One-year-old Avery Wilson looks just like any other healthy, pink-cheeked baby. “She’s eating like a champ and gaining weight,” says mom, Alisen, from her North Vancouver home. But the picture was not always so rosy.
Just 20 weeks into her pregnancy, Alisen was referred to BC Women’s Hospital, where tests revealed that her unborn daughter had a rare physical disorder called a congenital diaphragmatic hernia – an opening in the diaphragm that allows the internal organs to enter the chest cavity, preventing normal lung growth and displacing the heart.
Alisen and her husband were told that the condition would cause their baby to be born with severe breathing problems and would require immediate surgery. Their priority was to get Avery to full-term, allowing her lungs to develop as much as possible to improve the post-surgical prognosis.
“My husband and I tried hard that day to keep it together,” says Alisen, “but when we left the hospital, we just hugged each other and cried. I remember it was raining and it really fit the mood.”
Alisen’s pregnancy went full-term, and when Avery was born she weighed in at a healthy eight pounds, one ounce. She also had BC Women’s Newborn ICU (NICU) on her side at delivery, with a first-rate team of specialists ready to address the problem and provide the complex care needed for her journey to recovery.
“Not only did the NICU staff provide us with the best-possible care, it’s obvious that they hold all of these babies close to their hearts, and that they make the parents part of the team,” says Alisen. “They made an extremely stressful situation tolerable for us.”
In gratitude for the care their granddaughter received, Avery’s grandparents purchased a Baby Tile commemorating her birth. It hangs among the others on a special wall just outside the Newborn ICU, a poignant reminder of the very real difference the unit makes in the lives of BC families.