He wasn’t developing properly because the supply of blood from my body to his was stopping and reversing at times. You can imagine how terrified I was, not knowing if my baby would survive after an emergency C-section so early in my pregnancy.
That day I’d expected to be out of the hospital in three hours. Instead it became three months of an emotional rollercoaster ride. But my baby beat the odds. I can’t even express how grateful I am for the amazing doctors at BC Women’s who saved my child’s life. And I’m grateful for you too.
You see, when Francis was born three months early at just one-and-a-half pounds, he had a whole new set of medical crises to face. He was so small and so fragile. He spent six days in an incubator before I could even hold him close to me.
Being born so early, his lungs were so severely underdeveloped there was no way he could breathe on his own. He needed a ventilator to keep him alive.
For the next 94 days in the hospital, he waged a tiny war to survive. But all that time I had one hope going for me. You.
I can honestly say that if it weren’t for donors like you, little Francis wouldn’t be here now, smiling and playing with stuffed animals that were once bigger than him.
Because it takes an incredible amount of specialized equipment to save a premature newborn’s life.
That’s why, in addition to thanking you from the bottom of my heart, I want to ask you to let your inspiring power of giving go to work this holiday season with a lifesaving gift for the Newborn ICU (NICU) at BC Women’s.
I can tell you firsthand that your donation will save a baby’s life. Your donation will give a family like mine the most meaningful gift they could ever receive.
At the NICU they have many different types of neonatal breathing apparatus, because not every machine is right for every baby’s needs. It’s so specialized.
Francis relied on three different types of breathing equipment. Thankfully the team at BC Women’s had these tools at their fingertips because of friends like you. It really and truly saved Francis’ life.
But Francis had even more challenges to face aside from his breathing difficulties. He developed a serious blood infection and sepsis.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the NICU each day. Would he be thriving? Or would he be overwhelmed by a battle he just couldn’t win?
But, like I said, I knew that BC Women’s was the best place for him because supporters make it possible for this hospital to do their best work with the best equipment.
This Christmas is going to be a very special one. In a lot of ways it’s really our first Christmas with Francis and we want to create some new traditions with our little boy. I am making him his own stocking, and we will decorate the tree with the little ornament that has his name and birth date. But we won’t forget the NICU. Or you.
Please help other babies leave the hospital strong and healthy like Francis did. Your gift toward equipment for the Newborn ICU is a gift of life.
With warmest gratitude,
P.S. My tiny one-and-a-half-pound baby was covered from head to toe in medical equipment that let doctors and nurses keep him alive so he could thrive and grow. I count my blessings every day. I hope the hospital can count on you to give this same chance to other families facing equally terrifying situations with their very sick babies. Thank you for caring so very much!
Pregnancy is an exciting and enjoyable part of life for many women. Even morning sickness, an unpleasant but common side effect of pregnancy, is often taken in stride, seen as a right of passage and a reassurance that the pregnancy is progressing. However, for those who experience Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness, wherein the vomiting and nausea become dangerous to mother and the developing child, pregnancy can be a nightmare; physically debilitating with long-term negative financial and emotional impacts.
The Duchess of Cambridge brought this condition to the spotlight when she was hospitalized with all three of her pregnancies. Here in Vancouver, BC Women’s Hospital has been caring for women suffering for quite some time. One such patient, Megan, was sent to BC Women’s for care in her ninth week of pregnancy.
Less than a week after receiving a positive pregnancy test, she could barely eat because of worsening, intense nausea. At six weeks pregnant, Megan was vomiting multiple times a day and could not keep food down. She was unable to make it to work or even get beyond the bathroom.
The nausea lasted beyond the typical time-frame of ‘morning’ sickness—she felt sick all day, every day. If she swallowed a few bites of cracker and some Gatorade without immediately vomiting, that was a good day.
Because Megan was missing work, she had to let her colleagues know she was pregnant earlier than she had hoped. They would often ask why she didn’t just come to work like other expecting colleagues whose morning sickness had never kept them away. “I don’t know if they truly believed I was being dramatic … but it felt that way. I was embarrassed.”
She called her midwife and was given Diclectin, a drug commonly prescribed to those dealing with morning sickness. “I was taking the maximum dose, I think I was taking 8 pills a day and it didn’t change anything.” She was frustrated, but the stigma attached to Hyperemesis kept her from reaching out again. Megan was offered numerous home remedies from her midwives, such as ginger capsules or acupuncture… but nothing worked.
