Meet Bella Brave
By Alisha Heibert
Come meet Alisha and our transplant community on TransplantLyfe
If you’ve been on TikTok, you’ve probably seen the joy and energy that is Bella. Bella, with the help of her mom Kyla, runs a popular TikTok account chronicling Bella’s unique health challenges, along with a healthy dose of fashion, beauty by Bella, and a lot of laughter.
Bella Thomson is a 9-year-old girl living in Saskatchewan, Canada, with her mom, dad and little brother. She was born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID); Hirschsprung disease, a rare bowel disease that took the entirety of her colon; and cartilage hair hypoplasia, a form of dwarfism. Throughout her life, Bella has spent more than 850 days in the hospital, received 21 surgeries, undergone a bone-marrow transplant, and received countless needles.
Bella is a trailblazer, in every sense of the word. She is the first pediatric patient to use Revestive in Alberta and Saskatchewan, a drug that has allowed Bella to go off total parenteral nutrition (TPN). You can often find her singing and dancing during long hospital stays, and her unique joy and spark has allowed her to not only survive but thrive, as well, in her unique situation.
Receiving a solid-organ transplant post bone-marrow transplant, especially in the pediatric population, isn’t a typical transplant circumstance. In 2020, it was deemed that Bella was in bowel failure, the first indication she needed a bowel transplant. The second was that Bella had only one usable, accessible blood vessel left in her entire body. Many ups and downs in her stability led to the placement and removal of multiple Broviac lines, destroying Bella’s vascular access.
In Canada, there are only two hospitals that perform solid-organ transplants in pediatrics – the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, and The Hospital for Sick Children (AKA SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario. Neither center is close to Bella’s hometown, which requires her to travel, potentially for months at a time during long stays. Due to her unique situation and prior bone-marrow transplant, the transplant team in Alberta (which would have been the closest location) decided they were not equipped to handle her complex care and denied her listing for a transplant. This meant Bella and Kyla had to fly across the country to receive lifesaving medical treatment.
Kyla told me about some of her struggles, including feeling like they were taking so much from a medical system that wasn’t equipped to deal with cases like theirs. Bella’s nurses would ask how Kyla was doing, and she could only reply that she felt defeated, taking all this help and being unable to give back. When Bella was listed for transplant and her condition became easier to manage upon receiving care at SickKids, it was only natural, Kyla said, for their family to begin giving back to the organizations and people that had given them so much.
“So many people supported us, and it was so healing to be the help and not just take the help,” Kyla said.
Kyla credits her strong support system with helping her get through everything. She and her husband lean on each other often, a real team in caring for not only Bella, but their son, Waylon, as well. Friends and family also generously offered their time, resources, and energy to lend the family a hand. The clearest message to Kyla in all of this was that she didn’t have to do it alone. “Being Bella’s mom, I learned I can’t handle everything on my own. And, also, I can do a lot more than I thought,” she recounted.
Bella and Kyla also work together to run Bella Brave, an organization created to give back to the community and to inspire others. Their inspirational message is consistent throughout all of their various platforms, and it’s the one most important for them to get across.
When I asked Kyla what she’s looking forward to, she noted that’s she’s excited to connect with other caregivers in similar situations and to finally join the post-transplant community.
You can find the dynamic duo of Bella and Kyla on TikTok and Instagram @kylact and on their website, bella-brave.com.