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. mur­phy­cen­, 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.

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