Shaylene Evans and her eight-and-a-half-month-old daughter Aryonna

Shaylene Evans and her eight-and-a-half-month-old daughter Aryonna

Remembering where you came from

Victoria General Hospital hosted its 28th annual neonatal intensive care reunion party, Aug. 9.

Anyone who’s ever had a child knows how even a healthy newborn can feel overwhelming.

But when that new baby is taken to intensive care, the intensity of emotions are almost impossible for most of parents to imagine.

For Dustan and Kerri Roberts, it’s an experience they know all too well. Their 17-month-old daughter Abbygail spent her first three months – 155 days – in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Having a sick newborn was only half the struggle for the family. They were also mourning the loss of Abbygail’s twin, who passed away eight days after being born.

Throughout Abbygail’s stay at the NICU, the staff not only helped care for the child, but they were there for her parents too.

“They really helped with mental support,” said the father.

Last week, the Roberts brought their daughter back to Victoria General Hospital, but this time it was to celebrate.

They joined other families who have experienced life in the NICU. The hospital hosted its 28th annual neonatal intensive care reunion party, Aug. 9.

All of the parents and grandparents bonded with each other and the hospital staff were able to see their former sick patients thrive.

Those staff helped build some wonderful memories for the Roberts family, including Abbygail’s first party.

“On her 100th day in the NICU, I came in and Abbygail was wearing a princess crown. They are our milestones, but not normal milestones,” said Kerri. “It’s really great to see everyone again.”

Dozens of past NICU patients filled the VGH rooftop with their families, some young patients recently discharged and others in their 20s. But the emotional day is also a special one for the staff.

“It’s just so encouraging to see the big kids,” said Dr. Connie Harris, NICU pharmacist. “When we first meet parents in the NICU they are frightened and confused.”

The reunion party is a reminder to Harris and other hospital staff about how their tiny patients grow up and lead fulfilling lives. Harris points out it’s tough to see tiny sick babies and this party allows staff to see the positive outcomes.

It wasn’t that long ago when Shaylene Evans gave birth to her daughter Aryonna with a birth weight of three pounds, two ounces.

“She was three months early,” Evans explained quietly. “I had a lot of bawling sessions.”

The young mother lives in Ladysmith and was able to stay in Victoria to visit her daughter daily through a donation made by the Help Fill a Dream Foundation. She stayed at the Easter Seal House in Victoria and took two buses to the hospital.

“I never missed a day,” Evans said. Dealing with a newborn with a collapsed lung and seizures was a lot for the mother, but she said the care her daughter received from the NICU staff was amazing.

While her daughter Aryonna has grown into a healthier 18 pound baby, she lives with a chronic lung disease and needs to use two inhalers everyday.

Other than coming to the hospital to celebrate her daughter’s achievements, Evans also came to help another family.

She’s meeting a couple whose baby is currently in the NICU with the same lung disease. Evans came to give them support and share her experiences.

No matter how long the stay in the NICU, it’s a tough time for any parent to go through.

Robyn Copp’s daughter, Shonagh, spent 11 days in the hospital, after being born six weeks early.

Now a happy, healthy nine-and-a-half-year-old, she has no recollection of the tough start she had in life. But for her mother, the memories haven’t faded. “It was such a scary time,” recalled Copp, smiling at her daughter beside her. “She was kind of like a half baked cookie.”

charla@goldstreamgazette.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Victoria for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

(Courtesy Saanich Police Dept.)
Police hope boot search will help find missing Saanich man

Sean Hart is known to walk for miles, with or without his boots

A Colwood couple has set up over 140 Christmas inflatable decorations around their property at 555 Girdou Rd. The home is lit with Christmas music playing from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Colwood house decorated to the nines with Christmas inflatables

Display on Girou Road open to spectators from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday

Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. (Don Descoteau/News Staff) 
Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. But thanks to a new program from the Downtown Victoria Business Association, many downtown businesses will soon be able to provide free delivery for customers across the region. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Downtown Victoria businesses offered free delivery for regional customers

DVBA launches ‘Downtown Delivers’ program Dec. 7

Saanich police reported a crash on the Pat Bay Highway near Haliburton Road impacting southbound traffic Friday afternoon. (Google Maps)
UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway clear following two-vehicle crash

Two drivers were transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

Most Read