“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
Joanne of Modern Fort teamed up with BC Women’s Hospital to shed light on the side of motherhood that is often forgotten in hopes that no mother ever feels alone. To all the moms out there who are showing up every day and doing their best, this one is for you.
Below are seven stories of motherhood, unfiltered.
"Motherhood is one of the most rewarding and isolating experiences any woman can have.
I soon became pregnant with our second child, given the due date February 17th, 2010 the anniversary of my mother’s death day. Deep down I knew that he was going to be born that day, regardless of everyone saying there was only a 3% chance. Low and behold that morning at 6:30am I started going into labour and gave birth to my son on the anniversary of my mother’s death. It was a full circle feeling for me as he responded to my finger immediately,and my mother’s name till he was two. His birth was a very healing experience for me in my grief as I felt my mother with me in him every day. Of course this didn’t solve all the issues I had developed from my still lingering postpartum trauma from having my first son. That feeling that I was never quite doing enough. There were days that grief would swallow me making me a sub par parent at best some days."
"I woke up in a lot of pain (basically septic shock), sometime around 2am and it felt as though I was paralyzed. I could barely open my eyes, couldn’t speak, couldn’t stand, and was drooling.
It took everything I had to sit up with Caleb in my arms and make my way to the bedroom to wake my husband up as something was definitely wrong. After a call to the nurses’s help line 8-1-1 I was told to head to the emergency room."
“Postpartum. Even the word in itself feels dark and scary for me. Before I had children, I assumed that I would easily and seamlessly transition into motherhood, and that it would feel like a honeymoon. I believed that I would suddenly bloom gracefully into motherhood. But I was so wrong. I have 4 babies: I’ve experienced 4 dark postpartum periods and am still very much in the thick of my 4th postpartum tunnel.
With each baby, the theme seems to be one of being peeled and broken down to my very core. So much of my naked, raw inner self makes me question myself. It makes me wonder who I am at my very core. I feel like I’m about to fall into a sea of emotions and tears."
Find more of Joanne's #RAWmotherhood series.
Yasaman experienced a serious accident when she was 21 years old and now lives with a spinal cord injury. Unable to walk and sensationless to fine hand functions, Yasaman had to adapt to a new way of life. But she did not let her injury get in the way of taking on new opportunities.
For women with an underlying condition, the excitement of pregnancy may also overlap with the anxiety of unforeseen obstacles. The lack of information available for women with spinal cord injuries who are considering having children, often leaves them feeling excluded.
Yasaman lived in worry throughout her pregnancy without any of the same resources and support able-bodied women would typically receive. “None of the books answered my questions; none of the examples and information included a mother with spinal cord injury.” Yasaman was referred to the incredible Maternal Fetal Medicine team at BC Women’s Hospital where she finally felt comfort and reassurance.
“After my first meeting, I texted my husband and told him that for the first time I felt included.”
The Maternal Fetal Medicine Team specializes in complicated or high-risk pregnancies and is committed to every patient’s care. Yasaman was especially grateful for the team’s expertise in pregnancy and spinal cord injuries and the common risks and concerns. The team was always one step ahead.
Yasaman was hospitalized at 34 weeks for a septic UTI, a common side effect for women with a spinal cord injury. This was the most challenging and scariest trimester for Yasaman, “you not only feel heavy, but you cannot lean forward much, and you feel so helpless.” It was at this time that BC Women’s nurses saved Yasaman’s and her baby’s life, but it made Yasaman feel apprehensive about giving birth. “I didn’t want the birth of my son to be yet another surgery”
Yasaman and the hospital team planned an epidural and C-section—a tricky procedure but one of the only options available with the risk of autonomic dysreflexia from her injury.
But no amount of calculation could fully prepare Yasaman when her baby surprised her three weeks early! “I went to the hospital thinking I had a UTI and it turned out my water had broken and that my baby was coming.”
An early birth on top of Yasaman’s complex procedure was no easy task. However, Yasaman’s anesthesiologist and obstetrician-gynecologist were determined. Following the third attempt with epidural, Yasaman naturally gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
“The moment my son was born, my life changed forever.”
Yasaman is forever grateful for the specialized care and support she received from the Maternal Medicine team at BC Women’s Hospital. “I feel so lucky to have access to such incredible resources.”
For Yasaman, being a mom is the most incredible experience of her life.
The extraordinary expertise of the Maternal Fetal Medicine team at BC Women’s save women’s lives – please make a donation today.
When Shelby found out she was expecting twins she was thrilled, but her joy soon turned to fear. Her identical twins were both in one amniotic sac, which can cause extremely dangerous complications. Shelby knew she would have to draw on every ounce of her inner strength to face this unforeseen challenge.
"As a mother, your first instinct is to protect your children. When it was discovered that I was carrying rare and risky mono/mono twins, I felt powerless that I wasn't able to keep our babies safe while in utero.”
In order to receive expert, critical care needed during her high-risk pregnancy, Shelby and her family made the difficult decision to move from Horsefly, B.C. to Vancouver. Nothing was more important than the health and safety of her twins. After five weeks of careful monitoring, complications arose putting the twins in danger, and Shelby’s specialists called for an emergency cesarean section.
Shelby gave birth to Camden and Courtlen, both just 3 pounds 11 ounces, but healthy and strong. “Thanks to the incredible care we received at BC Women's, both of our boys were born healthy and safe,” says Shelby. “We are forever grateful for the amazing team and resources available at BC Women's Hospital."
Click here to make a donation and celebrate your hero this International Women's Day.
With a smile that will melt anyone’s heart, strangers frequently tell Natalie that her son Lachlan will be the next Prime Minister.
Baby Lachlan’s first home was BC Women’s Intermediate Nursery. His parents credit his warm and personable nature to those early moments interacting with the nurses.
“They provided a happy and comfortable environment for Lachlan to grow.” - Natalie
For Natalie and Duncan, BC Women’s Hospital is an important part of their family story. It is where their son Lachlan, now one year old, was born and cared for, and where the doctors, nurses, and staff helped prepare them for their life’s next journey—as parents.
For them, putting a BC Women’s Baby Tile on the Hospital wall is to become part of the legacy of care and service that BC Women’s has given over the years.
“Our hope is that when others walk by Lachlan’s tile along with the many others, they are able to take a moment to reflect on what the Hospital has done for so many families.” - Natalie
Photo by: Vanessa Fukuyama Fortune Hill Photography
The efforts to save twins Elianna and Scarlett began even before they were born.
BC Women’s patient Twyla was on bed rest for 6 weeks prior to the birth of her twins, first at home and then at BC Women’s Hospital. As Elianna and Scarlett were born at just 26 weeks, the BC Women’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was the twins’ first home. The family considers the Hospital a huge part of their story.
“The delivery team literally saved Elianna’s life when she needed to be resuscitated at birth.” – Twyla
Today, Elianna and Scarlett are busy three years olds. Elianna is a performer at heart and enjoys belting out “Let It Go” in the early hours of the morning. Her sister Scarlett is a sensitive girl who loves to cuddle, but still finds creative ways to be mischievous. Together they are a priceless gift.
Twyla and Jesse wanted to commemorate their daughters’ NICU journey in the place that holds so much meaning for them, and find a way to give back for the care they received. With the support of friends and family, the couple raised over $2,000 for the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation towards commemorative BC Women’s Baby Tiles for both Elianna and Scarlett that now live on a Hospital wall.
“Fundraising for the tiles made it easy for us to get our friends and family involved. They gave more than we ever could have on our own,” says Twyla. “I am looking forward to taking them to see the tiles again when they’re older and can really understand what a difficult beginning they had… and the miracles that happen daily at BC Women’s.”
Photo credit: Julia Ufimzeff Photography
Bryn and Emily were in the middle of every parent’s nightmare.
It was Emily’s second pregnancy, and complications had arisen. Terrified, they didn’t know whether their baby would survive or what challenges she might face. Despite the distance, they left their home in Sun Peaks for help. They knew that BC Women’s Hospital was where they needed to be for the future of their child.
Within hours of their arrival, Bryn and Emily had met with several specialists in different areas. The Hospital staff quickly made the couple feel safe and confident in the quality of care.
“The care we received was second to none. It was like watching a well-oiled machine at work.” -Emily
Thankfully their story has a happy ending—or perhaps it is better called a happy beginning. After all, their daughter Ivy’s story is just getting started. Today she is a strong and healthy one-year-old. Curious and active, she loves to follow her older brother around, and always wants to be part of the excitement of this busy family.
The family decided to express their gratitude to the Hospital with a BC Women’s Baby Tile on the Hospital walls.
“Our Baby Tile represents how thankful we are to BC Women's Hospital for the pre- and post-natal care we received before and after Ivy's birth…British Columbia is lucky to have such a world-class facility.” -Bryn
For Kristie, BC Women’s Hospital is more than just a workplace. It is the place where each of her children took their first breaths, and the place where their own journeys began.
Kristie knew long before her first child that she wanted to give birth at BC Women’s. She fell in love with the environment following an opportunity at the Hospital she had while in school. When the time came, the experience did not disappoint.
“With each consecutive pregnancy, the time that we have spent either via ultrasound appointments, prenatal classes, or deliveries has been outstanding…These individuals are phenomenal human beings.” – Kristie
The three boys fill their parents’ lives with love. Roman, six, loves being the eldest brother, and takes it on wholeheartedly. From choosing clothes for his brothers, to sharing what he learns in class… he is always showing them the ropes. Kristie describes four-year-old Kaine as the sweetest, with his love of sharing and cuddling. Kristie’s youngest, Constantine, is an easy going, gentle baby who has made the experience of having three children a joy for their family.
Kristie and her husband Gurp chose to celebrate the births of their children with BC Women’s Baby Tiles. Once Constantine’s tile was completed, the family made a special visit together to see where the tiles live on a Hospital wall. The boys loved seeing their names and looking at the tiles of other children. For the family, these tiles are something that their children will one day be able to share with their own families.
“My hope is that this special tradition will continue for generations to come.” - Kristie
For Kristie, now working at BC Women’s Hospital herself, it feels bigger than a regular job. If anything, she describes how her relationship with the Hospital as an employee has made her fall in love with it even more. BC Women’s Hospital will forever hold a place in this family’s hearts.
Photo credit: Charlotte Gamache Photography
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.
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
At 34 weeks, Megan experienced a placental abruption in the middle of the night and was rushed to BC Women’s Urgent Care Centre.
After an expedited ultrasound, Dr. Ellen Giesbrecht explained Megan’s options and the risks involved for both Megan and her daughter.
While Megan already had two children, she had never experienced a premature birth.
Megan and her partner Michael were in the process of moving. Megan described how expecting a third child while moving homes was already stressful; “We were in such a state of disarray. Our home was literally in boxes and the two kids at home were feeling all of these changes…”
She described how lucky she was to have help from family, but BC Women’s also played a key role in support. “From the moment we reached out for help we were met with care, compassion, support.”
Megan decided to proceed with a Caesarian delivery, and after which she was admitted to one of BC Women’s Mother-Baby rooms. And since Michael often needed to be home caring for their two kids, Megan relied on the support of the BC Women’s team in caring for Nora during those first few days.
She emphasized the importance in her journey of being able to stay with Nora. “Having all these services in one place allowed for continuity of care…. knowing that I didn’t have to go somewhere else, didn’t have to be apart from my young daughter, was ideal and so much appreciated. It really facilitated my getting to know and care for my new daughter.”
“Nora is now a thriving 5 month old baby. Thanks to all of the members of our healthcare team, from OB to Pediatrics, nurses and doctors, in hospital and out, who created a safe space to welcome our little girl and attend to her needs, ensuring that she grow and thrive.”
When Nicole and Niko went in for their 20-week ultrasound, they never expected to hear that their daughter had a heart defect. It was a frightening moment. Fortunately, help was there for baby Maya and her parents.
The Maternal Fetal Medicine team from BC Women’s and the cardiology team from BC Children’s worked together to bring Maya safely into the world. She was born on June 20, 2017 at BC Women’s Hospital.
Her parents were prepared to be separated from their newborn daughter while she received the specialized care she needed. “It was difficult knowing that we would be spending her first few days apart from each other,” says Nicole, “but we knew it was important.”
But thankfully, after an initial assessment Maya and her mother were able to stay in the brand new Mother Baby Care unit in the BC Women’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This pilot project allowed mothers and their newborns to receive the care they need in the same room and from the same nurse, keeping them together during an important time period.
“It allowed us to be with Maya as we recovered and prepared for the next steps in fixing her heart,” says Nicole.
Since Maya’s time there, the NICU has moved to the new Teck Acute Care Centre in October 2017. As part of the improvements that the new space brings, the Mother Baby Care unit has been expanded to 12 dedicated private rooms.
Despite Maya needing surgery at eight days, and again at two and a half months, she proved herself a fighter and recovered quickly. Today she is a strong girl with a playful personality.
“From that first ultrasound right through to the care that we received after giving birth to Maya, and spending time in the Mother Baby unit in the NICU... we felt well taken care of.”- Nicole
Maya’s parents chose to celebrate her birth with a BC Women’s Baby Tile that now lives on a hospital wall. For them, the tile is a piece of Maya’s story, and a special place to visit as a family.
The family says they will always be thankful for the care they received here.
Born prematurely at 27 weeks, baby Saoirse spent the first part of her life in the BC Women’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), receiving the specialized care she needed to live.
Now healthy and at home, Saoirse’s time in the NICU is behind her. But for her parents Matt and Sabine it will never be forgotten. BC Women’s Hospital will always be the place that gave Saoirse her chance in life and gave the couple comfort and strength when they felt most vulnerable.
