When she was just two days old, Gerrard-Woodbine resident Chloe Fleisher received life-saving emergency surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children for a complex bladder and bowel function problem.
Several surgeries later, Chloe is now a thriving and energetic three-year-old who, despite requiring ongoing medical care and follow-ups, is a happy kid.
“(SickKids) is probably the only hospital in Canada that could handle our case,” said the little girl’s mom, Michelle Wan.
“We’re long-term patients. It’s a daily challenge,”
Over the years, the Wan-Fleisher family has held various smaller fundraisers for urology research, specifically involving stem cells, at the hospital. They’ve also set up a fund in their daughter’s name.
“No one talks about pee and poo. It’s a touchy subject people aren’t so excited to talk about,” said Wan, who has a degree in music from Montreal’s McGill University and has always wanted to come up with a fundraiser that would marry her love of music with her desire to raise funds for this important cause.
“So many people have bladder issues. It affects both adults and kids, but there’s not a lot of funding for research.”
Having played piano and worked at music schools for a number of years before having children, Wan was recently drawn to a colourful piano in the downtown hospital’s Main Street area.
One of 41 pianos representing the 41 countries participating in the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, the instrument is part of campaign called the ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ art project, which is designed to encourage people to get talking and thinking about the upcoming sporting event.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if I practiced a little bit and played (that piano).’ One thing to the next, my thoughts evolved into a fundraiser,” said Wan, who currently works at SickKids Hospital marketing its aboutkidshealth.ca website.
She said she then got the “crazy idea” to challenge herself to learn Mozart’s Twinkle variations, a six-minute piece that includes 12 progressively elaborate variations of the popular children’s folk song Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
“It starts out very simple and then it just goes to town,” said Wan, explaining Mozart’s music is close to her heart as a particular piece of his music would often play on a mobile in a nearby bed when her infant daughter was recovering from surgery at SickKids’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
When Chloe was discharged after two weeks, Wan played that piece on the piano to help ease her new daughter’s pain and soothe her.
Wan is set to perform Mozart’s Twinkle variations piece Friday, July 27 at 3:30 p.m. before the piano is removed from the hospital on July 31. Anyone interested in supporting the cause is welcome to attend.
“The last time I performed was (more than) 15 years ago. I’m feeling nervous and excited,” she said during a recent interview.
“It’s a big challenge. I’m very rusty.”
Wan is aiming to raise at least $5,000 for urology research at SickKids Hospital through the aptly named T(w)inkle Challenge.
Dr. Darius Bagli, a senior urologic surgeon at SickKids and a classically trained pianist who also holds a degree in music from McGill University, coined the fundraiser’s cheeky name.
“You might as well have fun with it. (Bladder and bowel issues) aren’t discussed as often as they should be but they’re extremely common,” said Bagli, who is also a major urology researcher at the Hospital for Sick Children.
He said those affected by urological problems often experience huge, negative impacts on their quality of life.
Supportive of Wan’s idea from Day 1, Bagli has applied for various research grants over the years but admitted even in the medical community it’s challenging to get funding for.
“If there were other philanthropic sources that were interested and aware, it would make a huge difference,” said Bagli, who will play a song or two during Friday afternoon’s fundraiser.
Both Wan and Bagli said they’re optimistic The T(w)inkle Challenge will evolve into something that can be easily taken on by other individuals and/or groups.
“This could really be the start of something big. I feel it’s a great concept,” said Wan, who has been practicing nightly from 9 to 11 p.m. in preparation for her recital tomorrow afternoon.
“It would be amazing to get more (music) professionals involved in raising funds,” added Bagli, who said there’s talk of holding a larger T(w)inkle Challenge event inside the hospital atrium in the coming months.
“We’re using music to get people thinking about the subject. Everyone can relate to music.”
To learn more about the T(w)inkle Challenge, visit www.facebook.com/Twinkle Challenge or Wan’s blog, http://mamaplaysmozart.blogspot.ca
Donations can also be made online to the cause at http://bit.ly/MwoBCJ