Getting through a tumultuous year

Chelcie Soroka
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Society Family, friends come to aid of Happy Valley-Goose Bay's Laing family

Some people say that bad news comes in threes, but for the Laing family this past year, it has seemed like bad news won't stop coming.

Thirty-two-year-old Ronda Laing lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay with her husband Norm, their 13-year-old son Jordan and newborn daughter Jamie.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay -

Some people say that bad news comes in threes, but for the Laing family this past year, it has seemed like bad news won't stop coming.

Thirty-two-year-old Ronda Laing lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay with her husband Norm, their 13-year-old son Jordan and newborn daughter Jamie.

On July 6, 2008, Ronda and Norm were celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary, although they were childhood sweethearts who have been together 16 years.

Ronda was pregnant with Jamie and was in pain from a gallbladder infection. Jordan ran in to her crying, because he had been hit in the head while playing outside. Norm took Jordan to the hospital and he was released soon afterwards.

That day would mark the beginning of a tumultuous and almost unbelievable year for the Laing family.

Ronda's sister, Cindy Abbott of Oromocto, N.B., told The Labradorian what her sister and her family have gone through.

Back on that July night in 2008, Jordan developed a blood clot in his brain due to the skull fracture he sustained earlier that day. The clot was removed in a life-saving operation in Goose Bay before he was medevaced to St. John's for observation.

Ronda's gallbladder infection worsened and she was admitted to the Health Sciences Centre, where medication and rest enabled her to experience what had otherwise been a fairly normal pregnancy, despite developing pre-eclampsia - high blood pressure - in her last trimester.

In early 2009, Norm's parents, Grace and Stewart, were in a cabin fire. Norm's mother was treated locally, but his father's burns were more serious and he had to be medevaced to St. John's.

Stewart was in a coma for the first few weeks, but he recovered, despite severe burns to his hands and face.

Jamie was born in February. Three weeks later, Ronda was diagnosed with a weakened heart after she developed difficulty breathing when lying down. She was admitted to the ICU in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and then had to be medevaced to St. John's again with congestive heart failure. Doctors gave Ronda medication and advised that some patient's hearts can repair themselves.

Upon returning home, the Laings received the news that Ronda's father, who lived in New Brunswick, had died.

When Ronda returned to Happy Valley-Goose Bay from New Brunswick, her heart had weakened dramatically and was functioning at only 10 per cent of its capacity.

She was medevaced to Halifax and on July 3 was told her heart was too damaged to recover and she would need a heart transplant.

She was put on the transplant waiting list with high priority status and remained in Halifax with Norm and Jamie. Jordan was back in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, floating between his aunt's and uncle's and grandparents' houses.

On July 8, Ronda had a left ventricle assisted device installed to sustain her heart until a transplant becomes available. The device is worn outside the body and is attached to a 25-pound computer that she will have to carry with her.

Ronda was taken off sedation July 10, but slept for most of the first few days afterwards because of the pain from the surgery.

Her sister said Ronda will have to go through physiotherapy because of the operation, and again once she receives a new heart. Doctors expect her to be able to resume most of her normal activities after the transplant.

There is no way to predict when Ronda will receive a transplant, "but they have told her she cannot live in Labrador and be on the transplant list, as it is too far (away)," Abbott said.

"Norman and the baby are staying in an apartment sponsored by Killam Properties and donated to the Queen Elizabeth II (Hospital in Halifax). This has been donated for a couple of months and then they will be on their own. They have not yet located a place to stay.

"Jordan still remains under constant medical care for the physical aspects of the injury (he suffered last year)."

Jamie is now five months old, and healthy. Ronda's 71-year-old mother, Sandra, is in Halifax with her, as well.

Abbott said the past year has been hard on the entire family.

"It has been trying and upsetting, but these two remarkable people (Norm and Ronda) have really been the leaders and set such outstanding examples for us, it is hard to get too down.

"Ronda and Norm have strength and wisdom well beyond their years. They have taught us all to count our blessings and to take one day at a time,' Abbott said.

"As Norm explains it, you write down all the things you need to deal with on a list. Pull the list out every day and see if there is something on it you can deal with that day. If you cannot, then leave it on the list and take a look at it another day."

Abbott said her sister and her family need financial assistance because of their living expenses in Halifax, as well as Jordan's and Ronda's ongoing care.

Labrador Motors recently held a car wash and barbecue for the Laings and raised $3,200.

The Laings have not asked the public for assistance.

"They are proud people that have worked hard all their life," Abbott said.

"It is their family that has looked at this scenario and said they cannot go it alone. Unfortunately, as Ronda waits for a transplant they will be required to live in Halifax and provide for their children, while (neither of them has) insurance or benefits that would cover these costs."

Abbott said the family has been amazed by the support the couple has received from the community.

"The town of "Happy Valley-Goose Bay is like none other that I have witnessed,' she said. When Jordan was ill, many rallied to help him and when Ronda became ill, the well-wishes coming - from not only their family and friends, but complete strangers - was unreal."

Ronda's family has set up a Facebook group called Ronda's Progress that is updated daily and tells how the family is doing. Anyone interested in donating money to the Laings can contact the family via the webpage.

The Labradorian

Organizations: Health Sciences Centre, Killam Properties, Jordan's Labrador Motors

Geographic location: Goose Bay, Happy Valley, Jordan Halifax St. John's Oromocto New Brunswick Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Diannee
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    wow what a story! I hope things turn around and that she is able to receive the transplant.

    I think it is good that they are putting her up in an apartment for a few months, but transplant waits can often take years. I don't know what the solution here is...but I think that they should look at a longer term living centre. They are right that Labrador is too far away for the list, but should she be expected to get a job out there with a 25 pound computer? or should her 71 year old mother be expected to work? I hope they sort this out.

  • Manny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    The harder the struggle, the greater the triumph.

  • Kathleen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I am so impressed by this family, by their strength, commitment and love for each other and would like to know how to make a donation to this family. They say what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. You guys deserve a break. God bless.

  • laura
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Would it be possible for someone to set something up via one of the banks within the province like was done for other families in need?? Please follow up on this Telegram!! :)

    best wishes and thoughts and prayers for the family and all those going through such hard times.

  • Diannee
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    wow what a story! I hope things turn around and that she is able to receive the transplant.

    I think it is good that they are putting her up in an apartment for a few months, but transplant waits can often take years. I don't know what the solution here is...but I think that they should look at a longer term living centre. They are right that Labrador is too far away for the list, but should she be expected to get a job out there with a 25 pound computer? or should her 71 year old mother be expected to work? I hope they sort this out.

  • Manny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    The harder the struggle, the greater the triumph.

  • Kathleen
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    I am so impressed by this family, by their strength, commitment and love for each other and would like to know how to make a donation to this family. They say what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. You guys deserve a break. God bless.

  • laura
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Would it be possible for someone to set something up via one of the banks within the province like was done for other families in need?? Please follow up on this Telegram!! :)

    best wishes and thoughts and prayers for the family and all those going through such hard times.