Encouraging WordsPublished on November 16, 2022


  • Photo by: Ted Simpson

For Dr. Hana Alazem, a pediatric rehabilitation specialist at CHEO, writing her first children’s book was inspired by both the children she works with at CHEO and her own two children, Ava (6) and Alex (2).

“I find society is quick to label children’s abilities, and this may make participation and motivation to be involved in community activities, including sports and the arts, daunting,” Hana explains. “I often suggest wonderful activities to my patients and find out their biggest barrier is getting to the first step and showing up. This includes my own daughter who, when offered a new opportunity, often would tell me, I’m just not brave.”

Hana works with children and youth with limited physical function. That can range from functional mobility, use of their upper extremities, and even communication.

“I feel confident to say our children and youth can go for their dreams, and we are here to support their journey,” Hana shares. “Sadly, after a tragic accident or new diagnosis, it’s hard for my patients and sometimes their families to feel as confident in their abilities. That was my inspiration for my first children’s book, You are Brave.”

Being a mother has greatly impacted Hana’s book. She and her husband, Dr. Sam Hetz, have learned the importance of being there to guide their children while they learn at their own pace. “I was a rollercoaster-loving child — similar to my son Alex,” Hana explains, “however, my daughter has a wonderful ability to calculate risk. I have learnt rather than to pressure her to ‘just do it’, to have her process her feelings while I exercise patience.”

You are Brave was also heavily impacted by Hana’s late father. “The book is not only dedicated to my patients, colleagues, family, and supportive friends but also someone very close to my heart, my late father. My father, also known as Jidu (grandpa), and I wrote this book together in his hospice,” Hana shared. “It took me four years to get our story out to the world, and I know he is watching over us and just as excited as I am to see it come to life.”

When asked if Hana has any plans for more children’s books, she shared that she and her mentor, Dr. Anna McCormick, have some ideas in mind.

“[We] are thinking of writing a book on the robots we are studying for our patients that optimize participation and provide opportunities for our patients in pediatric rehabilitation to live their best life. We also may write about an important phase in a youth’s life which is transitioning into adulthood, and that dreaded question I ask my youth patients, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’.”

“You are Brave is about the courage we find within ourselves and the wonderful possibilities that open up when we have the confidence to try something new,” Hana exclaims.

You can find You are Brave in many shops around Ottawa, including Books on Beechwood, The Spaniel’s Tale, Tag Along Toys, Milan Kids Boutique, The Thrifted Mini, Hintonburg Kids, Black Squirrel Books, Octopus Books and Singing Pebble Books.

The CHEO foundation will return all profits from the book sales to CHEO patient care.

Olivia Taggart

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