Angelina Premia’s radiant smile lit up the room and the people around her. Despite being non-verbal, she was always able to express herself so clearly to the ones she loved.“ Angelina had the innate ability to draw people closer and brought so much light and joy into everything she was a part of,” says her sister, Hannah, “To know her was to love her and you could always feel her unconditional love. She was the sweetest little sister anyone could have ever asked for.”

Angelina Premia, a young girl with long black hair and a warm smile sits in a wheelchair in a grassy field. She's wearing a light blue and white checkered dress with short sleeves, and leg braces. The background is softly focused, showing lush greenery and tall trees in a tranquil park setting.
Angelina Premia, Canuck Place Teen, was a bright light of joy for her family

Angelina was born with Oral Facial Digital Syndrome – Type 1, a rare genetic condition, and when she was 18 years old, her family received the heartbreaking news of chronic kidney failure associated with her genetic condition. They turned to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice for support and to ease her suffering.

Parents Sam and Helen Premia were introduced to Canuck Place at a critical time. Angelina’s complex condition was becoming more challenging to navigate. The Canuck Place team, including Nurse Practitioners Camara van Breemen and Rachel Neufeld, and Canuck Place counsellors, emerged as pillars of strength, providing compassionate care at home for Angelia while she was nearing end-of-life.

Canuck Place also supported the family in making memories. Angelina’s family, including her sisters Hannah and Sharon, created special jewelry with Angelina’s fingerprint with support from the Canuck Place recreation therapists. Additionally, they also created a framed photo of Angelina’s handprint. These intricate momentos continue to provide solace to the family, serving as a source of comfort and strength in the face of their profound loss.

“Canuck Place recreation therapists came to capture the sweet little details of Angelina’s fingerprints—it was lovely being a part of the process of holding her hands during the imprint process,” says Hannah.

A multi-generational family is gathered in a sunlit field with trees in the background. They are dressed in coordinated outfits of white and light blue. On the left, a man holds a pink leash attached to a medium-sized brown and white dog. Beside him, a young couple holds hands, smiling towards the center where a young girl in a wheelchair is playfully interacting with a young woman in a blue dress. To the right, a woman holds a toddler, with a young girl standing in front, and an older man to the side. The mood is cheerful and familial.
The Premia family, cherish these memories of their beloved Angelina

In addition to memory making, Canuck Place offers grief counselling sessions through personalized one-on-one sessions that foster a deep sense of connection and trust between the counsellors and the families. Counsellors also extend a family’s support network by organizing virtual bereavement groups and specialized bereavement camps, providing a supportive community environment to share their experiences and find comfort.

The counselling services provided by Canuck Place were key in guiding Angelina’s family through the complexities of grief and loss.

“There is no rule book for grief and it hits us differently at different times,” explains Sharon. “I think we’ve all made use of the counselling services at different times and it just helps to have someone walk you through one of the most difficult times in your life.”

The need for counselling support at Canuck Place is growing. Last year alone, Canuck Place provided over 3,264 counselling sessions, a 32% increase over the previous year. This growth highlights the vital role that emotional and psychological care plays in end-of-life support for patients and their families.

Grief is how we love after loss and if we love deeply, we grieve deeply. To be companioned and witnessed, make room and connect, process and reflect, all are critical.

Deborah Davison

Canuck Place Counsellor

A diverse group of adults and children are gathered in an elegant living room with classical decor. The room is bathed in natural light, highlighting its off-white walls, a white fireplace with a decorative swan motif, and traditional furniture including a carved wooden cabinet and dining set. Several framed photographs adorn the walls, adding a personal touch to the space. The group is engaged in casual conversation facilitated by a Canuck Place counsellor. They are seated on sofas and a chair around a wooden coffee table
Canuck Place Counsellor, Kathryn Wonzy, supports the Premia family in their grief

Angelina passed away at 18 years old, at home, with her loving family by her side. In the wake of Angelina’s passing, her light continues to shine through the memories made at Canuck Place.

“Canuck Place is a place where you feel loved, supported, and cared for in your darkest days,” says Sharon. “It’s where humanity exists and you realize how much good there is in the world. Where people you don’t know or have never met, stand by your side and walk alongside you as you do one of the hardest things in life: saying goodbye to a loved one.”

Angelina’s story stands as a testament to the enduring impact of love and compassion, reminding us that every light is special, no matter how long it shines.

A family portrait is taken outdoors with a backdrop of a willow tree and a lush, leafy environment. To the left, a man joyfully carries a young boy on his shoulders. Centered in the photo is a smiling woman holding a candle in a glass jar, flanked by an older gentleman to her right who is holding a framed picture of a young girl. A woman to the right holds a baby, standing close to a man in a white shirt. In front of them, two young girls smile brightly. The family is dressed in a mixture of casual and dressy attire, creating a sense of a special occasion being celebrated informally. The overall mood is one of happiness and togetherness.
Embracing Angelina’s legacy, the Premia family fondly recalls heartfelt memories and moments filled with love.

Reflecting on their journey, the Premia family expressed their deep gratitude to the donors whose generosity is crucial for the existence of Canuck Place and the services provided.

“When you donate to Canuck Place, you’re choosing to give time, love, and a place to heal for families and their loved ones,” says Sharon.

You can help ensure more families like the Premias receive the vital support and care they need by donating to Canuck Place’s annual holiday fundraiser, Light a Life. From now until December 31, your gift will be triple-matched thanks to John & Claire Nicola, Helen Edwards, Douglas C Gordon Family, and other generous partners. Light the way. Give today.


A version of this story appeared in Vancouver Sun and The Abbotsford News on November 27.