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

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read