“It was through the efforts of BC Women's Hospital, the advanced technology, the love from all the doctors and nurses that Saoirse was able to grow and flourish.” - Sabine
Today Saoirse is a driven, curious toddler. Even as a newborn her family could feel her desire to live, observe, and connect with people, and her wonderful sense of life has not faded since. Her parents believe that these early experiences will one day help her shape the world.
Matt and Sabine wanted to show their gratitude to the Hospital. They brought their friends and family together to raise money for BC Women’s and help more newborns like Saoirse. Most recently, they put up a BC Women’s Baby Tile honouring Saoirse.
“BC Women's Hospital gave us an opportunity to start our family and will forever be a part of that journey.” – Sabine
For this family, the tile holds many meanings. It represents their daughter’s journey, their own gratitude, and hope for future families like theirs. It represents the staff and volunteers who guided them through difficult times and the place where their family began.
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
Days before the birth of her son, Gwennie learned she had pre-eclampsia. Thanks to your support, BC Women’s was able to support her in delivering her baby safely despite this complication.
Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. It typically begins later in pregnancy for women whose blood pressure had previously been completely normal. In Gwennie’s case, she was diagnosed and, a mere three days later, Emmett was born at 36 weeks.
“Without BC Women’s, Emmett may not have been born safely.” - Gwennie
Emmett was small but healthy, at 4.1 lbs. He spent eight days in BC Women’s Intermediate Nursery before he could go home for the first time with parents Gwennie and Peter.
Gwennie describes how the exceptional care she received led her to choose a BC Women’s Baby Tile for a wall in the Hospital, to celebrate Emmett’s birth and thank the nurses and doctors.
“Although it was rough, I knew both my baby and I were in good hands. I want Emmett to remember how he was welcomed into this world.” - Gwennie
When Lindsay McIvor’s son Maverick was born, he was three months early and weighed just two pounds, six ounces. While he proved to be a fighter, during the first weeks of his life he needed not only the advanced life-saving care of the Newborn ICU, he needed the help of mothers who didn’t even know him.
“Considering he was so small, and arrived so early, he was doing really well,” recalls Lindsay. “But on his ninth day, he ended up getting an infection, and was put onto full breathing support for the next four weeks.”
Lindsay knew that her breast milk was the nutrition Maverick needed to heal, but, as is common for moms who have premature babies, her milk was coming in slowly.
A nurse told Lindsay about BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank. It screens breast milk donors and collects and pasteurizes donated milk for distribution to babies in need.
When Lindsay started pumping, it wasn’t enough for a feed, so she topped it up with donor milk. “It was awesome,” she says of having access to donor milk. “It was such a stressful situation and having the Milk Bank was so helpful.”
“For premature infants you can’t really replace human milk with anything else, because they’re so high risk,” says Milk Bank coordinator Frances Jones. “That’s where donor milk comes in. It provides them with the antibodies needed to fight disease and infection.”
Donor milk will soon be available to all 13 NICUs in the province, thanks to provincial and charitable funding. “But the need for milk continues, and we are always looking for new donors,” says Jones.
Lindsay was so grateful for the donor milk she received that later she, in turn, donated about five litres of her own milk to other moms in need.
Maverick went home 75 days after his birth. He continues to thrive.
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 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.
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.
In August 2015, Parisa Aliverdi missed her baby shower by mere hours, but it was for the very best reason. “My water broke,” says the 42-year-old first-time mom of the unexpected gift. “I was told to go directly to BC Women’s Hospital.”
Parisa, who was 37 weeks pregnant at the time, was admitted quickly and two days later she delivered her son. He weighed just five pounds, four ounces and following his birth needed his oxygen levels to be closely monitored for a full week in the Newborn ICU (NICU).
Fortunately, Parisa was able to stay with Shayan during this time, thanks to a pilot program at BC Women’s called the Mother Baby Care Rooms.
Located in the NICU, the two dedicated rooms allow mothers and babies to stay together while they both receive care from a full-time, dedicated nurse trained in both maternal and newborn care.
“It was like a small hotel suite,” says Parisa. “It really was a godsend. Not only was I was able to bond with Shayan and be there for him, so was my husband.”
Dr. Keyvan Hadad, medical director of the Intermediate Nursery at BC Women’s, says the Mother Baby Care Rooms — based on a Swedish model and one of the first of it’s kind in North America — provide an environment where mothers, along with their partners, can provide skin-to-skin contact and bond with their newborns, while also receiving the support they need from NICU doctors and nurses.
“The long-term benefits of this kind of bonding, for babies, are the positive medical and psychological outcomes,” says Hadad. “With this model, mom and baby are together all the time.”
This model of care is considered so important to maternal and newborn health and wellbeing that all 12 Intermediate Nursery rooms at BC Women’s will be Mother Baby Care Rooms when the new hospital building opens in 2017.
As for Parisa, she knows first-hand the positive effect of having a dedicated space in which to bond with her baby. “I can’t thank the hospital and staff enough,” says Parisa. “They provided me with peace of mind as well as excellent care.”
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!
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.
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
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
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
From the moment they met in 2005, Jason and Aiden knew they wanted to build a life together. They also knew they wanted a family, and in 2012, they finally felt ready to take that next step.
The two committed dads-in-waiting knew the adoption process could be long (often five years or more) and difficult, so they decided to consider another option – surrogacy. After Aiden’s sister offered to donate eggs, they began exploring the possibility of finding a caring woman who would be prepared to carry and give birth to the child who would complete their happiness.
Finally, after several months of unsuccessful searching, Tara Kemes (pictured below), a friend of Aiden’s sister, came into their lives. Tara had always wanted to be a surrogate mother for personal as well as altruistic reasons. Although she didn’t want to be a mom herself, she was willing to provide Jason and Aiden with the joy of having their own child – a child 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.”
Tara became pregnant in July 2013. It was to mark the beginning of a journey that would not only involve Aiden, Jason and Tara, but Tara’s girlfriend Kylie as well. Nicknamed “the circus,” the four had an “awesome experience” at South Community Birth Programme in Vancouver, where they attended pre-natal classes together with the other expectant parents.
“[The classes were a] tremendous bonding experience between us and Tara, and helped us be as prepared and present as possible during the birth,” says Jason.
The couple’s unique family dynamics also influenced a small but powerful shift in thinking at South and BC Women’s Hospital. All of the caregivers involved with the couple – from the doula and midwives at South to the nurses and physicians at BC Women’s – were inspired to rethink the role of the father during pregnancy and the birthing process.
The shift in language from “intended mother” to “intended parents” recognized the critically important role played not only by these two dads but by all fathers. For instance, BC Women’s Hospital is a strong advocate for skin-to-skin contact between parent and newborn that promotes bonding and also has far-reaching benefits for a baby's health and development. The two dads dynamic reinforced this for fathers as well as mothers.
A few days before she was due to deliver, Tara, together with Kylie, moved in with Jason and Aiden to prepare for the birth. Tara underwent a gradual induction process in response to a slow rise in blood pressure, followed by a number of hospital visits, until labour started in earnest on Sunday afternoon. Seven-and-a-half hours later, little Oliver was welcomed into the world by his proud parents.
The new fathers caught Oliver together, experiencing a “magical connection” with their son during those first moments of holding him close. “It was the happiest moment in our lives,” says Aiden, who together with Jason was able to take Oliver home just hours after the birth.
Thanks to Tara and BC Women’s Milk Bank, Oliver was nourished with breast milk for his first month. Two years later, he is a happy, healthy, thriving little boy who is just starting daycare.
The partnership between Jason, Aiden and Tara that began with the surrogacy has gone on to become a lasting friendship. The couple remain in awe of Tara and have immense feelings of gratitude for her and everyone who supported their decision to have a family: “We were so lucky to have been surrounded by such a great team and actually be there to see what Tara went through, and to appreciate what happens. She was just amazing.”
The dads are also deeply appreciative of the warm care they received at BC Women’s: “The staff at BC Women’s were very mindful of our circumstances; we never felt any discomfort or confusion. The nurses were really lovely, they were clearly very kind and conscientious and very welcoming.”
Through the generous heart of surrogate mother Tara and the love and dedication of dad’s Aiden and Jason, a beautifully unique family had its start at BC Women’s. This Father’s Day, BC Women’s Hospital would like to recognize dad’s across our province for the amazing work you do every day. Thank you!
As I looked into my newborn daughter’s face after an emergency C-section, her lips began to turn blue. The team quickly whisked her away, and she spent the next three days receiving amazing care in the Newborn ICU (NICU). All the NICU nurses went above and beyond for Charlotte, so I decided to do the same for them. In 2014, I teamed up with another NICU mom, Joanne Mah of Modern Fort, to sell my company’s exclusive silver Numpfer bib and baby blanket packages, with proceeds to BC Women’s. Then, drawing on my experience in the restaurant industry, I decided to do something even bigger – a tasting event called Sip and Savour, featuring food, wine, beer and spirits from some of Vancouver’s top restaurants, wineries and craft breweries. More than 250 people attended the event at The Pipe Shop, and, thanks to a matching donation from the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, we raised $50,000 for BC Women’s. We’re doing it again this October, with the goal of raising $80,000 for a new incubator. BC Women’s provided amazing care to Charlotte; it feels great to pay that forward by giving back.
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.
It was a knee-buckling moment for Kerry Kenwood when she learned she had cervical cancer. It’s the kind of moment that can rend a life into “before” and “after.”
The wildlife researcher and mother of two young girls knew in that instant she was in for the fight of a lifetime.
In 2014, following a Pap test in which irregular cells were detected in Kerry’s cervix, she received a call from Dr. Dianne Miller, division head of Gynecologic Oncology and co-founder of the BC Cancer Agency’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program.
“Dr. Miller herself phoned me and told me I had cervical cancer. There was this sense of urgency to get me in. It all felt surreal.”
In the next few days, Kerry had to make one of the most difficult decisions of her life: whether to undergo radiation therapy or have surgery to remove the cancer, which would mean removing her cervix and uterus.
Less than a month after her diagnosis, after many tests and procedures, Kerry had the surgery, choosing also to have her ovaries removed as an extra precaution.
Two years later, Kerry is cancer-free and carrying on with life. She knows how lucky she is because out of 1,300 new cases diagnosed every year in Canada, 390 women won’t survive. It’s a tragedy that is entirely preventable.
Cervical cancer has definitively been linked to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Armed with a vaccine, we have the ability to eliminate HPV from the general population. This vaccine is available to women and girls born 1994 or later, at no cost.
PAP screening saved Kerry’s life – the HPV vaccine will ensure that her daughters never have to go through what she did.
“If only this vaccine had been available when I was younger,” says Kerry. “I’m totally in favour of it for my daughters.”
Early detection. Improved vaccination protocols . Research. BC Women’s leading physicians and scientists hope to eradicate cervical cancer in our lifetime.
It will be the first cancer in history to be eliminated by a vaccine.
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.
Every mother dreams of the perfect pregnancy and birth. But life doesn’t always deliver what we expect. Andrea Sandhu was 26 weeks pregnant with twins when she suddenly went into labour. It was the beginning of a harrowing five-month journey for Andrea, her husband Kevin and her babies.
Andrea delivered her twin sons – Nikhil, who weighed 2.2 pounds, and Kai, who weighed 1.5 pounds – at BC Women’s Hospital on May 9, 2012. Premature and both very sick, the babies were immediately sent to the Newborn ICU for life-saving care. It’s here, the two infant boys would battle to survive.
Through the many tense weeks, both babies received the highest level of critical care from a team of BC’s top medical experts. However, even the best care does not always produce a successful outcome, and at six weeks, baby Nikhil passed away. But, his brother Kai not only survived, he spent the next four months in the Newborn ICU overcoming every challenge that came his way. Today, the tiny twin who entered the world weighing less than two pounds, is a thriving toddler.
Although the family’s journey was extremely difficult and painful, Andrea says the care her sons received at BC Women’s Newborn ICU was exceptional. She’s grateful, too, for the compassion and support she and Kevin received from doctors, nurses and other team members during the long, difficult weeks.
“Despite it being a really rough experience and losing Nikhil, the staff were an amazing part of our lives,” says Andrea. “I have the utmost respect and gratitude for everything they did for us at BC Women’s Hospital.”
Cheryl Stevenson began experiencing labour pains at 29 weeks. The North Shore resident was quickly admitted to BC Women’s Hospital, where staff prepared her for what to expect if her baby came early. Sure enough, Finnegan arrived all too soon.
For the first 10 days of his life he did very well under observation in BC Women’s Newborn ICU (NICU). However, on the 11th day, when Cheryl, a registered nurse, came to see her little son, she knew immediately that something was terribly wrong.
“Finnegan was yellow and his skin was almost translucent,” says Cheryl. He was fighting an infection caused by a perforation in his bowel, and now his fragile life hung in the balance.
Cheryl and her husband, Jackson, were astonished at how quickly hospital staff mobilized to save their newborn son. Naturally, the main focus was on saving Finnegan. But Cheryl and Jackson were also grateful that caregivers took time to provide information and emotional support to them and their whole family.
Finnegan needed surgery to close the perforation, but he was too unstable to move to an operating room, so the team brought the operating room to him.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Cheryl. “Machine after machine was rolled into the room, and within the hour, everything was ready to go.”
The surgery went well, but the ensuing days were touch and go. It was an extraordinarily difficult time for the Stevensons, but both Cheryl and Jackson felt fully involved in Finnegan’s care. Doctors even made sure they could hug him before his operation.
