Pulmonary hypertension is a serious illness that becomes progressively worse and can be fatal. Despite this, Isabelle Platnar’s mother, Sarah Platnar, describes Isabelle as “having an infectious spirit, she is optimistic and has a positive attitude.”

During Sarah’s pregnancy with Isabelle, a routine scan showed a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, meaning Isabelle had a hole in her diaphragm. At just two days old, Isabelle had an operation to repair the hole. Isabelle’s illness, pulmonary hypertension, is an associated condition of that early trauma.

A daily challenge

Life can certainly be tough for Isabelle and her family. Isabelle needs to receive oxygen therapy at all times, takes a number of heart medications and feels constantly fatigued. “The pressure her lungs is under is akin to someone running multiple marathons a day,” says Sarah. A common cold or flu can be life-threatening.

“I still have goosebumps thinking of that morning. The gratitude I have for the donors is indescribable.”

Isabelle’s illness has taken a financial toll on the family. When Sarah and husband, Mark Platnar, first learned of Isabelle’s health problems, they made the decision for Mark to stay at home full-time. “We could ensure that she was well looked after and it was wonderful for Isabelle to have that special time with her father and siblings,” says Sarah. “But of course it was a financial sacrifice that affected everyone in the family.”

Moreover, Isabelle’s conditions means that she has physical limitations. She must carry a heavy oxygen tank with her at all times. A challenge for any nine-year-old but particularly difficult for an underweight and easily-fatigued child.

A gift that empowers

Isabelle has had an interest in learning to play piano from a young age. At age five, Isabelle told her parents that she was saving up to buy a grand piano. “Because of her condition we knew Isabelle was never going to be an athlete,” says Sarah, a Physical Education teacher. “But she can play the piano.”

For Isabelle, a piano would be a means to empowerment. She would be able to do something just as well as, if not better than, any child. Isabelle started diligently saving money received at birthdays and Christmas. Meanwhile, without the Platnars’ knowledge, Isabelle’s aunt contacted Children’s Wish, a wish granting charity dedicated to granting heartfelt wishes to Canadian children diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, who offered to make Isabelle’s wish come true by gifting her a grand piano.

Sarah and Mark asked that the charity be present when Isabelle received her piano so that she could thank them. Soon CityNews caught wind and came to tape the event. Lamanna’s, a local bakery, offered to supply food and a family friend supplied flowers. The act of making a child’s wish come true had brought together and strengthened a family and their community.

A drawing made by Isabelle.

Every day is a gift

“I still have goosebumps thinking of that morning. The gratitude I have for the donors is indescribable,” says Sarah. “The first time she sat down at that piano, I felt hope. I thought: we can get through this. I still think that every morning when I see the piano”.

Children’s Wish does more than just grant wishes. They give children with life-threatening illnesses an opportunity to escape the reality of their medical condition and to feel like a normal kid.

“Mastering the piano has empowered Isabelle,” says Sarah. “That is the gift of a lifetime.” Despite Isabelle’s illness, the Platnars are bound by a deep love and extremely positive outlook. “Every day is a gift,” says Sarah. “Isabelle is a reminder to all of us — to live life to the fullest.”