Dear reader,

My name is Lianne Bankert. You may have heard of my brother Matthew and sister Kerrin, as well as my parents Ralph and Cathy. We live in Port Colborne, ON.  My brother and sister were diagnosed with MPS IIIA, and for that reason, my parents decided to adopt me from China when I was 9 months old. Growing up, I adored my brother and sister like any other younger sibling. At the time, I didn’t realize that my childhood wasn’t “normal”. When I was seven years old my brother passed away in March 2005 and two short years later, my sister passed in March 2007 when I was nine years old. Because I was so young, I was unable to process the situation properly which has led to some difficult moments throughout my life. Now that I am older, I have a better understanding on how my childhood experiences have influenced my decisions and outlook on life.

One of the most difficult questions to answer is “Do you have any siblings?”. My knee-jerk reaction is “no”, which is understandable but I always feel guilty because it doesn’t seem fair to dismiss such an influential part of who I am. However, I am hesitant because I don’t want to overwhelm people or make them feel uncomfortable. March has always been a difficult month for me but this year, I decided to change my perspective. I want to view my experiences as strengths rather than struggles. To put this into action, I have been more open with the people in my life. I have shared stories about Matthew and Kerrin with my friends and new people I meet, which has facilitated wonderful, thoughtful conversations. These conversations encourage me to continue to be open with people and has taught me that I don’t need to keep my feelings inside. I am very thankful to have such amazing friends and family to support me.

Currently, I am a fourth-year nursing student at the University of Ottawa. I am very passionate for nursing and I know this is because of the caring environment I was brought up in. I had so many wonderful examples in my life, including my parents, aunts and uncles, neighbours and personal care workers. I was always involved in the care of Matthew and Kerrin, which is why nursing feels so natural to me. Through nursing, I feel that I am honouring my siblings by using my experiences to help others in the same way people helped my family.

Thank you for taking time to read about a part of my story. I want to encourage anyone who is in the same position as I am to be open with those around you. The support and interest I have received has helped me process my feelings and thoughts. Losing a sibling is tough and not everyone understands. Even though I have lived most my life without Matthew and Kerrin physically being with me, they have been and always will be such a big part of who I am.