Thomas’ miracle recovery will highlight Night of Miracles fundraiser (w/ video)

Published: October 17, 2013


West Vancouver’s Tracy Dignum can still vividly recall the day her youngest son suffered a severe stroke.

While at school, Thomas, then six years old, got hit by a soccer ball to the head, suffered the stroke, torn blood vessels in his neck and clots in his brain stem.

“He couldn’t move anything, he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t swallow,” said Dignum, a physical therapist.

She knew it was bad — “an absolute death sentence,” she said. “To be watching your child and think, ‘This is it, he’s not going to make it and if he does he’s never going to be able to do anything.’ It was an absolute nightmare.”

Tracy Dignum and son Thomas relax at home in West Vancouver on October 17, 2013. They are part of the Night of Miracles event. (Wayne Leidenfrost/ PNG)

But “stars aligned” when Dr. Manraj Heran suggested interventional radiology — a minimally invasive procedure, where instead of making a major incision for surgery, doctors insert a catheter and use imaging technology, like X-rays, CT scans, or ultrasounds, to guide them. Thomas was the first child in B.C. to undergo such a procedure.

Today, Thomas is 12-years-old and has “basically all of his functions back,” said Dignum. He doesn’t play contact sports, but he’s a great swimmer and a gifted student.

So it’s only fitting that Thomas is part of the South Asian community’s fifth annual A Night of Miracles gala in support of B.C. Children’s Hospital on Saturday at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel. Event organizers have pledged $3 million towards the construction of an interventional radiology room, as part of B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation’s (BCCHF) Campaign for B.C. Children, which is working to raise $200 million for a new hospital at 28th and Oak, scheduled for completion in 2018.

“(Thomas is) still alive because they did this interventional radiology,” said Dignum. “He’s the perfect poster boy for (A Night of Miracles).”

Dr. Manraj Heran, interventional radiologist with a $3 million dollar Bi-plane Angiography machine, which enables doctors to perform life-saving image guided procedures at B.C. Children’s Hospital. Mark van Manen/ PNG

The event’s founding chair, Robin Dhir, started the gala five years ago because he wanted a black tie affair for the local South Asian community.

“(I was) a bit troubled with some of the types of news stories that were coming out about the community,” Dhir said, referencing drug and gang-related problems. “That’s not a good representation.”

He met with staff at BCCHF, and “the next thing you know we have this gala that’s going on to Year Five.”

BCCHF relies on support from events like A Night of Miracles, not only for the capital campaign, but for the hospital’s overall needs — like a dedicated interventional radiology room.

“If there’s surgery that involves bigger incisions, then children will often have to stay in the hospital overnight,” said BCCHF spokesman Stephen Forgacs. “Often after interventional radiology procedures the children go home the same day.”

A Night of Miracles expects to draw about 400 people for the night of dinner and dancing. And, course, this year’s A Night of Miracles Champion, Thomas Dignum, will be there.

“We were very, very lucky it worked out as well as it did,” said his mother. “Now we will do anything we can to support children’s radiology.”

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