have ever made."
After the first surgery where doctors removed all the connections from one half of her brain, Emma was doing well until another seizure had them wondering. They did scans and decided to do another brain surgery, this time fully removing half of her brain tissue.
Emma now has limited mobility from the surgery, making it a little more difficult to get around.
"She can walk with assistance, but she's still very nervous to walk. With her good hand, she likes to hold our hands. She doesn't eat orally and she's also non-verbal."
Once Sarah heard about The Dream Factory through a friend, her mother-in-law filled out an application and sent it off for Emma. A week later they phoned the family.
"Me and Emma went to a meeting with them. I really didn't know the extreme of what they do for people. They said, 'You think it, you dream it, you got it." We thought a deck without splinters or something low budget, but they said 'Dream a little bigger!"
The Dream Factory ended up creating a backyard oasis for Emma and her family, including a friendly pathway made of rubber rock so no one gets hurt. The backyard also received a fully accessible deck with a ramp, a family swing, and landscaping, including a flower bed.
This specific dream come true was fitting as Sarah says, "We call Emma our little nature girl."
While the family lives near a park, as Emma is immunosuppressed, they haven't left their house much since the pandemic hit.
"It's a Godsend that it's in the backyard because she can't go to the park, due to COVID."
In total there were seven separate Manitoba companies that worked on the Topham's backyard to turn it into a paradise.
"Everyone who worked on this was absolutely amazing. What they came up with was way beyond what we had even thought."
In a normal year, the Dream Factory in Manitoba will complete roughly 35 dreams come true for kids battling life-threatening illnesses.
Sarah couldn't say enough about the company, and share, "Even when my son was born, they sent an outfit. They just go above."
The development manager at The Dream Factory, Andrew Kussy, shares that they have a policy in place to never turn away a qualified child.