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Online support network offers ray of hope to sick youth

Having a chronic health condition can be scary, especially for young patients. Just ask Maggie Manning. Diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia at a very young age, Maggie has endured 11 hip operations throughout her childhood and complex foot surgery as a teenager.

“For many years, I had to miss out on sports and wear a body cast. I was in and out of the hospital, often immobilized and unable to move around easily,” says Maggie. “It was boring and depressing at times.”

In 2010, during a stay at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, nearly 500 km from her home in Salmon Arm, BC, Maggie was introduced to Upopolis, a safe, secure social networking site for kids 10 to 18 years of age with chronic health conditions. On Upopolis, Maggie was able to connect with other young people across Canada who were going through similar experiences – pain, stress and loneliness.

A safe place to express themselves, share experiences and find support

On Upopolis, young people can express themselves through the creation of individual “spaces,” such as personal blogs and public forums to discuss diagnoses and medical experiences. They can also access age-appropriate content on Uknow, developed and approved by child life specialists to help kids and teens understand their diagnoses, treatments and procedures.

Selfie of Maggie, now 19 years

After years of turning to Upopolis to cope with her own health issues, Maggie, now 19 years old and in her first year of Biomedical Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia, is proud to be an “UMentor,” helping others get the most from the online support network.

Upopolis provides hope, help and companionship for sick youth, often leading to special bonds that will last a lifetime, like it did for Maggie and Katrina who first met through Upopolis and remain friends today. “Having a friend like Katrina has changed me in a million ways,” says Maggie. “She is just like a big sister to me.”

Watch video: Maggie and Katrina find hope through Upopolis

Expanding the reach of Upopolis for young outpatients across Canada 

Upopolis is a Kids’ Health Links Foundation (KHLF) initiative. A proud founding sponsor, TELUS has contributed more than $1 million to KHLF and Upopolis, and operates Upopolis’ technology platform used in 30 children’s hospitals, treatment centres and camps across Canada.

“TELUS is proud to leverage our innovative technology to create a brighter world for young Canadians so they can live heathier, happier lives,” says Josh Blair, Group President and Chief Corporate Officer at TELUS. “We’re now rolling up our sleeves to help KHLF expand the reach of Upopolis nationally, co-develop a mobile app and enable thousands of young outpatients to access Upopolis anytime, anywhere.”

Do you know a child or teen with a serious medical condition? Visit to learn how to refer a youth.

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