Jess & Isabella

Despite her serious illness, Isabella Bertolino is still a shining light in her family’s life. Isabella was born missing 85 per cent of her intestinal tract, the result of a disease called Short Gut Syndrome. At three years old, she has had to endure 26 surgeries to help repair her intestines and she must live with a permanent central line in her major artery to assist with feeding. She receives her nutrients through an IV every day. “The challenge with all of these tubes is that Isabella is so easily susceptible to infection,” says Isabella’s mother, Jess. “She has had to suffer through 21 serious infections throughout her body. It’s so hard to see your child dealing with such serious problems.”

Isabella and her family live in Brewer, Maine and even though their primary physician was just a mile away at Eastern Maine Medical Center, there were no surgeons there who specialized in Isabella’s case. The family is required to travel over 130 miles to Portland, Maine for Isabella’s surgeries. “My husband Jim and I both work full time. Our home is in Brewer, and Jim does not have a job that allows him time off, so it’s been my primary responsibility,” comments Jess. “Isabella had to be in Portland several times a week. I had to commute back and forth and back all day. We would gather our son, James, on the weekends and all go there as a family.”

Mark Mayhan, lead social worker at Eastern Maine Medical Center, introduced Isabella’s family to Irving Oil’s Fuel the Care program. With travel back and forth to Portland several times a week, Jess was spending 120 dollars each trip. “When we first learned about the program, we were relieved. The program allowed us to keep our family working while we cared for Isabella and spend as much time together as possible.”

Isabella is doing better and the trips back and forth to Portland are less frequent. Jess adds, “I don’t know what we would do without the help. I am able to spend more time with my daughter. When I am driving, I don’t have to worry about the cost of each trip -- I can focus on Isabella.”