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Labrador woman overcome by support from people, businesses


Published on March 6, 2017

Sydney Learning takes her two-year-old daughter Royal everywhere with her. Sydney lost her leg to necrotizing fasciitis when she was 15

©Danette Dooley

Sydney Learning of Cartwright lost her leg when she was 15. She has been inundated with support since the media spread her story late in 2016.

“I want to say thank-you for seeing my struggle and seeing it as a strength. Thank-you for seeing me as a person, as a mother, as a single, disabled mother. But, also as a fighter,” Sydney Learning said via e-mail.

Learning, who currently lives in St. John’s, underwent a leg amputation over a decade ago. She was 15 years old at the time.

Learning lost her left leg to necrotizing fasciitis. More commonly known as flesh-eating disease, necrotizing fasciitis causes an infection that destroys the layers of tissue surrounding muscles. The disease can cause death within 12 to 24 hours.

Learning said her doctors believe the disease developed from a blister on her foot. It damaged her liver, kidneys, lungs and other organs.

“My heart flat lined. I was in a coma for two weeks... I was just so scared I was going to die,” the 28-year-old told The Labradorian during an interview at her home on Dec. 23, 2016.

Learning’s rehabilitation continued for several years. She moved from Cartwright to St. John’s in order to undergo rehabilitation at the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre.

She has tried wearing a prosthetic leg. However, she said, because her amputation is at the hip, the prostheses doesn’t work for her.

“The hard plastic socket (of the prosthetic leg) comes around my belly and, for me, it makes it just too hard.”

Learning uses crutches to get around inside her home in St. John’s and when venturing outside for doctors appointments, groceries and for everything else she needs.

She does so with her two-year-old daughter Royal strapped to her body.

“We get the bus a lot.”

People touched by Learning’s story

After Learning’s story aired on CBC prior to Christmas, and was also picked up by TC Media, people came forward wanting to help the mother and child.

Janet Murphy who owns Gingersnap children’s store in St. John’s donated a new carrier and new boots for the baby.

“I had gift cards... and even some groceries, hair bows and a knitted blanket for Royal, handfuls of Facebook messages with the most uplifting and beautiful words of support and recognition. Janet of Gingersnap, Go Bus drivers and more, truly made these past few months the best of my life,” Learning said.

Perhaps the best news of all is that Learning will no longer need to depend on public transportation.

An on-line fundraising initiative brought in enough money for her to buy a used car.

“It’s a Chevy Cobolt. It’s black. It’s parked until I can present the required documents.”

Learning said she’s grateful to everyone who contributed to the fundraising efforts on her behalf, including people from Cartwright and other areas of Labrador.

“Support from my hometown has and will always be a motivation for me knowing they all are so proud of where I am and what I overcame in my life. And they all love Royal.”

The War Amps has also very supportive, she said.

“The War Amps provide help to champs, children amputees. I’m lucky to have the opportunity now to finish a Young Drivers course because of them.”

War Amps is also paying for her driver’s exam once she passes the drivers’ course, she said.

Learning has set a goal to have her license by August.

Owning a vehicle will help give her back her independence, she said.

“It’s winter and it’s hard, I’ll admit that. I’m so grateful. No one knows how much so. But I can say I won’t have to feel like a seasonal parent. Independence for me and my child and security knowing I can take her wherever... to get groceries, to go to emergency if ever needed... it’s the best feeling, the best.”

While she now stays home to care for Royal, Learning’s future plans include enrolling in a post-secondary education program.

“I attend parenting classes and a lot of therapy. I just recently got a gym membership and I’m working on being the best vision of myself for me and Royal and I’m loving every step.”

Learning has a message for all those who have helped improve her life.

“Knowing how much I touched others by just living my every day... From the bottom of my full heart, I thank you. I feel so blessed and I’m so grateful. I can only promise to be my best and do my best for every person I meet.”

danette@nl.rogers.com