For 3 weeks she was throwing up, up to 7 times a day, not eating anything, and had lost a considerable amount of weight. She was worried about her baby’s well-being but didn’t have the energy or mental will to call her health care team, only to be referred to home remedies again. It wasn’t until she went to her family doctor for an unrelated issue, that she finally got admitted to BC Women’s. A consulted obstetrician said she was so shrivelled and dehydrated that she looked like a raisin.
Senior Medical Director of Acute Perinatal Programs at BC Women’s Dr. Ellen Giesbrecht notes that this condition is difficult to diagnose since vomiting and nausea are so normalized in pregnancy. Women may not realize it is something more severe like Hyperemesis, and seek further treatment.
BC Women’s admitted Megan to hospital after seeing her weakened and dehydrated condition. She was put on a strong IV anti-nauseant medication and started on a detailed menu plan while in hospital. Once discharged, Megan started an oral anti-nauseant called Ondansetron, a medication often prescribed to patients suffering nausea due to chemotherapy.
On this medication, she was able to return to work and put back on the weight that she had lost… but it was not without side effects. Unfortunately (as with many suffering from Hyperemesis) her illness was not limited to the first trimester. Even up until 38 weeks gestation - 2 days before she gave birth, Megan had her safety net beside her, a bucket she carried whenever she felt nauseous… just in case. She had tried to wean off of the medication several times during the pregnancy, but the nausea and vomiting would come back every time.
A healthy baby girl, Alyvia, was born at BC Women’s Hospital on June 13th of 2017. Megan was happy to share that the delivery went really well… especially compared to her pregnancy. “If I could do delivery again, without the pregnancy, I definitely would!”
Megan is especially grateful to the doctors and nurses for their support and reassurance. Hyperemesis Gravidarum can be a very isolating condition, and many health-care professionals are dismissive. After giving birth, about the pregnancy itself, Megan still thought, “That was the most challenging 9 months of my life!”
Megan hopes that sharing her story will help more women reach out and speak honestly to their doctors about how they are feeling during pregnancy. “It can feel like defeat,” she says, “like already you are failing at motherhood” but Megan hopes that we can break down the stigma and reach a better understanding of the condition, and how to care for those suffering.
With further research and tested medication, health care professionals will be able to diagnose Hyperemesis Gravidarum earlier, offer appropriate medication, and ultimately allow other women like Megan the care they need to experience pregnancy as an enjoyable stage of life.
Your acts of generosity help fund research and programs for women like Megan. Please consider donating today.
When Melanie Every was 22 weeks pregnant, she and husband, Neil, discovered they were expecting identical twins that share a placenta and blood supply, known as monochorionic diamniotic. “During our routine ultrasound at BC Women’s we learned something wasn’t right—Teagan had hardly any amniotic fluid in her sac and her bladder was barely visible. Willow, on the other hand, had so much fluid and her bladder was large,” says Neil.
The couple was referred to BC Women’s Hospital’s Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) Clinic. The team specializes in the clinical care of women like Melanie, who are experiencing a complicated or high-risk pregnancy.
Dr. Tracy Pressey, one of the hospital’s MFM specialists, was consulted to go over her ultrasound results. “We sat and had a two-hour consult to review the results and decide on the best course of action,” says Pressey. “Because the girls had twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, they decided for laser ablation surgery, which would give their twins their best chance at survival.”
Wasting no time, the medical team urgently arranged for the procedure. When the family was able to return home, their care didn’t stop there. Melanie’s water broke early, so additional ultrasounds and assessments were performed by the MFM physicians, nurses and ultrasound technologists. To keep Melanie at home as long as possible, the hospital’s Antepartum Home Care program came to them. “We are one of only a few centres in the country to offer this unique program,” says Pressey.
Neil goes on to say: “Given the ruptured sac and the high risk of infection, or Melanie’s going into labour, it was crucial that she and the babies were monitored daily. Melanie was on bed rest for five months, so having the team come to our home (and lug all their equipment upstairs too!) was amazing.”
Throughout all the challenges, say the Everys, the hospital was there. “We are so grateful to Women’s,” he adds. “They saved the lives of our babies and did it with professionalism and, most importantly, empathy. This is especially true of the whole BC Women’s team and the amazing home care nurses who came to our home following the surgery and all the way up to the twins’ arrival.”
Article by: Michelle Hopkins
Photography by: Brian Howell
On Friday, November 17, BC Women’s Hospital Foundation is raising awareness and funds for World Prematurity Day.
Preterm birth rates - babies born before 37 weeks - are on the increase in Canada and around the world. In this country, more than eight per cent of all births are now preterm.
BC Women’s averages 7,000+ births annually, 12% of which required specialized care that can only be found at this NICU.