“They never stopped anticipating what could happen next and planning for it and sharing that with us,” says Cheryl. “Even though I know the [medical] language, they explained what they were going to do and why, and one doctor wrote everything down for us in lay terms.
“I haven’t seen that sort of family-centred care anywhere else,” adds Cheryl. “I can’t even begin to say how much it helped us at a time when we needed it most.”
Donor support helps ensure we're able to continue to deliver the highest level of care for critically ill newborns. Please join our family of donors and help a beautiful baby, like Finnegan.
Here is Finnegan today! With his big, beautiful eyes, his joyful smile and his first two teeth!
As you can imagine, I’ve blocked out a lot of what happened in the delivery room. But I will never forget the thrill of giving birth to a healthy baby girl who arrived with a beautiful earth-shattering newborn’s cry.
I’ll also never forget hearing absolutely nothing from my second baby after an emergency C-section. Not one cry. No outward sign of life.
The look on my husband’s face told me something was desperately wrong … and it was utterly devastating to learn that several of my little boy’s organs had failed during delivery. It took twenty minutes to resuscitate him…
But Darius’ life was on the line. He needed an immediate transfer from our local hospital to BC Women’s Newborn ICU.
I couldn’t bear the thought of my husband and tiny baby being separated from me and his twin sister, but I knew in my heart that getting Darius to BC Women’s was his best chance at surviving. Thankfully they transferred me and little Nessa that very night to BC Women’s postpartum unit.
Darius wasn’t even moving when he arrived at BC Women’s. But once there I could see how much the amazing nurses and doctors loved him. Without their caring support and expertise Darius wouldn’t be here today.
That’s what they do at BC Women’s. They care for the most critically ill and premature babies … and make them healthy.
So that makes you a life saver too. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for supporting the BC Women’s Hospital Foundation.
My Mother’s Day wish is that you’ll join me now in equipping the Newborn ICU to help give the gift of life to other babies at risk. Any amount you can manage will help babies leave the hospital healthy and happy, like Darius eventually did.
It was four days before I could hold Darius.
With all of the tubes and equipment it was quite a task to move him into my arms, but it was after this very first cuddle that he started to be more responsive. They knew Darius needed to be skin to skin with me.
Because of his rocky start, Darius had some complications. He suffered some hearing loss and uses tiny hearing aids now.
But he’s meeting his milestones.
He’s 14 months old and he loves to pull things out of the cupboards. He’s crawling and getting closer and closer to walking as he’s pulling himself up to stand unsupported for a bit.
He loves to eat and to play with his sister. He especially loves to wrestle with her, although she’s not quite as crazy about that as he is.
As you know, I’m incredibly thankful my babies are healthy and happy.
Now it’s time to make sure the Newborn ICU can continue giving leading-edge care as the province’s referral centre for women coping with the riskiest pregnancies. And for babies whose lives are in peril…
About 20% of British Columbia’s babies are born at BC Women’s. Others, like Darius, are rushed there for their best chance of surviving. Let’s give these precious babies the best odds with a donation to help provide equipment for the Newborn ICU.
With warmest gratitude,
Grateful mom to Darius and Nessa
P.S. At BC Women’s NICU, they’re prepared for any emergency that could happen during a baby’s birth. Even the unexpected, like Darius’ case. He almost didn’t make it. And there was no way we could have seen it coming. I carried him and Nessa for 37 weeks. It was a textbook healthy pregnancy. My family is whole today thanks to the specialized care Darius received. Please be there for all babies who need this same chance! Thank you.
Please help the smallest babies during times of medical crisis with your donation.
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
Every mother-to-be eagerly anticipates the day she brings home her healthy baby. But sometimes pregnancy doesn’t go the way the way it should – free of complications and risks. For these expectant mothers the specialized monitoring and clinical care of the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) team can mean the difference between life and death.
Jenn McMillan was one of those moms. Her routine prenatal bloodwork showed critical levels of an antibody against the fetal red blood cells.
MFM specialist Dr. Tracy Pressey and her team were alerted to Jenn’s condition. “If an antibody of concern is detected on this blood test, patients like Jenn will be referred to us for counsel and to initiate weekly or twice weekly ultrasound surveillance and monitoring for signs of fetal anemia.”
Most of them won’t require transfusions, but Jenn was a rare case. “Jenn had anti-Kell antibodies and required four Intrauterine Fetal Transfusions (IUTs) starting at 26 weeks,” explains Dr. Pressey.
In an IUT, under direct ultrasound guidance the needle is inserted through the maternal abdomen and uterus and into a specific blood vessel within the fetal abdomen. This vessel is mere millimeters in size. Upon confirming proper positioning of the needle, a pre-determined volume of donor blood is transfused over a period of minutes. The placement of the needle, flow of transfused blood and fetal heart rate are all continuously monitored through ultrasound during the procedure by specially trained MFM experts.
Although B.C. has MFM clinics across the province, BC Women’s Hospital is the only one performing the lifesaving transfusions — and is one of just 10 Canada-wide.
Jenn says she can’t adequately express how grateful she is for Dr. Pressey and the MFM team.
“During one of the most difficult times in our lives, Dr. Pressey was there to ease our worries and to explain what to expect throughout the pregnancy,” says Jenn. “It was evident how much she and her whole team cared about us… Keira wouldn’t be here without them.”
Like all expectant mothers, Leah Stadelmann couldn't wait for the birth of her firstborn son. However, at 27 weeks, doctors at BC Women's Hospital discovered baby Francis was not developing properly. Leah’s excitement quickly turned to anxiety.
"They admitted me to BC Women’s on December 19," says Leah. "I was pretty terrified at the time. Francis wasn't due until March 19 – three months later."
Just prior to his birth, Leah and her husband, Paul Fleming, met with Dr. Kevin Ansah, who walked them through the worst- and best-case scenarios, gently balancing hope with honesty.
"Dr. Ansah advocated for us; he listened to our concerns and he acted upon them right away," says Leah. "He didn't sugarcoat things for us, so we were prepared for what might happen. We really respected that."
It was discovered that Francis had a condition called reversed end diastolic flow. Instead of getting a continual blood supply from his mother, the baby was experiencing absent phases and then reversals in normal blood flow.
Fearing for Francis’s survival, doctors performed an emergency C-section four days later. He was born weighing just one pound eight ounces.
While delivery eliminated the one threat, Francis’s premature birth created another. His tiny lungs were severely underdeveloped and he needed highly specialized equipment simply to breathe.
Over the next three months, the Newborn ICU (NICU) was able to support Francis’s breathing using a vast range of neonatal breathing apparatus. Thanks to support from donors like you, the NICU was able to provide Francis with exactly the right breathing equipment throughout his growth and development, precisely when he needed it.
After 94 days in hospital, which included a successful battle against a serious blood infection and sepsis, Francis finally went home. Today, he’s thriving, and his future prognosis looks bright.
"He weighs 12.5 pounds and smiles all the time," says Leah, proudly. "We’re so grateful for the incredible care Francis received from the medical staff and especially Dr. Ansah."
Four hours south of Hyder, Alaska, in a quiet Kitimat neighbourhood, Cooper Sutherland is busy playing like any other active three-year-old. At 35 pounds, he outweighs his best friend by eight pounds and he can already count to 20.
Nobody would guess that in 2011, Cooper arrived 12 weeks early. His mom, Leanne, had been transported to BC Women’s Hospital three weeks prior to his birth after a routine exam revealed her cervix had started to dilate.
Cooper arrived weighing in at just two pounds, 11 ounces, earning him the nickname “Mini Cooper.” As his tiny lungs struggled for breath Cooper was quickly intubated and brought to BC Women’s Newborn ICU. It would be four days before Leanne would be able to hold Cooper, and when she did it took a team of people to place him in her arms – so much equipment was connected to his tiny body: life-saving technology made possible by your donations.
Leanne spent the next three months in the NICU at Cooper’s side, while the NICU team monitored and supported his growth and development.
Far from home, and away from family and friends, Leanne says she drew strength from the bond she formed with three other NICU moms, the doctors, respiratory therapists and her three amazing nurses – Heather, Laura and Kylie.
“It was the best of the worst experience of my life,” says Leanne. “I’m so grateful for their friendship and support. You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
At home in Kitimat, Leanne may be an18-hour drive from Vancouver, but BC Women’s is never far from her thoughts: “I know that if it wasn’t for the exceptional care we received there, Cooper wouldn’t be here today.”
Please help the smallest babies during times of medical crisis with your donation.
Written by by Helena Bryan for Women's Magazine Spring 2015
Photographed by Ashley Campbell Photography
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!
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.
When Julie Kawa found out she was pregnant in the spring of 2010, she had no idea that it would be more than four agonizing years before she would finally hold her firstborn. Julie and her husband, Keith, lived through the anguish of six miscarriages before welcoming baby Kate late last year. Up until then, each of Julie’s pregnancies had lasted less than10 weeks. But, then came hope.
After her first three miscarriages, Julie was referred to the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Program at BC Women's Hospital. Here, despite state-of-the art interventions and care from Dr. Dena Bloomenthal and her team, Julie went on to suffer four more painful losses.
Finding out she was pregnant, “was like opening the door, time and again, to a pathway that could lead to either joy or heartbreak, and not knowing which it would be" says Julie, pausing to recall the sadness she felt whenever she saw other women with their newborn babies.
Each time Julie conceived, the team would determine a course of treatment for her, and monitor her pregnancy using frequent ultrasound scans. At first, she and Keith would be thrilled to see a tiny heart beat on the screen, but each time their hopes would be dashed when a subsequent scan revealed that the baby's heart had stopped.
"Dr. Bloomenthal knew when to hold my hand and let me cry," Julie says, "but each time she was also able to inspire hope and assure us that there was another treatment that I could try."
For Julie's seventh pregnancy, Bloomenthal suggested a rarely used but promising treatment – and it worked. As the weeks went by and the baby continued to grow, Julie and Keith finally felt confident enough to share their good news with family and friends.
"It was lovely," Julie recalls. "There was so much joy in announcing it to people."
When the big day finally arrived, Bloomenthal was the first person to meet the long-awaited addition to the Kawa family, delivering baby Kate by C-section at BC Women's last November. Thanks to the expert care, persistence and support of the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Program at BC Women’s, a joyful Julie was finally able to hold her baby daughter in what she will always remember as “the most amazing moment of my life.”
Karen and Blaine Hodge were overjoyed at the prospect of starting a family. But their’s wouldn’t be just any pregnancy. Karen has been paralyzed since she was a teenager.
“As soon as we decided to get pregnant, Blaine and I went to BC Women’s Hospital for consultation about all aspects of pregnancy and spinal cord injury,” says Karen. “It took about a year, but once I was pregnant, I was referred back for ongoing care.”
Karen’s pregnancy progressed normally until, at 33 weeks, she developed a kidney infection.
“My fever was quite high and the baby’s heart rate was really high, so I was in trouble,” says Karen. “We went to BC Women’s, and within 15 minutes, the perinatologist was at my bedside and I was admitted.”
Karen remained at BC Women’s for a month of specialized inpatient care.
“I knew they wanted to monitor things carefully,” says Karen, who adds, “I couldn’t feel the baby kicking inside, so I would feel my belly with my hand and say, ‘Stay put!’”
Finally, at 37 ½ weeks, Karen’s wait was over. The team at BC Women’s proceeded to induce labour for a carefully planned delivery supported by specialists from anesthesia, maternal fetal medicine, internal medicine and neonatal medicine.
“I was able to have a normal delivery with Colin, and thanks to the expertise of the team, I was even able to push,” says Karen. “I didn’t think it would be possible because I’m paralyzed from the chest down, but one of the physicians said, ‘Go ahead and try, people’s bodies work in different ways – and I was surprised to discover it worked!”
Today, Colin is a thriving five-year-old, whose almost two-old-old sister, Laura, was born just three years later at BC Women’s following a normal and happily less eventful pregnancy.
“We’re just very grateful for the care we received at BC Women’s,” says Karen. “The confidence I felt in the team’s ability comes from knowing that they deal with challenging pregnancies all the time and that they really do have an amazing amount of skill and knowledge.”
“We live in North Vancouver, so we headed to Lions Gate Hospital. I was whisked right upstairs, where they examined me and said everything looked fine,” she says. “They kept me in overnight just to be sure, and said they would probably discharge me home the next day. To be on the safe side, I received a drug intended to mature our baby’s lungs in case he decided to make an early arrival.”
Despite medication to calm the cramping, Cheryl’s pains continued. “I have an app on my phone that I used to time the pains,” she says, “and they were coming three minutes apart.”
Brought back to Labour and Delivery, and found to be slightly dilated, Cheryl was sent to BC Women’s Hospital. “I tell everyone who will listen that this was decision that saved our baby’s life,” she says.
Cheryl spent four days in the Evergreen antepartum unit at BC Women’s, knowing every day was a bonus for her baby’s development, but still experiencing cramps, and expecting to go into all out labour at any time.
“They sent a NICU nurse up to Evergreen to talk with me in detail about what we could expect if he was born at 29 weeks, and how care is provided in the NICU – they even gave me a tour of the NICU, so I could see firsthand the level of care they provide. I found this all very reassuring – and a good thing, too, because suddenly it was time 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 for his first ten days,” she adds. “He was tiny, and needed to be in the NICU for sure, but doing well. And then came the night I said goodnight to a healthy looking little guy and went home – and came back in the morning to a terribly sick baby, turned from pink to yellow overnight.”
