Toronto Star


Nine-year-old who has spent most of her life at Sick Kids celebrates her Nova Scotia homecoming,


Kaleigh Wright-Barton waited her whole life for the East Coast birthday she celebrated Sunday.

The 9-year-old has battled illness since she was a baby, spending most of her life at the Hospital for Sick Children and missing birthdays at home in Weymouth, N.S. But this year, Kaleigh and her family made it home just in time for both the party and Christmas — just days after health complicati­ons nearly derailed their plans.

“She’s just on top of the world,” said Kaleigh’s mom, Echo Wright, speaking with the Star from Digby, N.S.

Kaleigh was born with gastroschi­sis, a birth defect that caused her intestines to grow outside her belly. When she was just four months old, her parents relocated from Nova Scotia to Toronto for treatment, where they’ve remained for nearly a decade.

“Our life is . . . we call it ‘our normal’ but it’s not everybody else’s normal,” said Wright, 27. “For her being home for Christmas, she gets to be part of what everybody else calls their normal.”

The family has been preparing for their first trip home together since 2011, but plans were thrown into peril after Kaleigh developed a blood infection just days before Christmas.

They missed their scheduled flight, but didn’t give up hope. Last week, Sick Kids approved a plan for Wright to treat Kaleigh — who has had two liver transplant­s, relies on nutritiona­l supplement­s via IV and is prone to blood infections — with antibiotic­s while travelling.

“As a parent, I want her home and I would do anything for her to be home, especially here in Nova Scotia for Christmas,” said Wright, who is spending over six hours a day — including in the middle of the night — administer­ing antibiotic­s for Kaleigh via an IV bag, tube and pump.

Porter Airlines allowed the family to rebook flights without additional costs and on Christmas Eve, it was wheels up for the family — including Kaleigh’s 5-year-old brother, J.J., and dad, Jewell Barton.

They made it to Weymouth, where Wright’s family lives, just in time to snag the local lobster fisherman’s last nine lobsters — Kaleigh had been craving a good Maritime feast.

The family celebrated a low-key Christmas at Wright’s mom’s home, with Kaleigh receiving Disney Princess Palace Pets toys from Santa.

The Star spoke with Kaleigh both after the party and before it, the latter while she was mid-bath in Digby, where Barton’s family lives and where the party was held.

“Yay!” Kaleigh yelled from the tub when asked if she was excited to celebrate nine birthdays at once.

Wright explained that Kaleigh’s actual birthday is March 27, but the party was going to be treated as “a birthday party for all of the birthdays that everybody’s missed.”

“This is pretty much the highlight of her trip . . . because we’ve been trying to get her home to have this party for two years,” Wright said as Kaleigh whistled in the background.

Close to 200 people turned up at the Digby Royal Canadian Legion, said Wright.

The 9-year-old spent the afternoon opening presents, blowing out candles, dancing and mingling, Wright told the Star afterward from Jewell’s mother’s home.

By the end of the party, Kaleigh said her cheeks hurt from smiling, said Wright. “She said it was the best birthday party ever,” Wright said. “I think I’m going to have to step up my parties a notch now.” With files from Manisha Krishnan and Alex Ballingall

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Kaleigh Wright-Barton, 9, made it home just in time for her party after receiving the OK from Sick Kids to travel.
Kaleigh Wright-Barton, 9, made it home just in time for her party after receiving the OK from Sick Kids to travel.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada