Jung Yeun Song from Calgary, AB
Once a Patient, Now an Engineer and Canadian Citizen
After living in Canada for 24 years, Jung Yeun Song became a Canadian citizen in Calgary (Alberta) on August 16, 2011. The event marks the culmination of a very long journey for the 31 year-old woman, now a mechanical engineer with Calgary’s Wiebe Forest Engineering, a division of SNC-Lavalin.
The journey began in Seoul
In 1987, then seven-year-old Jung Yeun Song, was airlifted from Seoul by a humanitarian organization to undergo life-saving orthopaedic surgery at Shriners Hospitals for Children®- Canada to correct the debilitating effects of severe spinal scoliosis. It was expected that with treatment, she could return home within a year.
A new diagnosis that changed her life
In addition to congenital scoliosis, Jung Yeun suffered from unexplained weakness in her legs. In Montreal, further testing revealed a more accurate diagnosis of diastematomyelia, which resembles spina bifida and is characterized by malformations of the spine and legs. This completely changed the course of treatment. Instead of the planned spinal fusion to deal with her scoliosis, neurosurgery was required almost immediately to remove dangerous bony tissue (peg like shards) which threatened her spinal cord. Left untreated this condition threatened to render her paralysed.
Jung Yeun now faced a series of strategically planned treatments and surgeries to deal with the effects of the multiple disorders. It would be a long road that would stretch over more than 7 years. Altogether, Jung Yeun underwent surgery on 17 different occasions between the ages of 7 and 14.
Montreal became her home away from home
From the time of her arrival, she lived with a surrogate family and their four children in suburban Montreal. In order for Jung Yeun to stay for the many years required for the various surgeries, with the permission of her birth mother, Lorna and John MacEachen adopted Jung Yeun. “It was hard at first, but the MacEchens welcomed me. Growing up I had a great support system”, remembers Jung Yeun.
Of her many surgeries, Jung Yeun says, “At times I was afraid, but everyone at Shriners Hospital in Montreal was so helpful to me and to both of my mothers. I don’t remember the pain. The hospital was so much fun I actually enjoyed going there. And they always allowed my stuffed monkey, Russ, to accompany me to each operation.”
According to her adoptive mother, Lorna MacEachen, Jung Yeun was a surprise gift with an upbeat attitude. “In fact, she used to look forward to being at Shriners Hospitals for Children, since they had every toy, even a school to keep her busy, it was like going to Disney.”