Sibling love: Children's Wish teen picks trip for whole family

Caitlin Hoskins had the chance to forget about everything — the intensive care unit, the tubes that kept her alive there — and take the trip of her dreams. Instead, she gave it to her brother.

Caitlin Hoskins, 18, sacrifices Nashville dream for younger brother

Caitlin Hoskins and Gregory Hoskins sit at their kitchen table in their home in Britannia, Random Island. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

By her own count, Caitlin Hoskins has spent three quarters of her life thinking about hospitals.

For as long as she can remember, she's gone to Montreal for treatment. There, she's sometimes admitted to the intensive care unit, where she's kept alive by tubes which feed her and breathe for her. She leaves her brother and father at home, and her mother anxious outside the hospital doors.

Each time, she's returned home knowing the voyage would not be her last.

'I felt very bad, very guilty, very selfish.' - Caitlin Hoskins

When Hoskins was granted a wish by the Children's Wish Foundation in 2015, she had the chance to forget about everything — to leave the hospital, the doctors the needles — and take the trip of her dreams. Instead, she gave it to her brother. 

"Growing up, going back and forth to Montreal for a continuous 16 years, it takes the attention off of Gregory," Hoskins said. "I felt very bad, very guilty, very selfish." 

The 18-year-old put her own dream trip to Nashville on hold, to send her family on a trip to Jamaica.

"All the attention was on me, and my brother didn't receive that," she continued. "To see my brother so happy in Jamaica, it was more than the wish."

'In so much pain'

Hoskins was born with a vascular malformation on her face — extra blood vessels that attached to the lips and mouth, a condition makes it hard to talk and eat.

Caitlin Hoskins was born with a vascular malformation — extra blood vessels that attached to her mouth. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Since she was two years old, the condition has sent her to Montreal for repeated treatments at Sainte-Justine Hospital. At first, she was in the hospital every six weeks.

Caitlin's next trip to Montreal will be her 40th, says her mother, Julie Hoskins.

"It's challenging, I don't live a normal life like most teenagers do," Caitlin said. "I have to be careful, and going up to Montreal it's time consuming, it's stressful, for me and my family: financially, physically, emotionally." 

Caitlin Hoskins and her mother, Julie Hoskins, talk about Caitlin's life and her diagnosis of vascular malformation 2:58

In hospital, Caitlin Hoskins gets sclerotherapy, injections that go either into her tongue, chin or lips.

I've seen her in so much pain, fighting for her life.- Julie Hoskins

 She sometimes can't talk to her mother who accompanies her, so she communicates using a whiteboard, and draws flowers when the treatment is done.

"I've seen her in so much pain, fighting for her life, and I just wish that I could change places. Just to let her live a normal life for a little while," said Julie Hoskins.

"Obviously, that's not God's intention."

'I'll get there'

In 2015, Caitlin Hoskins found out that she'd be granted a wish by the Children's Wish Foundation. It was an opportunity to go where she wanted.

At first, she said, she wanted to go to Nashville, the centre of country music and her favourite performers — Conway Twitty, George Jones, Johnny Cash.

Instead, she chose Jamaica, where she and her brother got to swim with dolphins and go ziplining in the summer of 2016.

Caitlin Hoskins and her family travelled to Jamaica in July 2016. (Submitted by Caitlin Hoskins)

It was a way to give back to her brother, Gergory, who was usually left home on Random Island when Caitlin and her mother were in Montreal.

"My parents were always catering to my needs and making sure I was okay, and making sure I was healthy, and I was fine," she said.

"My brother just had to go about his life, and it's hard, it was hard to watch. Some people don't see it, but I see it." 

Her mother sees it too.

"A lot of people did come to the house and say 'How's Caitlin?' There was no such thing as 'How's Gregory doing?'" said Julie Hoskins.

Caitlin Hoskins says she loves her brother dearly, even if they still fight like normal 18 and 17-year-old siblings. 

"I'll get to Nashville one day. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not five years time, but I'll get there," she said.

Giving back

Caitlin hasn't been hospitalized since 2015, but the family is resigned to believing that there will be a "next time," a next trip to Montreal and a next injection.

For now, Caitlin is completing upgrading at the College of the North Atlantic in Clarenville, and hopes to become a nurse.

"All the doctors and nurses that helped me growing up, for 16 years. I want to give back and help other people, just like they helped me," Caitlin said.

She was also chosen as this year's ambassador for the Children's Wish Foundation, and gave a speech at a gala in March.

Caitlin Hoskins said she wouldn't want to trade her life for someone else's.

"Because then I wouldn't have met all these amazing people," she said.

"My mother and I always say that 'God couldn't give me something I couldn't handle,'" she added.

Caitlin Hoskins carries her dog, Chloe, back into her home in Britannia, a town of about 100 people, on Random Island. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Julie Hoskins is determined to see her daughter through.

"There's someone bigger than us, too, looking after us. I mean, I'm not the religious person, but I grew up in a church family. And I know that there is someone bigger looking after us."

"And if we have to go another 40 [trips], I will." 

About the Author

Garrett Barry


Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.