Just breathe, the 10-year-old from Campbell River, BC, told himself. Don’t slip, he added, and stay out of everyone’s way – causing a chain reaction pileup would make sports blooper reels forever.
Turns out the highlight of Matthew’s year, joining the Vancouver Canucks on the ice on February 26th as winner of the Save-On-Foods Every Kid’s Dream contest, prepared him for his biggest test of the year, a stress test on his heart a week later.
Matthew was diagnosed with an anomaly of the right coronary artery a year ago after a battery of tests and ultrasounds for a thump he was feeling in his chest, and in early March another set of tests were thrown his way to determine how much blood, oxygen and nutrients were being fed to his heart. He had to lie still for two hours in an MRI machine while being fed drugs to test his heart; because of the nature of his condition, the risk of the artery closing off completely was very high and he was monitored as closely as ever by doctors and his family.
“When we were finished, all the doctors, nurses, and staff came in and high fived him because of how well he did, and said they were so proud of him, that most adults would have pushed the panic button and ask to be taken out of that machine,” beamed Matthew’s mother Stefanie.
Matthew thrived during the tests and as of now optimism is high he’ll avoid open-heart surgery, although he’ll be very closely monitored and a panel of cardiologists will still review the MRI findings.
Uncertainty has become a word familiar to Matthew, but despite everything he’s been through, his spirits never dipped. Karma rewarded him with a chance to take the pre-game warm-up with his idols and that experience has given him memories to help him fight through whatever comes his way next.
As winner of the Save-On-Foods Every Kid’s Dream contest, Matthew had the opportunity to skate with the Canucks in pre-game warm-up, stand on the blueline for the national anthems, watch the game with his mom, dad and brother, and he received $500 in spending money.
His heart was still racing during the second intermission when he tried to relay what this all meant to him.
“It was a great experience and I really liked it,” a wide-eyed Matthew revealed. “Ryan Kesler was really nice to me, he was telling me what to do on the blueline mostly. It was a really fun experience skating around with everybody watching.
“I was thinking about all the eyes that were looking at me, I was a little bit nervous but I came through, so it was fun. I’m so glad I didn’t fall.”
Matthew was so caught up in the moment he actually mistook Kevin Bieksa for Ryan Kesler; it was Bieksa who gave him some guidance, not Kesler, who had just returned from Sochi and wasn't in the line-up.
(If you’re just realizing this now, sorry to burst your bubble Matthew!)
Matthew is still as active as can be and although his practices have been limited, he still plays hockey, and with a bigger smile than ever these days.
The entire family can’t help but smile.
“To get chosen to win the Save-On-Foods Every Kid’s Dream contest, through all of this, was truly a miracle,” said Stefanie.
“It brought so much joy and smiles to our whole family, at a time of such uncertainty and fear. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for a fabulous time!”