Michelle Peltier remembers her experience in BC Women’s NICU with her daughter Olive, who was born at 29 weeks.
“It all happened very quickly. I was in complete denial. But I remember the OB actually climbing on top of me with the ultrasound wand since we couldn’t find the heartbeat. It had been two and a half minutes… so they immediately rolled me into the OR…”
14 hours later, Michelle got to hold Olive for the first time and she described how her pain just washed away. Every day for 2 months, Michelle would bus to the NICU for 7:30 am (right when the nurse’s shifts switched) and stay until 10:30 at night.
She was fascinated when she eventually read her birth notes, “My memory versus what really happened… versus her dad’s memory! It was all very mixed up.”
Within three months of her discharge, Michelle, admittedly a busy-body, was already seeking out baby groups. But she found it hard to relate to the other families, “Breastfeeding, separation anxiety, it was all so different… it was hard for me to talk about my experience.”
She recalls one mother sharing that her partner wanted to take her on a date. This mom had felt panicked about leaving her 9-month-old for several hours for the first time. “And there I was… I had left my 5-day old baby with complete strangers. I just wanted to yell, ‘do you know how lucky you are to be with your kid twenty-four-seven for nine months straight!’ But I knew that was just my own grief.”
So Michelle reached out to a few other families she had met in the NICU, just to sit together and talk. Today, Michelle’s meet-up has now grown to over 160 members, who connect in-person and online, in a Facebook group called “Vancouver Parents of Preemies.”
Olive always attends and is proud to be one of the oldest kids, “My favourite part is meeting other families… and the toys!” They feature occupational therapists, librarians who speak about literacy, and nutritionists who help address concerns with corrective age. But Michelle admits, “Even with these speakers… most of the time, the parents just want to talk with each other.”
“When you’re in the NICU, your discharge date feels so far away. You become so connected with your partner as your main support… and suddenly you’re alone and sent back into life.”
There are inevitable questions that doctors and nurses wouldn’t have the answer to, not necessarily having the emotional experience of premature birth as a parent, “Things as simple as: what do you tell people… her corrected age, or that she was a preemie? It’s hard for other people to understand why your baby looks like a newborn when they’re 4 months old.”
Michelle feels incredibly grateful for the care she received at BC Women’s NICU, “When you’re in the Hospital with a preemie it’s all survival: the survival of your child, surviving financially, mentally, physically, your relationship with your friends, your partner, and your family.” Knowing Olive had the best care possible meant the world to Michelle and her family.
The need at BC Women’s Neonatal ICU is never-ending.This World Prematurity Day, please make a donation towards the specialized equipment needed to help babies like Olive survive.
On Valentine’s Day, 2016, high school sweethearts Victoria and Jeff Thibault were thrilled to learn they were expecting their first child. “We were together for 10 years before we got pregnant, so we waited a long time for our baby,” says Victoria.
Her pregnancy was going along beautifully when on July 20—at 26 weeks—Victoria went into active labour. At the time the couple was living in Mackenzie, a remote town two hours’ drive north of Prince George.
Doctors made the decision to fly the couple to BC Women’s Hospital because Mackenzie and District Hospital was not equipped to care for such a high risk delivery, nor did the hospital have a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) ward or birthing unit.
“I was medevacked to Women’s and 48 hours later McKinley made her Victoria and Jeff Thibault inside a medical helicopter with daughter McKinley. entrance weighing two pounds, six ounces,” says Victoria.
Within a week complications arose: a collapsed lung and gastro-intestinal problems, both of which required a ventilator. McKinley spent the next 70 days in Women’s NICU, while Victoria stayed at Ronald McDonald House, along with Jeff during breaks in his job with CN Rail.
“McKinley was kept in an incubator until she was 34 weeks old,” adds Victoria. “Although McKinley did have a ‘typical’ NICU stay, she did have rough times as well.”
In the Women’s NICU, families are involved in every step of their baby’s progress. McKinley was cared for by a dedicated team of registered nurses, including Stephanie Jansen. “I was with McKinley for a month before they were transferred to Prince George Regional Hospital,” says Jansen. “Because she had feeding intolerances, we increased the number of feeding times to give her less volume at any given time. We also made sure Victoria and Jeff’s voices were heard when they had any concerns.”
In late October, McKinley was finally able to go home. This June, the young family moved back to their hometown of Kingston, Ont., to be closer to their families. But their life-saving sojourn in Vancouver won’t be easily forgotten. “McKinley is our little miracle and we are so grateful for what BC Women’s has done for her,” she says. “Without them, we might not have her with us today.”