“A spontaneous perforation in Finnegan’s intestine made him septic, and very ill very quickly,” says Cheryl.”We were not at all sure he would pull through, but thanks to a surgical intervention done right at his bedside in the NICU, and massive antibiotics, he turned the corner, and is once again a healthy little guy. As soon as he gets his weight up, we’ll be able to plan his homecoming.”
“I can’t say enough about the amazing care we received,” says Cheryl. “As a nurse, I understand the importance of continuity of care – and it is absolutely amazing to me that with more than 200 different nurses working in that NICU, they are all incredibly well informed, and connected by the heart to every baby and every family.”
Beth McInnis is heartbreakingly familiar with a moment no one wants to experience “There is that terrible moment in an ultrasound where the entire room knows the baby no longer has a heartbeat.”
Beth and her husband, Neville Lok, decided to start a family in their late 30s. They felt lucky when Beth conceived quickly but, at nine weeks, she miscarried. That crushing experience would be repeated again, and again, as the couple kept trying for a child.
At BC Women’s Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Clinic, under the care of Dr. Dena Bloomenthal, Beth learned the miscarriages were unavoidable, caused by abnormal chromosomes. “Everyone was so caring,” says Beth. “The nurses would come up and hug me.”
Determined, Beth conceived again, through IVF, only to experience another devastating miscarriage.
“I was crying every night,” she says. “I knew I needed to talk to somebody.”
The clinic connected her with a grief counsellor, who helped her find coping strategies, and accept that her own genetics were no longer an option.
Then Beth, by this time aged 45, discovered a U.S.-based program that pairs families who have stored frozen embryos with families who want to “adopt” them.
“By their mid-40s, the chance of healthy, spontaneous pregnancies is significantly reduced,” says Bloomenthal. “Often, they use donor eggs or embryos.”
In Beth and Neville’s case, they were matched with a family in Washington State, and had the donated embryo implanted.
The pregnancy was officially confirmed at BC Women’s, where Beth was monitored regularly for diabetes, preeclampsia and other complications.
“The risks are heightened as you get older,” says Beth. “Dr. Bloomenthal and her colleagues at BC Women’s really kept an eye on my health and how our baby was doing.”
At 11 weeks, Beth experienced bleeding and was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma. Dr. Bloomenthal prescribed bedrest to reduce the risk ofpregnancy loss, and the danger passed. Then, in May 2014, the couple welcomed their son, Tristan.
Today, Beth and Neville are expecting their second embryo adopted child – a girl, also due to be born at BC Women’s.
“The team is phenomenal,” says Beth. “They provided support, care, and a community where we no longer felt alone and lost in our struggles.”
At five pounds, 10 ounces, baby Stella was delivered by C-section into the capable hands of BC Women’s obstetrician Dr. Mark Rosengarten My husband Arnie and I found ourselves unexpectedly moved by the experience. Both of our children were born at BC Women’s (formerly Grace Hospital) and until Stella’s arrival, their births had been the highlight of our lives. Over the years our family has enthusiastically supported BC Women’s, including raising and donating funds for the single room maternity suites and creating an endowment fund at BC Women’s in memory of my mother. But this was different. With the arrival of Stella we wanted to do something meaningful yet deeply personal. We asked Mark for his input, ultimately choosing to establish a Continuing Education Fund for Fellows. This gift will benefit new moms and babies by assisting physicians to deliver the best-possible care through continual learning. Marking the arrival of a child or grandchild by giving back to BC Women’s seems so perfect. After all, for what we’ve received, it seems the least we could do!
This Mother's Day will be so special for our family. After six miscarriages, we finally welcomed baby Kate last November.
Kate is our precious, long-awaited miracle! But without the incredible team at BC Women's, we might have given up hope.
Like most couples, my husband Keith and I started making plans as soon as our first pregnancy test was positive. We talked about prenatal classes, the colour of the nursery and the day we would bring the little one home.
After my first two miscarriages, we stopped thinking that way. Knowing we needed expert help and advice, my family doctor sent us to the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Program at BC Women's Hospital.
That's where I met Dr. Dena Bloomenthal and her amazing team. They helped us through a roller coaster of emotions, as I lost four more babies. With each new pregnancy, we would be so happy to see a tiny heart beat on the ultrasound scan, only to find out within a few weeks that our baby's heart had stopped.
Dr. Bloomenthal knew when to hold my hand and let me cry, but each time she was also able to inspire hope and assure us that there was another treatment that I could try.
Hope keeps you going. Donations to BC Women's Foundation help the experts provide new hope to a family whose hope is running out. I needed every ounce of that hope and expertise before I finally held Kate in my arms.
Each pregnancy was like opening a door...but would it lead to joy, or heartbreak? Every time we tried a treatment that worked for others, it didn't work for me. But the team supported us every inch of the way…
They knew what we needed - ultrasound scans, tests, medications ... even hugs.
Thankfully, a rarely used treatment finally worked for us. We had a happy ending – Kate! We will never, ever take Kate for granted. Losing six babies was so very painful.
Our family is eternally grateful for the care we received from Dr. Bloomenthal and the team at BC Women’s Hospital. After Kate was born, the nurses from the Recurrent Loss Program came up to visit Kate and me in pairs, or on their own. It touched me deeply that these dedicated healthcare professionals cared so much for Kate and me, even though their “work” with us was over.
Your donations help other families who also need this specialized care to receive the precious gift of a healthy baby.
What better gift for Mother's Day? Please donate today.
Julie Kawa, grateful mom
As a token of appreciation, Avery's grandparents made a donation to the hospital and purchased a baby tile to celebrate Avery's homecoming. The words on it are taken from a song that was played at her parents' wedding, "Home is Wherever I'm With You!". Avery's parents, Alison and Kelsey said there wasn't a dry eye in the house that morning... They felt so fortunate to have Avery home with them to celebrate her first Christmas.
When Avery's tile was installed on the wall in BC Women's Hospital the whole family came in to visit. They were greeted by their primary nurse Melissa and Dr. Kevin Ansah.
"As I was about to leave, I looked down the hall and noticed Dr. Singh. DR. SINGH!!!!!" says Ali.
"Dr. Singh was the Attending when I went into labour and Avery was born. He came in before any of my contractions started, told us everything we needed to know about Avery’s resuscitation procedure upon birth and gave us all of the information we needed so our expectations were set.
Once she was born, he immediately took to Avery. Why? Because she was the sickest, and he apparently takes to the sickest babies, likely with the goal to do everything in his power to help them. Dr. Singh was there for the first two weeks of Avery’s stay in the NICU and was absolutely amazing. He played a large role is getting all of us through."
Ali adds, "He lit up as as soon as he saw us today and came out to meet us immediately. He took Avery and she was so cute, trying to grab his nose and lips and he gave her kisses and snuggles and looked like he didn’t want to let her go. It was beyond amazing. He told us this was why he loved his job, for moments like these. He was having a rougher day and when we left he seemed energized and told us we had made his day and actually thanked US for coming to visit. It was such a good MOMENT. I smile thinking about it now."
"Walking out of the NICU, I just felt so happy, I sorta missed it. Not the emotional roller coaster we were on when we were in there, but I miss the amazing people who were there all day, every day, prioritizing our babies and all the other babies lives."
"It was an incredible day at the NICU." adds Ali as she and her husband Kelsey brought their "take home" tile back to their house - it will be framed and in Avery's room forever. "It symbolizes so much," says Ali, "we will make sure that brief stay in the NICU is held close to her (and us), forever."
Please help the smallest babies during times of medical crisis with your donation.
They’re known as the Infant Transport Team (ITT), the specialized paramedics who stabilize premature or critically ill babies from around BC and then safely transport them to BC Women’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). But to Fort St. John resident Sarah Thom, they will always be angels, especially when she looks at the miracle that is her six-year-old daughter, Eryana.
Six years ago, not long after surviving a life-threatening case of the H1N1 virus, a pregnant Sarah went into premature labour at just 28 weeks. She delivered Eryana by emergency C-section at the hospital in Fort St. John. However, her baby was in life-threatening respiratory distress. Sarah was told that to survive Eryana needed the specialized care and equipment available only at BC Women’s Newborn ICU in Vancouver. The hospital immediately called the ITT.
On standby around the clock and with specially designed and equipped jets, helicopters and ambulances to transport their tiny patients, the ITT arrived quickly, accompanied by a NICU doctor from BC Women’s. Eryana received vital life-support in a specially equipped incubator – recently upgraded by your donations – during the flight to Vancouver.
“It was like angels coming to get her,” says Sarah. “They took the time to explain everything to me. And before they left, one of the paramedics brought her to me in the mobile incubator and said I could touch her.
“I said, ‘Goodbye,’ and he said, ‘Don’t say goodbye, say I’ll see you when I’m feeling better.’”
The next day, Sarah learned that one of the paramedics had stayed with Eryana until the wee hours of the morning because there was no family to be with her.
Four days later, when Sarah was well enough to travel to BC Women’s and hold Eryana for the first time, she was touched to find Eryana’s baby toquewith a small angel brooch at her bedside.
“To this day, I don’t know for sure who put it there,” says Sarah. “But I think I can guess.”
These conscientious children collected and hand decorated seashells to sell by donation for the best cause they could think of — supporting the smallest and most vulnerable babies at BC Women’s Hospital Newborn ICU. A big thank you to Sebastian, Lilliana, Maya and mom Dana for your kind and creative efforts in raising the funds and hand delivering the cheque to the Foundation, you are truly inspiring!
...all that was about to change. The signs were minor at first – a little weight loss, feeling tired – but this progressed to an overwhelming fatigue. When her boyfriend came home one day to discover she had been in bed all day, and was too weak to get up, he brought her immediately to hospital. The disease that had brought her there, kept her in a coma for three weeks and took her weight from a healthy 135 pounds to 96 pounds was full-blown AIDS. Unknown to her, she had been living with HIV for ten years.
“I had no idea where I got it,” she says. “I really hadn’t lived a life of risk, so how did I become HIV positive? And how did it come to this?”
Even as she recovered, she would lie in bed for days in the fetal position, curled in on her sadness and pain; when she did force herself to go out, she would find herself suddenly in tears. Her boyfriend quit his job to care for her; they went into debt to survive while she regained her health. And while her boyfriend was fully supportive, she received mixed reactions from those with whom she shared the news.
“It’s ironic – if I had cancer, or some other chronic disease, people would rally around, maybe hold a fundraiser, certainly be able to relate. It wasn’t like that at all,” she says. “Every person I told, I had to heal for a week. The stigma around HIV is a terrible, hurtful thing.”
One bright light in all this darkness was the network of support she learned about, beginning with a nurse who recommended the Oak Tree Clinic at BC Women’s Hospital.
“The warmth I found at Oak Tree, the family atmosphere, the caring – it made such a difference to me,” she says. “Gradually I learned about other kinds of support that were an immense help, like Loving Spoonful that provides meals to people with AIDS, and the Positive Women’s Network.”
“But Oak Tree Clinic gave me something I would not have found anywhere else – the knowledge that I could have a baby without transmitting HIV, if I followed their program,” she adds. “It’s funny – I was nearly 40, and had never really seen myself as a mother, but once I went through this terrible illness, through a brush with death, I was heartbroken to think I could never have a child. Once I learned I could DO this, it became a very clear goal – I was completely focused on creating a family I had never even known I wanted.”
You can hear the happiness in her voice, in the loving way she says her daughter’s name. She has truly been able to start a new life with the birth of her daughter thanks to the innovative and sensitive care provided by BC Women’s Oak Tree Clinic.
In 17 years, not one HIV positive mother fully treated by our drug regimen
has given birth to an HIV positive baby.
No child receiving treatment for HIV has died in BC since 1996.
BC Women’s is a global leader in HIV/AIDS research, treatment, and care. Oak Tree Clinic is the only program of its kind in British Columbia, providing diagnosis, treatment, care and support for every single HIV+ woman and child in BC. Women are now a high risk group, in part because of the lack of awareness about women’s vulnerability to HIV. Young women between the ages of 15-29 – prime childbearing age – are being hit the hardest, accounting for 45% of positive test results in Canada. The need for sensitive and appropriate support for women living with HIV is greater than ever.
We need your help to continue to offer valuable services and peer support groups to provide more connection, knowledge, and hope to HIV+ women. Your generosity will help women with HIV live healthier, happier lives.
Both boys endured poking, prodding and multiple surgeries while the hard-working staff of the Newborn ICU worked to keep them alive. Sadly, after a 6 week battle, our dear son Nikhil passed away. Our son Kai made his brother proud and continued to fight, and after a long 4 month stay in the NICU was finally discharged home.
Since his discharge Kai has thrived and continues to amaze us. My family and I are eternally grateful for the wonderful, professional, knowledgeable staff in the NICU who cared for Nikhil and helped Kai survive and thrive to become the happy, energetic toddler he is today.
This June I will be running the Scotiabank Half Marathon for Nikhil and Kai, and raising funds for the NICU so they can continue to provide excellent care to other families.
It’s your support that helped fund the medical expertise, facilities and state-of-the-art technology that saved Herschel’s life at BC Women’s Hospital. This is his story…
Herschel’s mom, Shalu Duggal Sharma remembers having “a perfect pregnancy,” which she hoped to follow with an equally perfect delivery. However, what she hadn’t counted on was “the unexpected.”
When Sharma arrived at BC Women’s, feverish and gripped by contractions, the maternity team immediately hooked her up to a fetal heart monitor. “It showed that our baby had a high heart rate, but after each contraction the heart rate dropped,” says Sharma. “Within minutes I was in the OR for an emergency C-section.”
