Province won't foot $210,000 bill to ease girl's agony

Mikayla Curran. (Handout Photo)

Mikayla Curran. (Handout Photo)

Michael Platt, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

CALGARY -- The chances of being diagnosed with a symptomatic pineal gland cyst are similar to winning a small lottery — and in Alberta you might need that jackpot just to pay for the surgery.

It’s a tale of benign agony for the unfortunate few to be diagnosed in this province: Excruciating headaches, vision loss, muscle spasms, fatigue, anxiety and extreme mood swings, to name some of the symptoms.

But it won’t kill you.

That, coupled with the fact no doctor in Canada apparently feels comfortable removing a benign cyst from deep within the brain, means Alberta doesn’t consider pineal gland cysts a big deal.

Or at least, the province won’t typically pay for the surgery.

Patients in Alberta can either endure a life of painful, non-malignant misery, or they can somehow raise the quarter-million dollars needed to pay a U.S. specialist.

For the unlucky few, Alberta’s default funding decision has been to rule the cyst-removal surgery elective, putting it in the same up-to-you category as a boob job or hip replacement.

That means the $250,000 bill is the patient’s problem.

Meet Mikayla Curran.

Eleven years old, Mikayla has repeatedly told her parents she wants to die. “To go and be with grandma,” in her words.

One year ago, the Wetaskawin honour student was athletically and socially active, keen on swim club, camping, boating, books, horses and of course, hanging out with her sister and friends.

But then the headaches started, a daily throbbing similar in intensity to a migraine.

Some time later, as doctors struggled to find a cause, Mikayla went temporarily blind, and an emergency MRI located a small cyst in her brain.

For her fretting parents, Sheldon and Angela Curran, the initial good news about the cyst being cancer-free was quickly countered by the revelation their daughter was very sick and there was no help available in Alberta.

Mikayla no longer swims, plays or does much of anything. She’s tired, sore and miserable, and at 11 years old, ready to give up.

“How can it be elective surgery when something causes this kind of treachery and upheaval in your life?” says Sheldon.

“As parents, you accept there will be a little bit of suffering in life, but not when it comes to a child being sick like this, and having to listen to your child not wanting to live.”

The Currans aren’t waiting. They’ve already started to raise the $210,000 needed to fly Mikayla to a Texas neurosurgeon in late June, having been told by a string of Canadian specialists that the relatively primitive technique available here is too dangerous.


Videos

Photos