Today, McKinley is a happy, smiling baby. “She is trying to stand and is just about walking,” Victoria adds. “We couldn’t have asked for better care. Everyone on McKinley’s team loved her like we do. They were all like family.”
Article by: Michelle Hopkins
Photography by: Viara Mileva
Born with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, a condition marked by the inability to use the legs, arms and body, Kurstyn Froud has handled all sorts of health challenges. The complications of spinal surgery in 2013 proved especially difficult to deal with. The Cloverdale resident, now 20, spent two years at BC Children’s Hospital. For much of that time, she had to be fed through a tube.
Although things improved for Froud, her medical needs remain complex. As a person with disabilities, she has found one area often neglected by health professionals is her sexual health. That changed when she discovered BC Women’s Hospital’s Access Clinic.
Led jointly by a gynecologist, Dr. Nicole Todd, and a nurse practitioner, Natasha Prodan-Bhalla, the Access Clinic offers reproductive, gynecological and sexual healthcare to women aged 16 and older with physical or intellectual disabilities as well as transgender individuals. Complex contraception counselling, sexual health discussion, menstrual suppression, cervical cancer and STI screening are among the services it provides.
Froud initially went to the Access Clinic for help dealing with heavy periods. She found herself in a place that gave her the kind of comprehensive and compassionate care she needed. “I do most of my independent self-care, and I didn’t want to have to deal with heavy cycles,” says Froud, who had an IUD inserted. She also felt comfortable asking about sex and pregnancy there.
“For the first time, I had my questions answered,” she says. “People with disabilities have the same desires as any other individual. But I would never bring that up with other doctors because when I tried, they wouldn’t sit down and explain things to me about what would happen if I got pregnant.”
Prodan-Bhalla says it’s common for women with disabilities to have difficulty accessing reproductive health information. Many face barriers to screening as well; they often require a mechanical lift to get onto an exam bed for a Pap smear, for example. “For many women, their pelvic area hasn’t been examined for years,” Prodan-Bhalla says. “We uncover skin issues, vaginal discharge and chronic disorders that haven’t been detected…. When we talk about sexual health, a lot of women start to cry. They say, ‘You’re the first person who’s ever asked me about that.’”
Approximately 20 per cent of the women who come to the clinic have multiple sclerosis, and about 20 per cent have had a spinal cord injury. Other reasons women are seen include traumatic brain injury, morbid obesity, a previous sexual assault or difficulty with vaginal exams. Patients can make an appointment without a doctor’s referral.
For Froud, visiting the clinic was life-changing; she now knows that, although it would come with risks, pregnancy is possible. “Everyone at the clinic is extremely communicative and supportive,” she says.
Article by: Gail Johnson
Photography by: Claudette Carracedo
On June 3, 2012 Baby Leo was born via emergency labour at 25 weeks, weighing 1.5lbs (725g) at BC Women’s Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
After five years, Jacqui Pau is opening up about her 210 day stay in the NICU with her premature baby Leo, and loving husband Vince; as well as her experience with Post-Partum Depression that followed.
“We almost lost him more than once” she says. At only four weeks old and weighing only two pounds, the doctors at BC Women’s performed Leo’s first heart surgery, successfully restoring blood flow to two of Leo's main arteries. But there was still much more work to do before Leo could see his home for the first time.
“Leo is our world and everything we do, we do for him. Thank you for saving his life, and in essence saving mom's life too.” - Jacqui Pau
Photo provided by the Pau family.
After eight surgeries, multiple blood transfusions, numerous blood pokes and a severe infection, there was no doubt that Jacqui and Vince had spent almost seven months in fear for their baby’s life. It was during these visits that a NICU doctor first noticed Jacqui’s signs of PPD and PTSD and recommended her to see a Reproductive Mental Health Psychiatrist.
Jacqui described how the level of guilt for not being able to breast feed or get out of bed, combined with what she felt was the "ultimate failure [of] premature labour," was incredibly hard to bear.
“I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to get out of bed. It was hard for me to understand what I was going through.” - Jacqui Pau
Once Jacqui received a diagnosis of PPD she was able to receive treatment and begin the journey towards recovery, one that she says still continues today. In the end she knew that she couldn’t have survived her experience without the support of her husband Vince, “he was my strength when I couldn’t give my all, and I hope that I was able to support him during those dark days as well.”
Photo provided by the Pau family.
Thanks to those early days in the care of the NICU staff, baby Leo celebrated his fifth birthday in June. “He loves the alphabet and numbers, and has started spelling; reading and can now count to 100! Whether Leo is in another room, another city, or another country, I hope he can feel the unconditional love I have for him wherever he may be.”
