Michelle, Matt, MacKenzie & Meaghan

@rileysmithphoto-8540.jpg

Amherst, NS

Michelle, mom of four, is sure her car could drive itself from her family’s home in Amherst, Nova Scotia, to the IWK in Halifax. She estimates it has made the four-hour round trip close to 300 times in the past 12 years.

Her twin daughters, Meaghan and MacKenzie, were diagnosed with kidney failure at five months old. Days in the hospital turned into weeks, and weeks turned into a 13-month stay as doctors at the IWK worked to stabilize the health of the girls.

“As the reality of the diagnosis set in, we knew we had to change our whole lifestyle,” said Michelle. “How we live, our schedule, our spending habits – everything!”

With two older children at home, Michelle and her husband Matt learned to live apart while Mom stayed in Halifax by the girls’ side, and Dad juggled work and caring for seven-year-old Maddison and two-year-old Mitchell at home. Michelle had to leave her job, and the family learned to get by on one income. It was a difficult time in which Michelle and Matt felt increasingly restricted. So when IWK hospital staff introduced them to Irving Oil’s Fuel the Care program, the couple felt they were gaining back some control.

“Beyond financial support, the fuel cards gave us a sense of freedom at a time when we felt trapped,” said Michelle. “When a weekend would come, and we just needed to be together as a family, we could make that choice. The fuel cards are what got me home.”

Michelle remembers the little faces of her older children watching in the window, waiting for her to arrive home from the IWK. She remembers late night dance parties to welcome her. She remembers feeling anxious on the road to get where she was going, and pure joy when she would finally arrive.

Twelve years later, Meaghan and MacKenzie still consider the IWK their home away from home. They have been back and forth over the years for multiple procedures including three kidney transplants between the two of them, multiple biopsies, and hospitalizations due to complications related to their care.

Today, with their health stable, they follow a daily medication routine and check in with their team of specialists at the IWK every month. When Mom says it’s time to go, the girls, who love to draw, pack their matching purple tote bags with art supplies and pile in the black family SUV– the car that knows the way.