But, the emergency didn’t end there. During delivery, Sharma’s newborn son breathed in amniotic fluid and meconium – a potentially life-threatening respiratory crisis. Thankfully, baby Herschel was in the right place to get the care he needed.
After clearing the fluid from the baby’s lungs, doctors quickly transferred him to the BC Women’s Newborn ICU for the highest level of critical care – care that included intravenous antibiotics, mechanical breathing support and a nasal feeding tube.
“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare seeing their baby in distress,” says Sharma. “It was a very emotional time. Thankfully, the medical care Herschel received, and the emotional care we received were phenomenal.”
Thanks to you, when life throws young families an unexpected curve, BC Women’s Hospital is there to catch them.
Little Herschel is now one year old! Here he is with his mom and dad at the CTV launch of the BC Women's Newborn ICU Campaign.
Then, just shy of 25 weeks, my water broke. It was a really scary time for us, but the doctors and nurses at BC Women’s were incredible. They helped me keep my baby inside as long as possible, but at 28 weeks I had to have a C-section and our baby girl Leni was born. At just under two pounds she was so small that my son Hy called her his ‘tiny toy baby.’ Leni endured weeks of intensive care at BC Women’s Newborn ICU, which was nothing short of excellent. It was so abundantly clear – in every step of our journey – that we were in the best hands. No matter what happened, the doctors and nurses always gave us reasons to be positive, and I’m so grateful for that. Last year, I decided to do something to give back. Hy and I signed up with the BC Women’s Baby Steps Team in the 2014 Scotiabank 5K Run to raise money for the Newborn ICU. Our friends and family were so supportive and so generous! We look forward to doing what we can to support BC Women’s Hospital for the rest of our lives.
“I felt depressed,” says the Spanish-speaking Vargas Gracia through an interpreter. “I was worried about the pain in my abdomen, but I didn’t know anyone here. I had no idea where to get help.”
A neighbour told her about BC Women’s Hospital, which thanks to your support, now operates two one-of-a-kind clinics designed to help immigrant women access healthcare – The Newcomer Women’s Health Clinic and New Beginnings Maternity Clinic. It was here she quickly received the help she needed.
“We know that access to healthcare is vital to helping immigrant women and their families really get settled and integrate into the community,” says Dr. Stephanie Fisher, Medical Director of Reproductive Medicine at BC Women’s.
The Newcomer Women’s Health Clinic was initially launched to reach Asian women, because research showed that their rates of cervical cancer were double those of the general Canadian population. By providing these women with access to pap smears and other testing, the program could dramatically reduce their cancer rates.
The New Beginnings Maternity Clinic was created to provide comprehensive maternity and primary care for pregnant immigrant women – from conception through delivery and postpartum – who would otherwise not have access to maternal/child care.
“Women who are new to Canada have nowhere to get basic healthcare, screening, contraception or STI testing,” says Fisher.
Now, newcomer women have access to culturally sensitive clinics where they can receive prenatal and postpartum care, pap smears, mammograms and education on navigating the medical system, all with the support of counsellors and translators.
For Vargas Gracia, the services of the BC Women’s New Beginnings Maternity Clinic have made a big difference. Today, thanks to you, the new mom and her infant son get regular checkups at the clinic, and are a healthy and thriving family.
“I am very happy that [my son] was born here, because there is so much expertise,” says Vargas Gracia. “They really took care of me.”
Written by Melissa Edwards and featured in Women's Spring 2015 magazine
Julie and her beautiful baby boy, Wilson Samuel photographed by Claudette Carracedo
Within an hour, the Infant Transport Team arrived at the hospital to transfer Savanna, now clinging to life, to BC Women’s Hospital’s Newborn ICU.
“That first night we almost lost her,” says Michelle. “She had multi-organ failure and needed many blood transfusions.”
A CT scan also showed spots in Savanna’s brain, which doctors hoped would heal if they could stabilize her condition. To help that healing, she was placed on a ventilator and then put into an induced coma for over a week. Michelle didn't get to hold her baby for 10 agonizing days.
“After she was taken off the ventilator and could breathe on her own, she was slowly taken out of her coma and she opened her eyes,” says Michelle. “Every single day after that we saw improvement. We knew she would come home.”
Savanna was in the Newborn ICU for six weeks, where a team of top specialists helped her recover and ultimately return to her family.
“You never think about these things happening until you actually go through them,” says a grateful Michelle. “If we hadn’t had BC Women’s Newborn ICU and the amazing doctors and nurses, Savanna wouldn’t be here – running, singing and laughing.”
Michelle and her husband, Mike, knew they wanted to do something to thank BC Women’s Hospital so, with the support of friends and family, they hosted a fundraising dinner at Coquitlam’s Sokela Restaurant. Together, they raised more than $8,000 for the Newborn ICU – funds that will help ensure critically ill babies from across BC continue to receive the highest level of life-saving care – just like Savanna.
This year, Savanna's family has decided to support the BC Women's Newborn ICU once again - through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge on June 28th. Michelle will be running with the goal of raising $1,500 for this worthy cause.
Pregnancies don’t always go according to plan. Just ask Catherine Bertheau. One moment she was out walking her dog Paxton, and the next she and her partner, Paul Grunberg, were rushing to BC Women’s Hospital. At just 24 weeks, Catherine’s water suddenly broke putting the couple’s unborn son at imminent risk of premature delivery.
“Even though I had no contractions, they started steroid treatment right away to develop the baby’s lungs and help prevent infection,” says Catherine. “Although everything was so uncertain at the time, we knew we were in the best place possible, with the highest level of care available, so things would be okay.”
Catherine was transferred to BC Women’s Evergreen antepartum unit. Here, she read up on premature babies and BC Women’s NICU as she patiently waited for her unborn son to grow – but she didn’t wait long.
At 26 weeks, six days gestation, baby Adrien arrived early, “screaming at an incredible volume, even though he was so tiny and looked like a little red kitten,” says Catherine. He was immediately rushed to the Newborn ICU (NICU).
Over the next four months, Adrien’s parents and the entire NICU team focused their care and attention on supporting his healthy growth. Today, he’s a healthy, active little boy.
“We are forever thankful for the care we received at the NICU and hope our story can give families who are going through a similar experience an extra bit of courage.”
Please help the smallest babies during times of medical crisis with your donation.
By Ann Collette for Women's Magazine Fall 2014
Doctors at BC Women’s Hospital performed an emergency cervical cerclage (sewing the cervix closed) to prevent premature labour, and then transferred Mari to the Antepartum Unit for nine weeks of strict bed rest (many weeks of which were spent literally upside down) to give her babies the best chance for survival.
Despite bed rest for mom, and other interventions, twin girls Isla and Elizabeth were born 11 weeks premature, ailing and in urgent need of specialized medical care. They were immediately transferred to BC Women’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit for the highest level of critical care, where they stayed for the next two-and-a-half months.
“It was an extremely stressful time,” remembers Sean, “but we knew we in were in the right place for our babies.”
Looking back on their ordeal, Sean and Mari, now the proud parents of two healthy one-year-olds, are still awed by the care they received at BC Women’s every step of the way.
“The support, compassion and professionalism from the physicians to the residents to the nursing staff to the cleaning staff was incredible,” says Sean. “All of them, in their own way, contributed to Mari’s care.”
Deeply grateful for the care they received at BC Women’s, the Sean and Mari now pay forward their gratitude by supporting BC Women’s Hospital Foundation.
“We felt that we had received so much from BC Women’s that it was incumbent on us to give back generously,” says Sean. “The support we got was so profound, and the value to community was so evident, that it is something we feel great about supporting.”
My name is Shannon Chung and I am the mother of Danica and Teagan. They are still too young to write all by themselves about how they celebrated their birthdays this year so I will give them a hand.
On Sunday June 29th 2014 Nelson (my husband) and I helped our girls raise money for BC Women’s Newborn ICU "Hope Starts Here" campaign. We are very proud and excited to say that with the help of our family and friends, we were able to raise close to $14,000.00!! Our goal was $10,000.00 and all I can say is it is amazing what happens when people come together for a great cause. Anything is possible.
What motivated us to do this? My husband and I both feel that our girls are so fortunate. They have puzzles, games, art sets, musical instruments and most importantly great health due to BC Women's amazing level of care. It became very obvious to us that we want our girls to live a life of gratitude and one of the ways to do this is to lead by example. We are so lucky to live in the heart of Vancouver and so close to BC Women's. Without BC Women’s it is possible that myself or my first born Danica may not be here today. What seemed like a routine normal natural birth turned into an emergency c-section. I do not need to go into details, but what I must say is that I somehow knew that all would be okay even in the seriousness of the situation. The BC Women’s medical staff were professional yet compassionate. Their competence surpassed my already high preconceived expectations, the equipment was state of the art and ultimately I felt that I was in the best hands.
How did we come up with the idea to help? A few months ago I saw that BC Women’s is in need of $17,000,000 million dollars to keep up their level of care. So we talked to Danica and she seemed to love the idea that instead of gifts from everyone, our friends and family can make a donation to all the tiny patients at BC Women’s Hospital Foundation Newborn ICU so that other families can have healthy babies too.
Lastly, it was an amazing experience. We all had fun and it feels amazing to help. I truly want to thank BC Women’s for my amazing experience and I want to thank all the nurses that helped me along the way in the middle of the night when I could barely move and didn't know what to do.
The Chung Family
Jennifer Findlay remembers her delight when she first saw the image of her baby boy during an ultrasound. He looked tiny and perfect. The picture would come to haunt her a few days later.
Twenty-three weeks and six days into her pregnancy, Findlay went into early labour. As she rushed to the Abbotsford hospital, she kept remembering the ultrasound image.
“I knew he wasn’t ready,” she said. “He wasn’t finished yet.”
Born Sept. 1, 2013, the baby weighed 1.7 pounds. He couldn’t breathe, eat or regulate his temperature on his own and was immediately intubated and transported to the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) at B.C. Women’s Hospital.
He would be among the smallest babies cared for at the hospital that year.
“I didn’t know if there was any hope,” said Findlay. “I was so scared.”
About 1,200 babies are admitted each year to the NICU at B.C. Women’s Hospital. More than half are premature.
Fifty years ago, a baby born at 24 weeks’ gestation had a slim to no chance of survival. But with steady advances in technology and care over the decades, the smallest and sickest babies are beating the odds more often.
A baby born at 24 weeks now has a 70 to 75 per cent chance of survival in Canada, said Dr. Brian Lupton, medical director of the B.C. Women’s NICU. Ten years ago, the percentage would have been 10 to 20 points lower.
“We’re not talking about enormous leaps,” Lupton explained. “But over the decades, we are seeing improvements in survival and improvements in long-term outcomes.”
Lupton calls the gains “hard fought” — a description Findlay and her husband, Aaron Wood, understand better than most.
As their baby hovered between life and death, the couple struggled to grasp the numbers and percentages related to survival and long-term complications.
Wood said they kept coming back to one simple thought: “We were not going to give up.”
They named their son Izak-Jaron, his second name a tribute to their first son, a baby they lost to pneumonia when he was two months old.
When medical staff asked them if they wanted to stop treatment for Izak-Jaron, their answer was no.
• • • • • •
Dozens of life-and-death dramas play out each day in the B.C. Women’s NICU.
The 60-bed ward is a busy place, separated into several large, open rooms, each containing about 12 incubators.
Surrounding many of the incubators are various life-sustaining machines, as well as parents and medical caregivers.
In the middle is the baby.
Neonatologist Dr. John Smyth said Izak-Jaron had two brain bleeds that were detected after his birth, causing doctors to be concerned about brain damage. His immediate survival also depended on his lung function.
“The lungs need to be well enough developed to sustain life,” said Smyth.
“A ventilator will assist, but it can’t do anything if there is not enough lung there.”
Izak-Jaron was given oxygen and surfactant therapy to help his lungs inflate.
The groundbreaking treatment, which replaces a protein missing in the lungs of premature babies, has saved many lives since its introduction almost 25 years ago.
Still, Izak-Jaron’s parents recall several days when it was “touch and go.”
Ten days after he was born, Izak-Jaron had his first surgery to remove a damaged and inflamed portion of his intestine.
After that, he began to stabilize. One month later, he had another surgery, this one to close off a small artery near his heart that should have closed after birth.
In mid-December, he had a third surgery to halt the progression of an eye disease that premature babies sometimes suffer as a result of not being able to cope with varying levels of oxygen.
In all, Izak-Jaron had 23 blood transfusions during his time in hospital.
Through everything, Smyth said doctors continued to be most concerned about his lungs. Entering the new year, the baby still couldn’t breathe on his own.
Meanwhile, Findlay and Wood had put their belongings into storage and moved into the Easter Seals House near the hospital.
The days and nights blurred together as they sat beside their son’s incubator, crowded by beeping machines.
The average NICU stay is between 10 days and two weeks, said NICU medical director Lupton, though about 20 per cent of patients stay one to three days, while another 20 per cent stay 20 days to a year.
Only three per cent of babies spend more than three months in the NICU.
Those babies become especially dear to the nurses who care for them daily, said the NICU’s program manager, Julie De Salaberry, during a recent tour of the NICU.
On this day, two nurses stood beside a baby’s crib making silly faces as a tiny girl beamed back at them.
“Baby comfort volunteers,” with parental permission, attended to infants who were crying and unsettled, touching them gently, tucking in their blankets or offering a soother.
Scattered around the NICU are rocking chairs. In one of them, a mother held her baby against her chest, enjoying skin-to-skin contact, while another breastfed her baby.
