Then and now: How your donor dollars helped Campbell River kid Emma access essential health care

Island Family - Miller Family

When Brian and Ricci Miller drove from their hometown of Campbell River to Victoria for a routine ultrasound, they weren’t expecting to end up staying for a full month. They had no extra clothes, no family in town, and nowhere to stay. But the ultrasound showed their baby girl had to be delivered immediately, five weeks early.

In January 2013, Emma was born with one kidney, a cleft palate, a weak immune system, and weak throat muscles. She had to stay in the NICU for one month. Her parents were grateful a social worker told them about Jeneece Place, a true home away from home and a support system for the new parents during that overwhelming month. They also learned about Bear Essentials, which funded an essential piece of equipment. Because of Emma’s cleft palate, she couldn’t breastfeed traditionally, but the breast pump allowed Ricci to still feed Emma healthy breast milk.

“The day we were driving home to Campbell River, we got a call from Dogwood Place to set up her first appointments for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and even speech so they could check her mouth. That support for Emma started immediately,” say her parents.

For the next five years, Emma attended early intervention programs and classes at Campbell River’s Dogwood Place and at the Queen Alexandra Centre’s Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic. And over the years, the specialists at these facilities became family to Brian, Ricci, and Emma.

Today six-year-old Emma is doing great, thanks to all the health care supports she received early on. She attends a French immersion school with other kids her age, something Brian and Ricci weren’t sure would ever happen for her, and she’s enrolled in hip hop classes.

In the summer of 2018, Emma graduated from her speech therapy classes at Dogwood Place, no longer needing that specialized early intervention. She also graduated out of the programs she attended at QAC’s Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic, and won’t need to return for another assessment until she is eight years old.

“Everything that has ever happened for Emma and us has seriously set her ahead so many steps,” says Brian.

Brian and Ricci are grateful for all the donations that allowed Emma to access the essential health care she needed, helping her become the funny, kind, dance-loving kid she is today.

“I don’t even know where we would be at in this stage if we didn’t have all that support,” says Ricci. “Every thought, care, or penny given from someone to the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island means the world to us. It all helped us raise Emma.”