"I cannot express enough how blessed I feel to have had the best care for our son” - Jacqui Pau
Photo provided by the Pau family.
It wasn’t easy for the Pau family to get to where they are today. Whether it was what Jacqui described as the “neonatal brilliance and expertise,” or the time taken to coach Jacqui and Vince through “skin-to-skin kangaroo cuddles,” Jacqui makes every effort to remind other NICU mothers and families that they are not alone.
“It is a difficult rollercoaster ride, full of up’s and down’s. But in the end, you will be okay. The love for your child will make you stronger. So do not hesitate to ask for help because your family and friends want to be there for you.”
“I believe we are better people, and better parents as a result of this experience” - Jacqui Pau
And it doesn’t stop there! The Pau family have raised $3,290 through our Baby Tile and Birthday Club online fundraising options offered on our website. We want Jacqui and her friends and family to know how truly thankful we are for their contributions… and to wish Leo a very happy birthday!
Watch a slideshow of photos from the Pau family's time in the NICU here:
Slideshow provided by the Pau family.
Please consider making a donation to help babies like Leo receive the specialized care they need to survive.
What began as a routine birth quickly turned into an emergency when Danica presented foot first exactly when Shannon's labour kicked into high gear.
Suddenly, my wife and baby were in trouble. I knew the situation was serious, but I also knew we were in the best hands. Thanks to the rapid, professional response to this emergency, Shannon and Danica pulled through – we all pulled through.
Today, we have two healthy daughters, Danica and Teagan, and their baby brother Connor. We live every day with gratitude for our family – and so do our girls. In fact, every year on their birthdays, instead of asking for gifts for themselves, Danica and Teagan ask family and friends to donate to BC Women’s NICU to “help the tiny babies.” We’re so proud to say that the girls have raised more than $19,000 – money we know will go a long way toward ensuring other moms and babies receive the highest level of life-saving care – like we did.
Article by: Ann Collette
Photography by: Claudette Carracedo
You can make a difference. Invest in the health of every woman you love. Please make a donation.
Four years ago, Shannon Lim’s normal pregnancy unexpectedly became high-risk when her midwife noticed a sudden jump in her blood pressure. The change pointed to preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition for Shannon and her unborn son. She was immediately referred to the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists at BC Women’s Hospital.
“My blood work showed that my liver enzymes were so skewed that I needed to be immediately admitted,” says Shannon. “All of a sudden, things were very serious.”
Dr. Wee-Shian Chan, head of BC Women’s Department of Medicine and lead of the Obstetrical Medicine Group, was part of Shannon’s care team: “Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy where the placenta may be malfunctioning, producing a range of symptoms that can threaten the lives of the mother and the baby.
“Although I reassured Shannon, I also told her that the only cure for preeclampsia was to deliver the baby, which would likely mean her baby would be premature. We decided to treat her with bedrest and medication to give the baby as much time as possible to develop.”
But Shannon didn’t wait long. Four days later, she went into labour, delivering her son Westley by C-section. Born a day shy of 29 weeks and weighing just 895 grams, Westley was immediately taken to the Newborn ICU (NICU) at BC Women’s.
Although Westley was premature, he was remarkably healthy. He went on to spend the next two months growing and maturing under the expert care of the NICU team with his mom by his side.
“The NICU staff were so amazing,” says Shannon. “I was included on morning rounds every day and was totally involved in Westley’s care, which took away a lot of the stress and gave some normalcy to our lives.”
Today, Westley is a thriving three-and-a-half-year-old toddler who has achieved all the normal milestones for a child his age. It’s a joy Shannon and her husband Ryan attribute to the expert care they received at BC Women’s.
“To this day, we’re still in touch with some of the wonderful people who cared for us,” says Shannon, her voice choked with emotion. “I really cannot be more grateful.”
Article by: Ann Collette
Photography by: Erin Wallis
Endometriosis, a disease in which tissue from the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, affects one in 10 women — and the results can be devastating. Symptoms include pelvic pain and infertility, and recent research suggests a slightly increased risk of future ovarian cancer. Doctors from the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis are making major strides in understanding and treating this condition.
Researchers are performing groundbreaking work on genetic changes in endometriosis cells. The goal is to create a new genetic classification for endometriosis, which could better predict outcomes in women with different genetic types of endometriosis. A study at the Centre showed the importance of nerve growth around endometriosis cells, which may present an opportunity for new medications to treat endometriosis pain.
