Away from home with a preemie: Why Nick Chowdhury supports a home away from home in Campbell River
Seven-year-old Nathan can light up a room. Just ask his dad, Nick, and you’ll hear about Nathan’s big smile, how he’s always dancing and singing along to music — even when he doesn’t know all the words — and that he’s got a real knack for making his parents and siblings laugh.
Nathan is a special kid, something his parents and two older siblings got to discover altogether when he was born in Victoria in September 2012.
The family lives in Courtenay, and even before Nathan was born, Nick’s wife, Alyna, had to travel far from their home in the Comox Valley for essential health care. She experienced complications throughout the pregnancy, and made trips to Vancouver and Victoria for check-ups. While in Victoria, Alyna stayed in Jeneece Place — and staying in this home away from home meant Nick and the two children, Alicyn and Trent, could visit. The family could be together.
Nick and the kids were getting ready to return home to Courtenay for a few days when Nathan was born at Victoria General Hospital. He arrived nine weeks early, weighing just over three pounds. Because he was born so premature, doctors wanted to monitor his breathing; baby Nathan stayed in the NICU for the next nine weeks.
“Nathan did quite well because of the attention and concern that was raised in the weeks prior to his birth. But he was quite strong and was very quick to breathe on his own,” says Nick.
Jeneece Place was a welcome gem for the entire family, and staying here meant that all four could direct their energy toward the new baby in the NICU. Over the next two months, the Chowdhurys stayed in Jeneece Place, returning home to Courtenay every so often to collect homework or switch out books and toys. Nick was grateful for the normalcy Jeneece Place provided Alicyn and Trent, who could unwind on the couches in the media room after finishing their homework. Mostly, it meant the entire family was there, all together, for baby Nathan during his time in the NICU.
“Without Jeneece Place, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to stay there with my kids. I don’t know if we would’ve seen Nathan as much in the first days of his life,” says Nick. “And although we would have heard how he was doing on a regular basis, we would have felt very detached.”
As a member of the Da’naxda’xw First Nation and elected to sit on First Nations Health Council that same year, representing the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations, Nick knew that many families living in the North Island also had to travel for health care, experiencing the same stresses he had with baby Nathan but without the support network of a home away from home like Jeneece Place.
“Sitting on First Nations Health Council, I had an understanding of the need to travel to Campbell River or Courtenay for health services, when those services were unavailable in the north-end of the Island,” says Nick.
Through his work on the First Nations Health Council, Nick heard from families about how challenging travel to the Comox Valley for health care can be. He heard about the financial burdens and how it’s difficult for family members to travel with their loved ones for appointments and check-ups, offering support. Having experienced Jeneece Place, he knows that a home away from home in Campbell River will ease some concerns for families living in the North Island.
“There are many communities, people in First Nations and non, living north of the Campbell River bridge,” says Nick. “And in all of those communities, there is very limited health care and services. That means the bulk of them are coming first to Campbell River for services.”
Nick has advocated for a Campbell River home away from home since 2012, knowing it will offer comfort, security, and support for all families travelling here for essential health care services.
“The sense of being closer to home is huge for all the communities in the north-end of the Island, First Nations and non.”