Parents have 24-hour access to the NICU and are considered part of the medical team, said De Salaberry.
“We’re shifting toward a scenario where the focus of care becomes the mother,” she explained.
When possible, treatments and therapies are performed with the baby close to his or her mother. A pilot project is planned to keep some mothers and babies together in the NICU after birth.
B.C. Women’s is part of the Canadian Neonatal Care Network, which allows doctors from across Canada to collaborate on research. The network also publishes a report comparing NICU data from various hospitals to shed light on areas of success and challenge.
The work aims to understand both the short- and long-term effects of treatment decisions and to inform future care.
In 1993, 21 years ago, William Walker was born at B.C. Women’s at just over 26 weeks’ gestation. He weighed two pounds.
Now a bioengineering student at the University of Washington, Walker said he was put in what was then a “cutting-edge” incubator that monitored his oxygen levels.
“I think the care I received is what has allowed me to live a normal life,” he said.
• • • • • •
One month and one day after his birth, Findlay held Izak-Jaron for the first time.
“It took a team of four people to put him in my arms,” she recalled. “I had to sit perfectly still, but he loved it. He started to thrive with the skin-to-skin contact.”
Early in 2014, Izak-Jaron’s life became a little more normal as he was finally weaned from the machines that helped him breathe.
Six months after his birth — after 190 days in hospital — he was discharged.
His parents call the doctors, nurses and medical staff who helped to save his life their “dream team.”
The B.C. Women’s NICU recently launched a $17-million fundraising campaign to provide new equipment for the nursery.
Several years ago, hospital leadership identified the NICU as the “top area of need,” explained Laurie Clarke, CEO of the B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation.
“They were struggling to keep up with aging equipment and technology,” she said.
The public phase of the campaign began in May and soon crossed the $10-million mark. The money has already gone toward state-of-the-art incubators, ventilators and monitors, which provide more precise care.
With $7 million to go, Clarke said the new technology is also key to attracting and retaining top medical staff.
The NICU will benefit from a new building at the end of 2017, changing its structure and practices in a dramatic way by eliminating the open-bay ward in favour of 70 single rooms with space for a parent to stay the night.
It’s expected the new NICU will provide a quieter and darker environment for the babies, while also reducing infection and making it easier for families to be together.
“We’re very excited about what the future will bring,” said Lupton.
As Izak-Jaron’s first birthday approaches, Findlay and Wood are also excited about their son’s future.
He’s a happy baby who likes attending baseball games with his dad, said his grandmother Marcia Belisle, who lives with the family.
“He wakes up every morning with a smile on his face,” she said.
At 15 pounds, he’s growing well and recently started eating rice cereal.
He remains on oxygen as his lungs continue to recover, and he may eventually require another surgery to deal with the effects of the brain bleeds, said Smyth.
While it remains unclear what impact his early days will have on his future development, Izak-Jaron is seeing an infant-development specialist at B.C. Children’s Hospital.
As they always do after an appointment at the hospital, Findlay and Wood recently took their son to visit his “dream team” in the NICU.
Dr. Smyth and several other staff were on hand to say hello.
“I love to see all of their reactions when they see how well he’s doing,” said Findlay.
“When you look at him today, it’s hard to believe everything he went through.”
• Surfactant therapy: The discovery that premature infants who died of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) were lacking a substance called surfactant (which helps the lungs inflate) led to the introduction of surfactant therapy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The game-changing treatment led to a significant reduction in neonatal mortality.
• Infection control: Recent research has shown that preterm babies are more susceptible to infections because their immune systems are not fully developed.
• Dietary advances: The B.C. Women’s NICU has a special room where mothers can pump breast milk, which is then stored until needed. The smallest babies are fed through a feeding tube. If babies require more calories, the breast milk is supplemented with the correct nutrition.
• Technology: Advances in equipment such as incubators, ventilators and monitors allows doctors to be more precise when dealing with tiny volumes of air, medication and food. Regulating oxygen is key to preventing eye damage in premature babies.
— Source: B.C. Women’s Hospital medical staff
THE GREY ZONE
The B.C. Women’s NICU is a place of miracles — and of sorrow.
NICU program manager Julie De Salaberry said staff are there to support families “through the whole journey,” including times when treatment isn’t successful or possible.
Advances in neonatal care can present doctors and families with difficult decisions, said Dr. Anita Ho, associate professor at the University of B.C.’s Centre for Applied Ethics.
The “grey zone,” or limit of viability — the level of maturity below which survival is unlikely or would result in grave disability and suffering — is typically pegged at 23 to 24 weeks.
“The grey zone keeps falling,” said Ho.
With life-and-death decisions come ethical questions about what is best for the child, as well as issues of resource allocation in a taxpayer-funded system.
“It’s sometimes not a question of if we can, but should we?” said Ho.
Complicating the discussion is the difficulty doctors have judging future quality of life.
B.C. Women’s neonatologist Dr. Pascal Lavoie agrees more research is needed to accurately predict outcomes for very premature babies.
“Much of it depends on how unstable and sick they are in the early days,” he said.
Families and medical staff sometimes decide to withdraw care to prevent undue pain and suffering.
Lavoie said parents can suffer from post-traumatic stress as a result of the time their baby spends in the NICU.
“To have their child between life and death for a period of time is very difficult,” he said.
But while his job is often a “heavy responsibility,” it brings much joy as well. Near the hand-washing station at the entrance to the NICU is a bulletin board plastered with thank-you cards. Almost all are accompanied by a picture of a smiling child.
Born 4 months too early, Sior was desperately premature – his fragile lungs barely formed, and his thimble-sized heart struggling to beat.
Just 48 hours after his birth, Sior’s tiny body went into life-threatening distress. For 12 frightening minutes, BC Women’s Newborn ICU team fought to resuscitate him. The crisis would mark the beginning of an incredible journey. One that would put all of the Newborn ICU’s equipment and expertise to the test.
After nearly five months in hospital, 45 days on a ventilator, one heart operation, blood transfusions, x-rays,tubes, needle pokes, masks and tears, baby Sior went home with his family. Now almost three years old, he is happy, healthy and thriving.
"We never imagined we'd be in the NICU. The thing is, you don't know just how badly you'll need it until you're there. It's everyone's hospital."
Leslie Thomas, Sior's mom (pictured above with Sior at 1 year)
Find out about the Newborn ICU at BC Women's Hospital.
Leanne stayed in Vancouver and stayed with her baby boy in the NICU from early morning 'til late at night for 3 months while Coopers father Steve stayed at home with their daughter Maija at their home in Kitimat. Though it was a rough start, and they all missed each other desperately they said they formed friendships with other NICU families that will last a lifetime.
Leanne and her new friends Michelle, Krystal, Natalie and Kylie were all from out of town and all staying at Easter Seals. They would all drive to BC Women's together in the morning, eat lunch, dinner and even pump together! They lived through good days and bad days together. "It was the best of the worse experience of their lives." says Leanne, adding “you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."
Grateful to the doctors and RT’s for their support, she attributes her survival through this stressful time to her three incredible nurses – Heather, Laura and Kylie and her NICU friends. "This experience brought me so close to so many incredible people."
Cooper is now three years old and is thriving. He's the same height and weight as his playmates, can ride a bike, play hockey and is chatting up a storm! He's an inspiration!
Michelle, Krystal, Leanne, Natalie and Kylie in the NICU together.
Cooper - Hockey Star!!
“I knew there was a chance I could come home with one – or even no –babies,” says Lilly.
Thankfully, her babies’ odds improved dramatically when Lilly was referred to BC Women’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic – BC’s top centre for woman facing high-risk or complicated pregnancies. For the next 18 weeks, Lilly was in the care of a team of highly specialized physicians and nurses.
“The team monitored the twins regularly, day after day, week after week,” says Lilly. “I knew the odds of a successful outcome would be much better with that kind of vigilance.”
Then, on August 15, one of the babies developed critical blood-flow changes and stopped growing. Lilly underwent an emergency C-section to deliver Samantha and Rebecca. But, born at 29 weeks, the babies’ health crisis was far from over.
The twins were transferred to the Newborn ICU for breathing support and blood transfusions, and Rebecca also underwent heart surgery. It would be 57 days before Lilly could hold them in her arms.
“I knew the NICU was the best place for them,” remembers a tearful Lilly, “but it was still heartbreaking to go home at the end of the day and leave them behind in the hospital.”
After 95 days, the entire family finally reunited at home.
Thanks to your support, the young mom who feared she might lose both her babies smiles broadly as she embraces her healthy, joyful little girls.
Story written by Gail Johnson
Photo of Rebecca and Samatha at home by Claudette Carracedo
My first child, Alexandra, had arrived two months early and spent six long weeks in the Newborn ICU. After going through this difficult time and knowing that my pregnancy with my second daughter was high-risk, I worried that she too would also be premature. But I had faith in my team of specialists at BC Women's Hospital.
I knew they were monitoring me and my baby carefully and doing everything within their power to help me carry her to term.
I am so pleased to tell you that I gave birth to our little Maggie, a healthy, full-term little girl on February 12. Here she is pictured in the hospital, barely one day old!
Maggie entered the world crying vigorously, weighing seven and a half pounds. She spent her first few hours snuggled in our arms. It was a peaceful contrast to the drama after her big sister’s birth - Alexandra was immediately whisked away to the Newborn ICU.
We’re so grateful that Maggie is a healthy little baby! This is because the BC Women’s team was with us every step of the way.
Early in my pregnancy I received a special suture designed to help stop my uterus from going into labour too soon.
Despite this, on Christmas Day I went into pre-term labour. It was eight weeks too early and seemed it like history was repeating itself. Thanks to advances in high-risk maternity care at BC Women’s, my doctors were prepared. They administered a drug therapy to stop the contractions, as well as medication to help our baby's lungs mature in case they were unable to stop my labour. Fortunately, the contractions ended after three days, and I was sent home on bed rest. Monitored closely all the way, I made it to full-term!
Right after she was born, and they placed her on my tummy, I had a wave of relief that we'd done it. I had visualized that moment since the beginning of my pregnancy - that moment was when she was with me and she was OK - everything was over and done and she was safe.
I recognize that our medical team did everything within their power to prevent Maggie from being born too early. The expertise and tender loving care provided at BC Women's made a critical difference for our family.
Now we are home six weeks and settling into our new family routine. Alexandra loves to stand over Maggie's swing singing songs to her and tells everyone she meets that she is a big sister now. A few days ago, we packed up all of Alexandra's preemie clothes to donate to the NICU, happy we didn’t need them a second time.
Now as we enjoy first coo's and smiles, I am so grateful to Women's for helping to make this wonderful outcome possible for my family, and for all the women and babies that depend on BC Women's.
Preterm labour and why it happens is a growing area of research at BC Women's Hospital. Our hope for the future is that new knowledge from research will lead to simple tests to detect the women at risk of preterm labour, and then new strategies to prevent preterm birth from occurring.
Please make a donation to BC Women's to support this important area of work.
"We will be running to say “thank you” for the happy and robustly healthy almost three-year-old little girl who is my son’s younger sister. Our daughter was born at less than 28 weeks gestation at BC Women’s Hospital. She weighed only 2lbs 2oz, and spent more than 2 months in the Newborn ICU at BC Women’s. I also lived at BC Women’s Hospital for 3 weeks because my water broke when I was less than 25 weeks into my pregnancy with her.
It may sound strange—because no one would choose to deliver a baby prematurely—but my husband and I feel profoundly grateful for having had this experience at BC Women’s Hospital. The time that we spent in the hospital (first with me staying there and my husband bringing our then three-year-old son to visit every day, then with my husband and I taking turns spending days and evenings in the NICU with our tiny, precious baby girl) was difficult, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences either of us has had in our lives.
The care my daughter and I received was nothing short of excellent. It was so abundantly clear—in every step of our journey through the various stages of a high-risk pregnancy and in the post-partum care my baby and I received—that we were in such good hands. As a family, we were welcomed and supported and celebrated as important partners in giving our daughter the best chance she could have at surviving, and ultimately thriving, despite her early introduction to the world.
I remember how my son was welcomed to the NICU to visit his little sister (he called her his “tiny toy baby”) and would stand on a chair by her incubator, singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star softly to her. Today, when people remark (as they often do) on how good my son is with his little sister, I can’t help but think of those moments… and wonder if their closeness might have something to do with his early education in just how precious life is, and how fragile it can be.
Our debt to this Hospital is not one we can ever hope to repay, but we are so grateful for the vibrant life, and the lessons, that have come of our time there. We look forward to doing what we can to support BC Women’s Hospital for the rest of our lives."
Pictured top: Big brother Hy and baby Leni home together after a 2 month stay in the Newborn ICU
Pictured right: A family photo with a now 6 year old Hy and 3 year old Leni!!
To sponsor this amazing little guy on his run please visit his fundraising page!
Alone and terrified, I waited. Listening and praying for a sound – any sound. Yet, still no wail of a newborn baby, no cries from Erin.
After what seemed an eternity, they told me Erin was fine. However, there were complications with the baby. My heart sank.
The doctor put his hand on my leg. He said the words no parent should ever have to hear. “I am so sorry,” he said, I don’t think your baby is going to make it… he hasn’t been breathing for 15 minutes.”
A million thoughts ran through my head — Would Erin survive this? Would we survive this? But I still had faith, I still prayed.
After a call to my mom, the doctor came back into the room. “We have never seen this before,” he said. “After 18 minutes we were able to resuscitate your child.”