“It took awhile to get to this point,” says Dr. Paul Yong, director of the research program at the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis. While the Centre’s primary purpose is to serve as an interdisciplinary clinic, nearly 90 per cent of patients are involved in various ongoing studies showing strong support for research in its population. Since being founded in 2011 the Centre has developed a data registry of over 2,000 patients, received multiple national research grants and published many papers in major scientific journals.
Just 10 years out of finishing an MD/PhD, Dr. Yong has quickly become a leading voice in his field. On top of his broad research portfolio, he also sees hundreds of patients a year, performs advanced surgeries and teaches medical trainees. He is described by his peers as dedicated, collaborative and always looking for new ways to improve patient care.
One of the Centre’s main research goals is to directly inform clinical practice: A recent study at the Centre, which demonstrated the importance of psychological and musculoskeletal factors in pelvic pain, was published in one of the top journals in the field. Pain education, mindfulness-based therapy and physical therapy is now offered to Centre patients, and they’re reaping great results.
Though their work is already making great progress, Dr. Yong says this is only the beginning. He and his team will continue to build on their knowledge in coming years, all while continuing to offer patients the latest in interdisciplinary treatment.
“There’s a lot of suffering associated with endometriosis,” says Dr. Yong. “A big part of our research is translating it to the clinic so it can help patients.”
Dr. Paul Yong photographed by Brian Howell
Article by: Laura Rodgers
Please make a donation to the BC Women's Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis
Brittany Robinson lived with debilitating, chronic pain for over a decade. She saw doctor after doctor, but to her frustration none were able to accurately diagnose and treat her. That is, until she found the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis five years ago.
“The first thing that struck me was how wonderful the clinic team is. I wasn’t treated like just another patient through the door,” says Brittany. “Coming to BC Women’s was such a breath of fresh air.”
Endometriosis, a disease where uterine lining tissue grows outside the uterus, affects an estimated one in 10 women and can cause intense pain, abnormal menstrual bleeding and infertility. Most women suffer for years before they learn they can get help.
Through ultrasounds and pain mapping during physical examination, doctors at BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis can often find the cause of pain without the need for surgery.
Most of the world uses surgery for endometriosis diagnosis but Dr. Christina Williams, the BC Women’s gynecologist who founded the Centre, says 80 per cent of cases of suspected endometriosis can be treated with hormone therapy without needing surgery.
The clinic also offers advanced, minimally invasive surgery, physiotherapy, mindfulness training, counselling and skills workshops that teach pain self-management techniques.Compared to her experiences with other doctors, Brittany felt a sense of immediate understanding from the team at BC Women’s.
Rather than brushing off her concerns, the Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis clinic helped her become an active participant in her care.
“I felt validated in my concerns and really listened to,” she says. The doctors at BC Women’s didn’t just treat her endometriosis, they also helped improve her mental well-being and the other physical issues that accompany the pain.
Brittany also attended classes at the clinic, which taught her useful skills and introduced her to other women going through the same challenges. “I left feeling better equipped to deal with my endometriosis, as I was able to take away invaluable strategies to deal with pain,” she says.
For Brittany, discovering the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis changed her life. “It’s not just being treated as a patient, but as a person,” she says. “It’s one of the biggest blessings that someone could ask for.”
Brittany Robinson photographed by Sherri Koop
Article by Laura Rodgers
Please make a donation to the BC Women's Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis
When Shelby and Greg Goodvin found out they were expecting twins they were thrilled. Joy soon turned to fear with the discovery that the identical twins shared one amniotic sac and one placenta.
The extremely rare type of twin pregnancy, monochorionic/monoamniotic — more commonly called mono mono twins— would lead to a difficult and very high-risk pregnancy.
The expectant couple and their toddler Holden, moved from their home in Horsefly B.C. to Vancouver when Shelby was 26 weeks pregnant for twice-daily monitoring, including non-stress tests and ultrasounds.
Although mono mono fetuses share one amniotic sac and one placenta, they do have separate umbilical cords and frequently the cords and babies get entangled with each other.
“Entanglement and compression of the cords is what we’re really concerned about. We’re on pins and needles every day because the oxygen supply to the baby can be reduced or cut off entirely, which can cause neurological damage, or worse,” says Dr. Ken Lim, head of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.
When to deliver? It’s a delicate balance between the risks and benefits. “The longer you leave them in, the higher the risks of something bad happening; but on the other hand you don’t want to take them out too soon as you then incur the risks of prematurity which includes death and disability,” says Dr. Lim. “Our team decided a C-section was in order at 31 weeks because the monitoring showed indications of cord compression and that twin b would be at risk; it just became too dangerous to continue with the pregnancy.”
