Meet the Gabrielles: How Jeneece Place kept this Port McNeill family together
Jaime’s morning began like any other. It was a regular weekday and she dropped her two boys, nine-year-old Kallen and four-year-old Aceson, at their respective schools in their hometown of Port McNeill. But at lunchtime, Jaime got a call from Aceson’s preschool. He had suddenly developed a high fever.
Despite rest and Tylenol, his health only deteriorated. Soon, Aceson was also coughing and his breathing became laboured and shallow. When his fever spiked yet again, Jaime took him to the Port McNeill Hospital’s emergency department.
Fast-forward a few more hours, and Aceson was in that hospital’s trauma room. An intubation machine was by his side, just in case he needed the machine’s help to breathe. He’d had a chest X-ray, which showed he had pneumonia and subcutaneous emphysema. Simply, Aceson’s breathing problems were serious.
They were so serious that the medical staff in Port McNeill knew they couldn’t care for him here. He needed to be in a paediatric ICU unit in a far bigger hospital.
From Port McNeill to Victoria
Jaime remembers feeling scared as she waited for the airplane to arrive that would transport them both to Victoria General Hospital. For now, they only had each other. Jaime’s husband, Garon, had begun the six-hour drive to Victoria to be with his wife and son for the next step. And Kallen, was in the care of his aunt and uncle in Port McNeill — because Aceson was in quarantine due to the seriousness of his health, Kallen wouldn’t have been allowed to see his brother in Victoria.
After Jaime and Aceson arrived in Victoria, Aceson was admitted to the paediatric ICU right away. And that’s when a new kind of panic set in for Jaime and Garon. They had no idea how long they would need to be in Victoria with Aceson. Doctors had explained to them that Aceson’s hospital stay could last anywhere from two weeks to one month. They felt overwhelmed: they were in a city far from their support network of family and friends, they had no idea how much staying in a hotel for weeks on end could cost, and top of that, they certainly hadn’t brought enough clothing for a long stay.
Finding a home away from home in Victoria
Jeneece Place relieved many worries for the Gabrielles. The same day that they arrived in Victoria, they were told there was a room available for them in Jeneece Place, and it became their home away from home while Aceson recovered.
“We didn’t leave Ace alone for a single minute. Garon and I did four-hour shifts: one of us would rest at Jeneece Place while the other was with our son,” says Jaime. “Then we would switch out. There’s no way we would have been able to do that without Jeneece Place.”
When Garon and Jaime walked down the path from the hospital to Jeneece Place and through its big, welcoming entrance, it felt like coming home. They knew that here, they could relax a little, rest a little, and clean up, before returning to the hospital to care for their son. Jeneece Place was a support system, and also a welcome financial crutch.
“Without Jeneece Place, it would have been stressful financially,” says Jaime. “And then when the doctors are telling you that you could be there for a couple weeks or up to a month, you automatically think, how do we even afford to do this?”
Holding Island families close
Aceson defied the odds: he was discharged after five days. And today, Aceson is a healthy, happy kid who loves playing soccer.
Jaime and Garon know that the five nights they spent at Jeneece Place played an important role in the story of their son’s recovery.
“Knowing that we had Jeneece Place relieved the stress of preparing ourselves to be in Victoria for weeks,” says Jaime. “It allowed us to just stay and focus on Aceson.”
Jaime adds that a home away from home is a safe and family-friendly place that keeps families together when a child receives essential health care. And that place is particularly welcoming for families living in the north of Vancouver Island.
“Most people from the North Island are born and raised here, or have moved from other provinces. They don’t have family to stay with in the bigger centres down Island, so medical treatment or long stays can be very costly,” says Jaime. “To have a place like Jeneece Place relieves the pressure for northern families so much.”
With your generosity, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island is able to support families like the Gabrielles. Will you make a wish come true for another Island family this holiday season? Make a gift to our Kids First Fund today!