Cartwright woman grateful for support
Life-changing event hasn’t changed who Sydney Learning is
Sydney Learning of Cartwright said she’s grateful that the people of her hometown didn’t treat her any differently than other teens after she underwent a leg amputation more than a decade ago. Learning was 15 years old at the time.
“I was still Syd. And thank God for that,” the 27-year-old said.
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.
Doctors believe the disease developed from a blister on Learning’s foot. It damaged her liver, kidneys, lungs and other organs.
“My heart flat lined. I was in a coma for two weeks.”
Learning was told about the amputation when she woke up from the coma and was still on life-saving equipment in the Janeway’s Intensive Care Unit. Rather than focus on the loss, she said, she was happy to be alive.
“I was just so scared I was going to die.”
Learning was released from hospital about four months after the amputation. She returned to her hometown just before Christmas.
“I was supposed to be going to Grade 10 and I was so excited that I passed (Grade nine) but I missed the whole start of the school year so I never touched high school after that.”
Learning made a permanent move to St. John’s the summer after the amputation.
“The Miller Centre needed me out here three weeks to a month at a time,” she said of her rehabilitation which continued for several years following the amputation.
While she didn’t attend high school in Cartwright, Learning furthered her education at the Murphy Centre in St. John’s. According to its website (www. murphycentre.ca), the centre supports people who need to complete a high school education in a flexible and supportive setting, or become involved in meaningful career and personal development experiences.
Learning said she loved her time at the Murphy Centre. She earned all of her high school credits there, she said.
The staff is supportive and encouraging, she said.
Learning beams as she talks about her accomplishments at the Murphy Centre. She includes her studies there among the most memorable experiences of her life.
“I noticed they didn’t have a student council and I can proudly say that I created a student council at the Brother T. I. Murphy Centre. I was student council president and I got to do the speech.”
Learning 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 twoyear- old daughter Royal strapped to her body. “We get the bus a lot.” Learning said it’s important how she raises her daughter.
“Every day since she was born I play her classical music for two hours in the morning. Then I play her jazz in the evening.”
A single parent, Learning refers to herself and the mother of twins. The babies were born on Jan. 10, 2015. The second twin – a baby girl she named Belle - died six days after her birth.
The minister who baptized her babies (Rev. John Courage) was the same minister who gave Learning her Last Rites when she was near death in ICU.
Learning said as soon as she found out she was pregnant, she knew she’d survived in order to become a mom - something she’s always wanted, she said.
She speaks about her deceased child with love and compassion. The baby may be gone but this mother’s memory of her brief time with her baby will always be with her.
“I was next to her head. The last time she opened her little eyes was to look at me. I was talking to her right by her little ear. I told her about everything, about the Murphy Centre. Everything that I could think of to tell her what I did.”
Belle passed away in the presence of her family and caring staff at the Janeway’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“I held Belle here,” Learning said pointing to her chest.
“The on-call reverend was reading ‘Noah’s Ark,’ my favourite Bible story, in the background. I was combing Belle’s hair and I was singing to her. When she passed I felt it. She wasn’t in any pain.”
Learning said she “pushes on” for Royal.
“She needs me, but, need that baby more.”
After CBC aired Learning’s story just prior to Christmas, 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.
Royal now weighs about 35 pounds. Thanks to the new carrier, Learning said, she can strap the baby to her back as well as her front.
During this interview at her home on Dec. 23, Learning said she was expecting Murphy to drop by later with more gifts people had donated.
An online fundraising page has also been established to raise money to buy Learning a now boy, I car. (Details at www.gofundme. com and search Car for Sydney and Royal).
While her focus right now is being a full-time mom, Learning’s future plans include studying to become a life coach.
“I want to help people who have disabilities... I think it’s all about having a positive attitude. And I think being a life coach could be a wonderful career for me.”
Sydney Learning with her two-year-old daughter Royal.
Sydney Learning takes her twoyear- old daughter Royal everywhere with her. Sydney lost her leg to necrotizing fasciitis when she was 15.