Within two hours Shelby was wheeled into the delivery room where BC Women’s Maternal Fetal Medicine, Anaesthesiology, Labour and Delivery, and NICU teams were waiting.
On May 31, 2016, just days away from their 32-week goal, Shelby gave birth to Camden and Courtlen, both just three pounds, 11 ounces.
Dr. Lim credits BC Women’s world-class family-centered care for the Goodvin’s happy ending. “We have a fabulous team that can handle these extremely complex cases.”
“They are perfect,” say the proud parents. “We feel so blessed. Their births couldn’t have gone any better and we can’t thank the team at BC Women’s enough for what they did for our family.”
Shelby and Greg Goodvin with their son Holden and healthy twins Camden and Courtlen are pictured above. Camden and Courtlen shortly after they returned home pictured below.
Photography by: Laureen Carruthers.
Article by: Michelle Hopkins
Please make a donation to help babies like Camden and Courtlen receive the specialized care they need to survive.
As a nurse, I am used to staying calm in stressful situations, but nothing could have prepared me for what was coming.
We live in North Vancouver, so we headed to Lions Gate Hospital. Despite the medicine they gave me to ease the cramping, the pains continued. The doctors discovered that I was slightly dilated and sent me over to BC Women’s Hospital immediately.
This decision saved our baby’s life.
I spent four long days in the Evergreen antepartum unit at BC Women’s, knowing that every day was a bonus for our baby’s development. The pains continued and the doctors said I could go into all out labour at any time.
I vividly remember how I felt when a nurse came to talk with me in detail about what we could expect if our baby was born at 29 weeks. She even gave me a tour of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), so I could see firsthand the level of care provided. I felt so reassured.
This reassurance came at the perfect time, because suddenly our baby was coming and I was rushed to Labour and Delivery.
I was able to deliver him naturally after two good pushes…well, I guess you could say after four days of pains, and two good pushes!
Finnegan was perfect. He was tiny and needed to be in the NICU, but for his first ten days he was completely healthy. Then, one morning, I returned to the NICU to find Finnegan struggling for his life - his skin had turned from a soft, rosy pink to a sickening shade of yellow overnight.
I was devastated. Finnegan had overcome seemingly insurmountable odds already, could he survive this too?
The doctors worked quickly and discovered a spontaneous perforation in Finnegan’s intestine that made him septic. We were terrified, but the team sprung into action with a surgical intervention done right at Finnegan’s bedside in the NICU.
Finnegan’s skin slowly turned to pink again. After two more months of valuable time in the NICU, he was ready to come home with us.
I can’t say enough about the amazing care we received at BC Women’s Hospital. I’m tremendously grateful for the team of people who never stopped believing in Finnegan. You are a vital part of that team, and I can’t thank you enough for being there for our family when we needed you the most.
Finnegan did not have an easy start. And, just like him, 1,200 more babies born this year will desperately need the BC Women’s NICU to survive their first hours and days.
Your donation to BC Women’s Hospital means compassionate support and vital medical care for families as they get their start.
Please, give generously this Mother’s Day.
You have given me the chance to be a Mom to Finnegan - join me in giving this same precious gift to others.
Grateful mom to Finnegan
What if I wasn’t there for them? It felt like a clock was now ticking. I had an impossible decision to make – radiation therapy or surgical removal of my cervix and uterus?The choice was excruciating.
Too many women face this unbearable threat to their lives. Needlessly.
Each year in Canada, 1,300 women learn they have cervical cancer. It hits them in the prime of their life, from the ages of 30 to 50. Sadly, each year 390 of them will die.
Their children will be motherless. Their families will be affected forever. You can help today with your donation.
On my journey with cervical cancer I learned that it is one of the world’s most deadly forms of cancer.
Ironically, it’s also one of the most preventable.
That’s why researchers at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre have been working so hard to change the cervical cancer story. They know their local action is paving the way for the global eradication of cervical cancer.
Thankfully, there are people like you supporting their progress! I’m so incredibly grateful for your support.
Today, while you're reading this, I urge you to make a generous holiday donation. Your gift will help so that fewer women like me have to battle cervical cancer. And it will help ensure our daughters never go through what I did.
You see, researchers at BC Women’s are leading the way in the science of preventing cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer has been proven to be linked to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Thanks to research, it’s possible to vaccinate to prevent HPV infection.
These brilliant researchers are determined to put an end to cervical cancer in our lifetime! They have a three-part plan:
1. They are influencing international protocols for vaccination
2. They are creating screening tests for earlier detection
3. And they are advancing treatment for a disease that takes lives needlessly.
I’m happy to tell you that I’m thriving today, two years after my diagnosis. I chose surgery to remove my cancer. Today I’m alive and here for my family.