My wife Erin came out of her sedation and the next thing I remember we were in the Newborn ICU. It was there I saw Greyson for the first time.
I am actually getting goose bumps as I type this – he was amazing – so perfect and at 1 lb, 14 oz, so teeny-tiny. I got my first picture of him and quietly feared it would be his only one.
Each day is a new miracle and he’s come a long way. Would I wish this experience on anyone? Not on my worst enemy. Yet I wouldn’t give it up for the world – our Little Lion is here and I love him and his mother more and more each day.
Greyson earned the nickname "Little Lion", as he was born under the Leo stars, but more importantly he has shown courage, determination and strength. He fought through heart surgery, a brain hemorrhage, chronic lung disease and underdeveloped hearing and vision to develop into the healthy one year old he is today! Watching him grow and fight has been inspiring to our family.
Being the parents of an extremely premature and tiny baby has been a roller coaster, the highs of the love we have for our beautiful son but also the lows of terrifying illnesses and complications.
Greyson wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the prayers of family and friends and the skill of the dedicated doctors and nurses at BC Women’s Newborn ICU.
But it takes more than skill and dedication to give babies like our son the best chance of a healthy life.
During his stay in the Newborn ICU, Greyson was supported by the miracles of neonatal medicine and research, including the high-tech equipment needed to keep him alive and growing.
As parents and donors, we can help BC Women's provide the very best critical care to newborns and their families.
Please join us in giving to BC Women's to ensure that the Newborn ICU is always ready for babies like our son Greyson.
From the bottom of our hearts – thank you!
Photos from left to right:
1. The first photo taken of our baby boy. I quietly feared it would be his only one.
2. Here he is just after he broke out of an induced coma. He looked up at my Godmother Jean and smiled at her like he had known her forever. It made her cry.
3. Enjoying life outside - I love him more and more each day.
4. Our little lion, we're so proud of him.
Please make a donation this holiday season to help babies like Greyson.
Story and images by Jamie O'Neill
Top photo by Dan Ferguson, Langley Times
Baby Charlotte Epp came into the world three-and-a-half months premature. Every system in her tiny body was underdeveloped, including her lungs. Charlotte could not have survived without the specialized care and technology made possible by you, our donors.
“The second Charlotte was born, she was in distress.” remembers Susan Epp, Charlotte’s grandmother. “Honestly, we really didn’t know if she’d make it.”
“With premature babies like Charlotte, the alveoli haven’t matured, so the normal exchange of gases can’t happen,” says Gary Stacey, Professional Practice Coordinator, Respiratory Therapy, BC Women’s Hospital’s Newborn ICU - Pictured with Charlotte at right.
To support her breathing, Charlotte was placed on a ventilator, a device that gently pulses oxygen into the lungs via an inserted breathing tube. However, after weeks on breathing support, a new problem emerged.
“As Charlotte got older, the alveoli in her lungs developed abnormally,” says Stacey, who cared for Charlotte during her crisis. “When this happens, conventional ventilation no longer works, so we had to try something else.”
Thanks to donors like you, and a special donation made by the Thomas Family, baby Charlotte had access to specialized respiratory technology called Jet Ventilation. It was critical in saving Charlotte’s life because it was the only thing that could deliver oxygen in the very tiny puffs her lungs could handle.
“Charlotte was one of the first babies that we put on the Jet Ventilator for this condition,” says Stacey. “She taught us that Jet Ventilation can be used for unique situations like this. We were amazed and overjoyed as we watched her go from pale to pink.”
Charlotte’s slow journey to recovery continued for many more weeks, but ultimately it was the Jet Ventilator that gave her the life-saving support she needed until her lungs were ready to breathe on their own.
And thanks to you, this special technology and respiratory expertise is there at BC Women’s when premature babies, like Charlotte, need it most.
Being separated from my baby daughter for six weeks was the single most painful experience of my life.
It's just not right to wake up on Christmas morning without your newborn under your own roof.
When I found out I was expecting a January baby, I didn’t expect to spend the holidays at BC Women’s Hospital. But Alexandra arrived two months early, and she spent her first Christmas in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
On that Christmas morning, as my husband and I headed out to spend the day in the NICU, we were keenly reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. The only present we wanted was to see her tiny, peaceful face.
Leaving for the night was always the hardest. What I wouldn't have given to have her beside me while we both recovered!
The fact that Alexandra was alive was a gift in itself - I almost miscarried when I was 20 weeks pregnant. After that, I spent the rest of the time on strict bedrest. And I found out that there are still many mysteries about why some women go into labour and give birth too soon.
In the ideal world, there would be no premature babies. No moms separated from their newborns on Christmas morning.
This year, I anticipate the holidays with a mixture of joy and fear. You see, Christmas is coming, and I’m pregnant again…
The holidays draw near, my bump continues to grow, and the memories of Alexandra's birth have a way of flooding back.
But I have hope.
I would never have tried for a second child had I not felt confident that my doctor has a treatment plan to minimize my risk of having the baby arrive too soon.
And I have faith.
All will be well whenever Alexandra's little sister chooses to join us because BC Women’s Hospital is there.
Please join me in supporting BC Women’s Hospital. Make a holiday gift today to help moms like me carry my baby to term. And help babies like Alexandra live.
P.S. Every time I hug Alexandra, I appreciate the amazing care that we both received at BC Women’s Hospital. Breakthroughs in research help to make this care possible. Please help by making a donation to BC Women’s Hospital today.
The day after Rachelle Tambeau was induced at BC Women’s – Mother’s Day – is a day she’ll never forget.
Even now, when Rachelle tells the story of waiting to hear news of her newborn, she’s pulled back into the painful emotions of the delivery room. No one is ever ready to hear that they may need to think about the worst, especially after having carried a healthy baby to full term.
When the doctor told Rachelle that her daughter was “currently stable” she naturally felt confused and was afraid that her baby might die. She said, “I realized later that was exactly what the doctor was trying to prepare me for.”
In the last five minutes of delivery, Rachelle’s baby began showing signs of distress. She had aspirated meconium, which affects a baby’s breathing, and the level of severity was quite high.
“I was so impressed by the quick response of the hospital team,” she continued. “Right after the diagnosis was given, people began filling the room, and they did everything to avoid putting my baby on cardiopulmonary bypass.”
The response team knew that should an infant need to go on a bypass machine, the chances of her recovering would be greatly reduced.
When Rachelle’s baby girl, Kaidryn–was born, she was immediately taken to critical care where her lungs were drained and then aspirated. She was then treated with surfactant therapy, which helps to keep the air sacs open.
Two anxious hours later, Rachelle saw her little girl for the first time. Poor Kaidryn was hooked up to an aspirator and had been given painkillers to minimize stress and pain. “When I first saw her she was so tired and drugged up, and she had been paralyzed to stop her from breathing on her own,” she explained. “I was so grateful to the nurse who was with her for explaining all the equipment and how it was helping to save my daughter’s life.”
For the next five days, Rachelle camped out in the family room of the hospital–ready to feed Kaidryn at a moment’s notice. There was no way she was going to stay home when she knew that every time she fed Kaidryn was one less tube feeding, and one step closer to getting her home. “The nurses were all so awesome,” said Rachelle. “They would come and wake me whenever it was time for a feeding.”
In the end, what was expected to be a two or three-week recovery period lasted just four days, and it took another day to ensure that Kaidryn was eating well enough to be released.
When asked if she would go to BC Women’s again, there is no hesitation: “Yes! The help and support is amazing.”
An update and a new beautiful photo from Rachelle
"Kaidryn turned 6 this Spring and now in Grade one! This has been a big year for Kaidryn - she learned to ski last winter, water ski this summer, and is a great swimmer!
She can ride a 2 wheeler, lost 5 teeth and just learned to tie her own shoes!! She is feeling very grown up as you can imagine! Above all, Kaidryn loves arts and crafts. She is forever making crafts and special presents for us!"
Rosemary and her husband Paul Thorsen have been making regular monthly donations to Women’s ever since their first baby was born at the hospital in 1993.
“It was my first time and it was just an amazing experience,” Rosemary recalls. “The nurses were lovely—very calm, caring, and professional. They kept offering me ice chips and juice and made sure I was comfortable. I’m sure they were really busy but they still remembered I was there.”
Rosemary’s daughter, Tamara, was born after 28 hours of labour.
“After she was born, they wheeled us into our own little room. I brought Tamara with me, which was great as I was able to keep her in the room with me to breastfeed her,” Rosemary says. “And they allowed my husband to be there. We had a sleeping bag and he slept right next to us. It was like being at home, but we still had all the care we needed.”
After coming home with their new baby, the Thorsens decided to show their appreciation for the hospital in the form of a donation.
“I made a one-time donation at first, then switched to a monthly basis,” Rosemary explains. “Making monthly contributions is a lot easier—you can acclimatize your lifestyle to it.”
Rosemary believes that all people should put part of their income back into the community.
“I believe you need to pay back the world,” she asserts. “And for me, healthcare for women and children is very close to my heart.”
Rosemary hopes that more people will join her in supporting Women’s in the future.
“At the end of the day, you can have tons of money but if you don’t have your health, you don’t really have anything,” she says. “BC Women’s is part of the solution to helping women maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Bhaveena Goradia always felt strongly about breastfeeding. For her, it was a given that when she had her first baby, she would be a breastfeeding mom.
But, when she ended up having an emergency caesarian and giving birth to her son six weeks early, her body wasn’t yet ready to produce milk—and her plans to nourish her baby with breast milk solely looked like they might be thwarted.
That’s when the staff at BC Women’s told Bhaveena about an option she hadn’t considered.
For the first week of his life, Bhaveena’s newborn son, Shiv, was fed a mixture of donated breast milk and Bhaveena’s own milk. Bhaveena pumped every three hours, morning and night, trying to get her own milk to come in. By the end of that week, she was producing enough milk to feed Shiv on her own.
Bhaveena knows first-hand the value of the Milk Bank to a mother who can’t breastfeed her own baby. “Breast milk has so many essential nutrients,” she says.
And for some babies who can’t tolerate formula, it can help make the difference between life and death.
When she returned home with her son, Bhaveena continued to pump and freeze her breast milk. She ended up with more than Shiv needed, so she decided to give something back to the hospital that had helped nourish her newborn.
“I ended up accumulating a lot of extra milk, so I decided to donate it back to the Milk Bank,” she explains. “It was about two to three grocery bags full!”
Bhaveena was happy to show her gratitude to the Milk Bank by becoming a donor, too!
“Hopefully other mothers found my milk useful, too,” she says.
When Akiko Pape realized that she and her husband Daniel were going to have a baby, her first reaction was joy. Her second reaction was nervousness. Akiko is from Japan and she wasn’t sure how she felt about going through pregnancy and childbirth in the Canadian medical system.
“The system here is a bit different compared to Japan,” she explains. “In Japan you have more checkups and stay in hospital longer. Here you’re out of the hospital two or three days after having the baby.”
“It was so amazing, just so great… When I have another baby, I want to have it at BC Women’s.”
As it turned out, Akiko soon discovered she had nothing to worry about, despite having a longer pregnancy than expected.
“I was nine days overdue and I was starting to worry,” she says. “But here in Canada, the doctors don’t induce right away. They say, when babies come, that’s their time.”
That was fine with Akiko, who had her heart set on having as natural a childbirth as possible. Akiko’s contractions finally started but it took another three days for her baby to be born. During that time, Akiko appreciated the efforts of the “cheerful” nurses and the amount of control she was allowed to have over her own labour.
“All of it was up to me. I could drink whenever I wanted, I could be in any position I wanted,” she remembers. “I really appreciated the freedom.”
Thanks to the helpful assistance of the staff, Akiko finally gave birth to her little girl, Anzu, which means “little apricot” in Japanese. Akiko was so grateful for the care she received at Women’s that when her husband’s video production company, Colabo Innovations, staged its first charity fundraising event, she and her husband decided the money should go to the hospital.
“All of my experience was good,” she says. “It was so amazing, just so great… When I have another baby, I want to have it at BC Women’s.”
Kelley’s water broke at 22 weeks (about 5.5 months), and she was put on bed rest at home for two weeks. BC Women’s sent antepartum nurses to her home every day to monitor the baby’s fetal heart rate and ensure Kelley was doing well. “It’s an amazing service that the antepartum nurses provide,” she says. “They’re such caring and compassionate people – they kept us calm through a very scary time.”
As Owen’s delivery approached, Dr. Shelagh Anson from the BC Women’s Newborn ICU visited Kelley. When asked what her “gut feeling” was, Dr. Anson said, “There are many steps still to come and I can’t guarantee anything, but I think you’re going to have a ‘take home’ baby.” Dr. Anson’s words meant the world to Kelley and her husband Mark, and gave them hope.
After a smooth labour and delivery, Owen was brought straight to the NICU. “He weighed 1,270 grams, about 2.5 pounds, just a little bit bigger than a one kilogram package of flour” says Kelley. “It was so surreal seeing my baby in an incubator bubble with tubes, monitors, sensors, and everything beeping, but we knew Owen was in the safest place possible.”
The day after Owen was born Kelley developed a cold and couldn’t visit him for two weeks, so one of the NICU nurses – Hilary – brought a photo of Owen up to Kelley in her room. “The NICU nurses updated us every single day and did everything they could to help us along the journey.”
Owen was brought home after 11 weeks in the NICU, and today is a healthy little 13 month old with a smile that lights up the room!
Kelley and Mark hope people realize what an important service BC Women’s Hospital offer to families and babies born all over BC. “The hospital deserves every bit of support people can give,” says Kelley. “The Newborn ICU helps babies from all over the province. Without the nurses, doctors, and staff, Owen might not be here with us today. We are so grateful.”
