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