As for the future: with your help, my daughters and other women won’t experience cervical cancer, thanks to the vaccine.
With that in mind, you’ll be happy to know that BC Women’s researchers are working to make vaccination and screening even easier. They are dedicated to battling a disease that claims the lives of women across the globe by starting right here.
Your gift to the women of BC will soon be British Columbia’s gift to the rest of the world. You can change things for the girl next door, as well as girls and women who are the most impoverished or marginalized – indigenous women, immigrants and low-income women will all benefit from your support of this historical work.
BC Women’s researchers are creating and sharing new knowledge, but they can’t do it alone. It will take the help of visionary donors, like you, to initiate the global change that will soon turn cervical cancer into a distant memory.
You can help eradicate cervical cancer forever – at home and abroad. That’s a powerful gift to give this holiday season. Please make your donation without delay.
With warmest wishes for you and yours,
Mother of Two Daughters, and Cervical Cancer Survivor
P.S. You can be a part of medical history this holiday season by making your donation to BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre Foundation. Let’s stop cervical cancer in its tracks!
For Dario and Miriam, staying positive was difficult during these heartbreaking experiences – but they found much more support than they imagined possible at BC Women’s specialized Clinics for both Early Pregnancy Assessment and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss. Dario stated that “although it was difficult to find things to be thankful for, one thing I'll be forever grateful for is the women and men of the BC Women's Hospital. Without their knowledge, caring and support I don't know if we would be where we are today.”
Sometimes the darkest experiences can inspire and motivate a grateful heart. One year after their first miscarriage, the young couple asked themselves what they could do to give back to BC Women’s for the incredible care they received. And the Haunted Circus in support of BC Women’s Hospital was born. By collaborating with the creative hub at the Beaumont Studios this brave couple is giving Vancouver a great Halloween event, raising awareness about early pregnancy loss, and also giving back to the hospital that supported them through their darkest hours.
Miriam and Dario say that “what we personally are hoping to achieve with this, besides hopefully raising a lot of money for the hospital, is that pregnancy loss becomes a topic women and their partners are not afraid to talk about; because the unfortunate truth is that 1 in every 3 pregnancies results in a miscarriage…. If we open up this conversation in our circle of friends and families, each one of us most likely knows someone who went through this.”
Thanks to the vision and passion of people like Dario and Miriam, the silence around early pregnancy loss is being broken and the community of support is growing. BC Women’s Foundation sends our deepest gratitude to this brave couple for their sharing their journey with us!
The Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic provides medical care to women who are experiencing complications in early pregnancy. The Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Clinic helps women and their partners who have experienced recurrent pregnancy loss. These specialized clinics provide a full spectrum of medical care, as well as education and counselling services.
Find out more about Dario and Miriam's fundraiser Haunted Circus
When Jason and Aiden met in 2005, they knew they wanted to build a life together. They also knew they wanted a family, and in 2012 they decided to consider an option other than adoption—surrogacy. Aiden’s sister offered to donate eggs, but the couple needed to find a woman to carry and give birth to the child who would complete their happiness.
Tara Kemes, a friend of Aiden’s sister, came into their lives after months of searching. Tara had always wanted to be a surrogate (for personal and altruistic reasons) and though she didn’t want to be a mom herself, she wanted to provide Jason and Aiden with the joy of having their own child—one who, through gestational surrogacy, would be biologically related to each parent.
“Finding Tara was fate—a perfect partnership,” says Jason. “You have to trust this person to care for and carry your child, and we trusted her right away.”
The unique family dynamics—Tara and her girlfriend Kylie attended pre-natal classes along with the expectant fathers—influenced a small, but powerful shift in language from “intended mother” to “intended parents”.
During Oliver’s birth, the dads-to-be were encouraged by their doula to be as connected as possible with Tara. “We really wanted to be involved in the process,” recalls Aiden, emphasizing that although they couldn’t give birth to their son, they offered support in every other way: “staying right beside Tara, holding her hand”. The couple caught Oliver together at the moment of his birth, and experienced a magical connection with their son.
“As soon as Oliver was born, the nurse’s attention really shifted to both of us,” says Aiden. The hospital staff referred to Jason and Aiden as Oliver’s parents, Tara as the surrogate, and prioritized bonding and contact between Oliver and his new dads without ever compromising Tara’s care.
Jason notes that every detail was taken care of, right down to Oliver’s initial supply of breast milk from the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank. BC Women’s staff helped them smoothly transition home to start the next exciting chapter in their lives together.