Finding parking near Royal Columbian Hospital is frustrating at the best of times.
When the exasperating search follows an aggravating trip over the Port Mann Bridge and is added to the stress of tending to a premature baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) whose twin died two days after birth, the irritation is compounded.
It’s one of the many issues Tanya Foulds and her husband Joel Wilson hope they can help NICU parents like themselves with after starting a $5,000 trust fund as a memorial to their daughter Brooklyn.
It all began a little over a year ago. Foulds had been coming to RCH from Aldergrove during her pregnancy to see her obstetrician. The doctor was worried because her hips were starting to separate.
The twins weren’t due until early September, but on May 9, 2011 she noticed some spotting. Her doctor told her to come in immediately. When she arrived they told her she was three centimetres dilated and they wanted to do a surgery to stitch her cervix back up.
When they got her to the operating room several hours later she was up to seven centimetres. “By then they were really worried it wasn’t going to work, but they managed to do the surgery.”
Over the next five days Foulds was shuttled back and forth to the delivery room several times. On May 15 at about 6 a.m., a doctor doing a regular check all of a sudden started calling for help and Isabella came into the world a few minutes later, 23 weeks premature.
“It was fast, it was like a whirlwind. I’ve never seen so many people in a room,” says Foulds.
The medical team decided to see if they could stop Foulds’ contractions before Brooklyn came out but, unlike her sister, she was out of her sac. When Brooklyn emerged 2 1/2 hours after Isabella she was bruised from all the banging around. The babies, both weighing slightly more than one pound, were put in NICU.
“Things at first seemed good. They warned us it would be hard to see them, and we need to be prepared for what they look like and what they’re hooked up to. Visually they don’t look like babies at that point, a little bit alien like. They still had their eyes fused shut, they weren’t even open yet … Their skin was almost translucent,” says Foulds. “To me they were still the prettiest little girls ever.”
An ultrasound on Brooklyn’s brain revealed a massive hemorrhage on one side and the pressure was pushing on the other. Two days after her birth, the doctors told Foulds and Wilson if she lived Brooklyn would be quite brain damaged. There was no surgery they could do to correct the problem, and they gave her morphine so she wouldn’t be in pain.
Foulds says if Brooklyn had lived she would have had severe brain damage, in a wheelchair and unable to communicate. Foulds and Wilson made the tough decision to take Brooklyn off the machines and let her pass peacefully.
“That was a hard day,” says Foulds. “It was hard, and it’s still hard when I think about it. But I know it was a decision that was right. I remember the day Brooklyn passed and we were all consumed with her, and then there was a moment we realized we still had Isabella, that we had another baby.”
That began a stretch of 138 days for Isabella in the NICU. Once Foulds was out of hospital she would dutifully make the daily trip to watch over Isabella. If Foulds was lucky it would take 45 minutes to get to RCH. Usually it was more than an hour. “I was so angry at the construction.”
When she arrived she’d scour the side streets looking for a place to park that wasn’t going to cost her a month’s wages, often risking a ticket and getting away with it. Before she left she would also have to find someone to take care of three-year-old Charlotte.
The NICU staff became their friends, their confidantes and their fonts of information.
One primary nurse came out to Isabella’s recent first birthday.
That got them thinking about what they could do to help the department in return and honour Brooklyn at the same time. At first they thought of buying a piece of equipment, but realized it would cost too much. So they wondered why not help out other NICU parents like themselves, and established the Brooklyn Wish Fund.
“Even if you live in New Westminster there are still expenses every day with a baby in NICU that long,” she says.
Foulds, Wilson and the RCH Foundation (RCHF) are looking at all sorts of solutions to easing those logistical costs, such as working with Impark for special daily rates in the hospital lots, transit passes, and gas, transit, food and movie vouchers.
Providing child care is another service she hopes the fund will eventually be able to provide so the siblings don’t get lost in all the other worries.
“Joel and Tanya are an extraordinary couple,” says Adrienne Bakker, RCHF CEO and president. “Their generosity demonstrates a deep empathy for and commitment to other families who may find themselves in a similar situation.”
Isabella is doing well these days and is a growing girl. For her first birthday her parents requested guests donate to the fund in lieu of presents. They are hoping, just like Isabella, the fund will grow.
“The trust fund was named in honour of Brooklyn, but it’s Isabella that drives us to do this because her being in there for 4 1/2 months, we knew what people were going through and what they needed,” says Foulds.