Agnieszka Karst, BettyAnne Batt, Jane Huff, Sylvia Doane and Dr. Trevor Hurwitz collaborated on the book I’m the Bob and Cathy’s Kid. (Photo contributed)

Langley woman’s caregivers pen unflinching book about her struggles

The authors and the woman they care for will be at an Abbotsford book signing on Saturday, Feb. 16.

Suzie Bailey has a huge heart. She first came to the public’s attention in a 2009 Langley Advance article about her bottle and can collecting.

She would turn in recyclable drink containers and earmark the money to support families at Christmas through the Langley Christmas Bureau.

Yet at other times, the local woman with the developmental disability, is under the control over her injured brain, and would scream, throw things, spit and hit.

The team of people who care for her, with the support of her family, have released a book about Suzie. I’m the Bob and Cathy’s Kid is written by the team of Agnieszka Karst, BettyAnne Batt, Sylvia Doane and Jane Huff, with contributions by Dr. Trevor Hurwitz.

A person with a developmental disability can be a handful for those who love and care for her. The book offers an unvarnished look at Suzie’s struggles and theirs to encourage and teach others that perseverance and encouragement can make all the difference.

“She is kind, caring and loving. [Her negative behaviours] is because her brain has no brakes. Knowing this allows us to repeatedly forgive her offensive language, and tolerate being cuffed, bitten or spat at,” Dr. Hurwitz wrote.

Bailey was born Aug. 4, 1981 in Langley.

“I remember she was a robust and beautiful baby,” wrote her mother, Cathy.

At the age of 14 months, Bailey started having epileptic seizures. That started her parents on a seemingly endless round of doctors’ appointments and testing as medication after medication failed and the frequency of seizures increased. She was having more than 200 seizures per day.

She had her first brain surgery at two-and-one-half years of age.

After more brain surgeries, her parents made the difficult decision that she would have a hemispherectomy (removal of half her brain). Her parents had a heartbreaking decision. Do nothing and the seizures would basically ‘fry’ her brain or remove part of her brain, knowing it would forever change their daughter.

The hemispherectomy left her with brain injuries, physical disabilities and behavioural challenges. While the radical surgery helped with the number of seizures, they did not stop entirely and she exhibited aggressive behaviours because of her hurt brain.

It’s been a tough road for Suzie, her parents, her sisters, and her caregivers. For every triumph (such as Suzie living on her own with one-on-one support) there’s been many setbacks.

But the Walnut Grove resident has over the years done volunteer and paid work at various places around the community, competed in Special Olympics, travelled, and enjoyed an active social life.

The authors documented it all in I’m the Bob and Cathy’s Kid, with Suzie’s permission and parental involvement, to show others how a person such as Suzie Bailey can carve out a fulfilling life for herself with support, love and understanding.

Through anecdotes and laying out why certain issues and problems were handled in certain ways as well as the lessons learned, they hope others – be they family or caregivers of people with brain injuries – can be find solutions to what they encounter.

“There were no easy answers to guide us along the way,” the authors wrote.

The authors and Bailey have a book signing at the Coles bookstore in Seven Oaks Mall in Abbotsford from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16.

They will be at the Coles in Willowbrook Shopping Centre on March 16 from noon to 3 p.m..

“We expect Doctor Hurwitz to be attending this event, as well as the four of us,” said Karst.

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Suzie Bailey was profiled in 2009 for her volunteer efforts that included collecting cans and bottles to raise money for the Langley Christmas Bureau. (Langley Advance files)

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