Meet Misty, Lucy, and Clara: How Victoria’s home away from home welcomed Campbell River mom with preemie twins
By the time Campbell River mom Misty was pregnant with her twins, she knew what was normal in a pregnancy and what wasn’t. Misty already had three kids and had a good idea of how the next nine months were going to unfold.
But this time, things were different. This time, she was carrying twins, which meant a lot more ultrasounds and a lot more doctors’ visits. Repeatedly, she was told everything was fine. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. And she didn’t find out that something was truly wrong until after her babies were born.
When Clara and Lucy were born
Her twin girls, Clara and Lucy, were born five weeks premature at 35 weeks, delivered by Caesarean section at the Campbell River Hospital. They were tiny – Lucy weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces and Clara weighed 4 pounds, 13 ounces – and neither could eat on their own so both had to be put on feeding tubes.
Despite being born early, the doctors told Misty she could expect to go home the next day. Yet, when the doctor listened to the babies’ hearts, he found that Clara had a heart murmur. Things quickly became overwhelmingly hectic for Misty, who didn’t have any friends or family at the hospital for support.
Misty learned her babies needed to be flown to Vancouver. She learned that the helicopter would be there in just 45 minutes to pick them up. And she learned that there was a good chance they were going without her.
“The nurses came in my room and told me the helicopter was on its way. They said the babies are going [to Victoria], but that I was not in a position to go anywhere. I couldn’t even walk,” says Misty.
But she was determined to make the trip to Victoria. Her dad drove her home so she could throw some clothes into a bag, and she got back to the hospital just in time to take the helicopter to the Victoria General Hospital with her newborn babies. Instead of feeling a sense of relief knowing she’d arrived in Victoria with her babies, Misty felt terrified and alone.
“I had no support system. I was still in a state of shock from having twins. I was struggling financially – I couldn’t afford a hotel at that time,” says Misty. “I thought I was going to have to sign myself into a homeless shelter.”
Jeneece Place: A safe, welcoming space
The nurses back in Campbell River did some research and found out about Jeneece Place, Victoria’s home away from home. When Misty learned she would be able to stay there, just steps from her babies in the NICU in a warm, safe place, she was overwhelmed.
“Walking through the doors of Jeneece Place, I think I was crying. I was in shock, thankful, and just couldn’t believe it. It felt like I won the lottery,” says Misty. “The Jeneece Place staff were just so helpful and supportive,” says Misty. “I remember them saying to me, ‘don’t worry and focus on the baby. You can stay here as long as you need.’”
Misty stayed in Jeneece Place for four nights. During her stay, baby Lucy was doing relatively well – she just needed to be on feeding tubes. But it was after the four nights in Victoria that doctors determined that Clara needed heart surgery, and they were flown to Vancouver.
Supporting the development of Clara
Today, the twins are both busy, happy toddlers. They love music, dancing, and dressing up. However, Clara continues to have health struggles and needs monitoring, meaning Misty makes frequent visits to Victoria General Hospital from Campbell River.
“Since she was born, I’ve had a lot of stays at Jeneece Place. I think at one point we were going to Victoria every month and then every three months. It’s an ongoing thing,” says Misty.
After her heart surgery, Clara had a stroke which affected the left side of her brain. She is visually impaired, on the waitlist for an autism assessment, and is waiting on another heart surgery – she needs a valve replacement and a mechanical valve.
Today, Misty and Clara have the ongoing support of the specialists at Dogwood Place Child and Youth Development Centre. The team’s speech therapists, physiotherapists, and psychologists all work with Clara to aid her development.
Misty also knows she can always count on Jeneece Place, which has truly become a home away from home. Every time they are in Victoria for check-ups, Jeneece Place welcomes them back warmly.
“I think I had to go through the hardest thing in the world. I don’t think I would have mentally made it through that experience if Jeneece Place wasn’t there,” says Misty. “People can get through hard stuff with the help of others – and sometimes that is the only way.”
A home away from home in Campbell River
For families like Misty’s, a home away from home in Campbell River, like Jeneece Place, will be life-altering for communities travelling such great distances from the northern, western, and surrounding regions of the Island. Misty knows first-hand how essential a safe place to stay can be, especially during what’s often the most difficult time in a parent’s and child’s life.
“I think [a Campbell River home away from home] would help families in the same way that Jeneece Place helped me. I think it will be able to hold people together.”
Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island is working to build a home away from home in Campbell River to begin welcoming families in summer 2021. Will you make a gift and help us hold Island families close? Make a gift to our home away from home expansion fund today!