Please make a donation to the BC Women's Newborn ICU and help babies like Owen.
On July 14, 2012, baby Jaxon Bloomfield became the third generation of men in his family born at BC Women’s.
The family tradition started with Jaxon’s Grandfather Rick, who was born at Women’s when it was known as Grace Hospital. Rick's wife Anna gave birth to their four children at Grace: Jaxon’s dad, Ryan, and his three siblings Derrick, Brandon, and Kimberlee. In addition to giving birth to four babies here, Jaxon’s grandma Anna works at BC Women’s as a manager.
First time parents Ryan and Ariana Bloomfield had hoped for a traditional birth, but their plans changed after Ariana went into labour with Jaxon. “He wasn’t moving down fast enough and his heart beat started dipping,” explains Ryan, "Waiting longer could have been risky." After talking over the options with their doctor, the couple decided to have a c-section.
Like any new parents, Ryan and Ariana were both nervous while awaiting the arrival of their little boy. Ryan recalls how their nurse went the extra mile to help make the experience a positive one for the family: “Our nurse was awesome. She was done her shift, but she stayed and waited with us for our c-section. You’re really used to people who work in hospitals being a bit tired; the staff here is just so much different. Everyone is happy to be doing their job.”
The c-section went well for both mom and baby. Ryan and Ariana were ecstatic to welcome a healthy 7 lb, 3 oz baby boy into the world. “When he was born, it was a real kick of emotion for both of us,” Ryan remembers.
The men of the family gathered for a memorable photo showing all three generations of Bloomfield men born at BC Women’s. Pictured from left to right: Derrick Bloomfield (Jaxon's uncle and Ryan's older brother), Rick Bloomfield (Jaxon's grandpa and Ryan's dad), Ryan Bloomfield (Jaxon's dad) and Brandon Bloomfield (Jaxon's uncle and Ryan's younger Brother).
After a few days, the new family was ready to head home. Like many new mothers, Ariana struggled with getting Jaxon to breastfeed in his first days. The family spent a few restless nights with a crying baby trying to figure it out on their own, but finally decided to come back to BC Women’s to see a lactation consultant. “We missed our appointment with the lactation consultant while we were in the hospital because of the c-section. There should have been a two week wait, but the lactation consultant understood our situation and fit us in for an hour. She actually let us stick around in her office for three hours and dropped in between her other appointments to check on us. I’m so happy we went – I only wish we’d been sooner. Now we’re all sleeping a lot better.”
After welcoming his beautiful new baby boy into the world, Ryan reflects, “Our experience at BC Women’s was amazing. We really feel like this is the best possible place in the world to give birth, and we’re glad Jaxon was born here.”
The Kjorven family is generously donating proceeds from the sale of an album and t-shirts to BC Women's Newborn ICU. Help the "sickest of the sick" newborn babies in British Columbia:
Around that time, Mike’s wife noticed a ring-shaped rash on his side. At first he thought it was a skin irritation from his bullet-proof vest. He didn’t find out until months later that this mark is the tell-tale sign of Lyme Disease.
It was that summer Mike had his most terrifying experience with Lyme: His heart stopped out of nowhere.
Mike was rushed to emergency, but mysteriously, doctors could not find any signs pointing to a heart attack. “My heart stoppage began me on a battery of tests,” Mike says. “Over 6 years, I went to see everyone from dermatologists to cardiologists. I’ve been to internists, my GP, a neurologist, rheumatologist, even a neuropsychiatrist. Just about any type of physician you could name, I’ve been there. I probably saw 15 doctors through the diagnostic stage.”
On his search for answers, he heard labels that simply didn’t ring true, including the source of his symptoms being depression or his imagination. “It felt like I wasn’t being heard by the doctors. As a police officer, I know you have to collect all the evidence and investigate. I had very real medical symptoms, but no one was putting those pieces together.”
Finally, after a year and a half, a family member pointed Mike towards Lyme Disease. It took time and the fight of his life, but Mike finally got a diagnosis of Lyme Disease and began to receive care.
Until recently, the type of advocacy and knowledge patients like Mike need was not available in BC, or even Canada. He hopes that the BC Women’s Complex Chronic Diseases Program will start Canada on the road to addressing Lyme effectively: “It’s a totally different experience than I was used to. One of my biggest fights has been with the guilt that accompanies the management of a chronic disease. The clinic helps you address that self-doubt and overcome the stigma. They help you come to the understanding that you have to look out for your own health first, followed by your responsibilities. It’s a very compassionate, knowledgeable and understanding system.”
Patients like Mike have big hopes for the future at the clinic: a new and reliable test for Lyme disease, and better understanding from the medical community at large. “If Lyme disease is caught early, it’s often just a short round of treatment and people can get better. But doctors don’t even know about Lyme and its symptoms, like the distinct rash. I don’t want others to go through what I went through. I want Lyme patients to be able to get tested so they can start treatment, so they can avoid the long-term damage to their bodies I’m now dealing with. I think BC Women’s can help get that message to the medical profession.”
Pictured right to left: Mike at the BC Women's Complex Chronic Diseases Program with Lenore Riddell (Nurse Practitioner) and Darci Rosalie (Nurse Coordinator).
You can reach the clinic at email@example.com.
Make a donation to the Complex Chronic Diseases Program and help those like Mike who are suffering from Lyme Disease..
I found out I was pregnant with my twins Rebecca and Samantha in January 2012. Early screening detected limited blood flow between my placenta and my two babies. My girls were flagged as a high risk for Twin to Twin Transfusion syndrome.
On August 15th, the blood flow going to Rebecca looked low and her growth stalled. At 29 weeks into my pregnancy, I needed an emergency caesarean section.
Thus began the journey with our life-saving team of experts in BC Women’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit. While in the Newborn ICU, Rebecca needed significant breathing support. The Jet Ventilator was truly our lifeline for Rebecca and I am not sure if she would be here today without it. When she was born she had an open PDA valve in her heart. Her condition meant she had extra blood going to her lungs, making each breath she took a struggle.
Rebecca in the BC Women’s Newborn ICU, just after getting off the Jet Ventilator
The Newborn ICU team tried a range of different ventilators to try to find something that would work for Rebecca, the Jet Ventilator was the answer. Once on the Jet Ventilator, Rebecca's oxygen level was stable enough to perform the heart surgery that saved her life. Without the Jet Ventilator, she was having a very hard time keeping enough oxygen in her blood, which could have led to developmental issues.
I am deeply grateful that my child had access to this life saving equipment and I hope the same is true for many more families to come.
Samantha (left) and Rebecca (right) celebrate their first birthday!
Samantha (left) and Rebecca (right), healthy and happy in 2013 with their parents, Martin and Lily.
Please make a donation to the BC Women's Newborn ICU and help babies like Samantha and Rebecca.
He was sitting by the bedside of his baby daughter, Kaylee, in BC Women’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Born at 25 weeks, the Dodd’s first child weighed only one pound, 10 ounces (730 grams) and couldn’t breathe or eat on her own.
Her progress had been good, but on that day her heart rate dropped dangerously low and the nurses had to compress her chest, barely the width of the average palm, to get it going again.
The episode showed Kaylee’s dad two things: how fragile life is for these tiny babies and just how dedicated and skilled the nurses are who take care of them.
Today, Kaylee is just like any other lively two-year-old: talking, running and playing, and both parents credit her progress, and theirs as parents, to the care they all received when Kaylee was at BC Women’s Hospital’s NICU.
“We hadn’t had any prenatal classes and we didn’t even have a baby bag ready to go, “says Dodd. “In addition to taking such good care of Kaylee, the nurses eased us into our role as parents, which is even more challenging with a preemie.”
In one of life’s strange twists of fate, Ruby Dodd, a nurse herself, was so inspired by the NICU staff that she decided to join them, paying forward the care that restored her own precious child to health.
Kaylee is now 4 years old and is a very imaginative and outgoing little girl, who loves to make new friends and charm her way into their hearts!
When Laura Williams woke up with severe abdominal cramping one morning in May 2010, she and her husband, Greg, went straight to the hospital. Just five months pregnant, Laura was shocked to discover she was in labour. Two hours later, she gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Elise. Born at just 25 weeks gestation, she weighed just over two pounds.
“We were in total shock and disbelief,” says Greg.
Although Elise appeared healthy, doctors transferred the tiny preemie to BC’s Women’s Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the highly specialized care they knew she’d need to face the potential health challenges ahead. It proved a life-saving decision.
At less than a week old, Elise developed a life-threatening bacterial infection that causes intestinal tissue to die. Over the next few months, she would undergo four delicate abdominal surgeries as well as one heart procedure.
“I was astonished they could operate on someone that tiny,” says Greg. “It was an amazing thing to see the nurses, doctors and surgeons so used to dealing with extremely premature babies. It was very reassuring.”
Today, Elise is a healthy, happy preschooler and big sister to Edward. However, her parents have never forgotten the care she received at BC Women’s.
After their experience at BC Women’s, Greg remembers thinking, “There must be a way we can give back to the hospital to show our appreciation.”
So, last fall, Greg, who plays keyboards and guitar in local bands (when he’s not working in human resources), recruited several of his friends to put on UK Rocks, a special night of music and dancing at a downtown venue. Greg and his friends performed songs by acts like the Cult, the Cure, and Pink Floyd. Meanwhile, Laura coordinated a silent auction. Together they raised more than $4,000 for BC Women’s NICU.
“After having a baby in the NICU, you want to do all you can for the next baby that comes along.” says Laura. “This event was our way to say thank you to everyone on that ward for saving our daughter’s life.”
Please make a donation to the BC Women's Newborn ICU and help babies like Elise.
Originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of Women's Magazine. Free subscription here.
Written by Gail Johnson - Photography by Claudette Carracedo
Within 24 hours, she was desperately ill. “It was like being hit by a truck.” Nicole recalls. “It was tiredness I had never known. It felt like I had a major accident. That was the first day I felt symptoms of Lyme disease. It was about a week later I finally ended up in the ER. From that day forward, my life changed.”
6 weeks before, she was spending Christmas with her boyfriend in Costa Rica. An avid surfer, Nicole traveled the world chasing the perfect wave. While on vacation, Nicole came down with what felt like a bad flu that came with a rash.
When she recovered and came back home to Canada, Nicole never thought she would end up in the Emergency Room. Nicole was tested for a number of illnesses: the prime suspect was Multiple Sclerosis. She was the right age and the symptoms fit. However, her neurologist saw no signs of MS from her MRI.
Still sick, Nicole returned to work and tried to cope with the constant exhaustion. “I started searching for answers, and I visited about 20 doctors over 6 years. I tried everything under the sun, but still no one could help. I was suffering, it was very hard and scary.”
Nicole’s mother started to suspect her daughter had contracted Lyme disease in Costa Rica. She was referred to a tropical disease specialist, but the test came back negative for Lyme. It seemed like a dead end. However, Nicole tested positive for another tick-bourne illness. “The testing in Canada is in the dark ages,” explains Nicole. “Years later, I discovered that people who are infected with the illness I tested positive for very often contract Lyme disease from the same tick.”
Between her trip to Costa Rica and her diagnosis 6 years later, Nicole married her boyfriend and had two beautiful children. However, Nicole was suffering: “It was heartbreaking. It was so sick. I tried everything to make it work, but I had to quit my dream job. I feel really fortunate my husband is able to support our family financially. If I was single and unable to work I don’t know what would have happened to me. ”
Fortunately, along the way Nicole visited a Naturopathic Doctor who listened to her story and felt Lyme Disease could be the answer. This led Nicole on the road to a diagnosis and treatment, but still she encountered doubt and reluctance from medical professionals. “The stigma against Lyme disease is huge in Canada,” Nicole explains. “If I’m seeing a doctor for some other reason, I won’t let him or her know I have Lyme if I can help it. The attitudes I encountered made me doubt myself and my sanity.”
Nicole hopes the tides will change for people with Lyme Disease in Canada. “The BC Women’s Complex Chronic Diseases Program is our only hope in Canada,” Nicole says. “I really appreciate what they are doing. They are the only medical establishment acting as an advocate for us. BC Women’s can push forward and challenge the stigma by educating medical professionals and the public. It will take time, but everyone across the country is counting on BC Women’s to develop a test so we can finally get quality care and acceptance for Lyme Disease.”
You can reach the clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make a donation to the Complex Chronic Diseases Program and help those like Nicole.
Being told that your unborn child has a heart defect is hard on any parent.
That was what Barbara and her husband had to face when they received the results of the 19-week pre-natal screening at BC Women’s. The results indicated that one of their twin daughters had a congenital heart defect.
Thankfully, within hours of hearing the news, a cardiologist was able to do a thorough assessment and help Barbara understand what was happening.
“It is reassuring and comforting to know that there is a huge team supporting you–to know that you and your babies are in good hands,” said Barbara, who described the pre-natal care as excellent. “All of the staff we dealt with were very kind.”
For the duration of her pregnancy, Barbara followed the ultrasound images closely. She even began to recognize the different features of the twins–so much so that she was able to identify them immediately when they were born. “It was almost like I already knew them,” she said.
Three months after her birth, Ingrid had successful surgery. A baby tile for the twins marks their eventful entry into the world on the BC Women’s Chrysanthemum Wall.
“We bought a tile to celebrate the birth of our twins and to show our appreciation for the wonderful care we received at BC Women’s,” said Barbara. “We felt it was the least we could do.”