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1 year of JPCH: Helping the most fragile patients grow

Sarah and Cory were ecstatic when they found out they were expecting baby Willow, but that excitement quickly turned to panic when Sarah went into labour 14 weeks earlier than expected.

It all started when the Saskatoon couple was enjoying a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park at the end of last August, ahead of their baby girl’s due date in December. The babymoon vacation was going great for the pair, until Sarah felt something just wasn’t quite right. That’s when they decided to head back to the Canadian border, stopping at the hospital in Swift Current.

Sarah was going into early labour at 26 weeks of pregnancy and needed specialized care. The couple rushed to Saskatoon, where Sarah underwent an emergency C-section.

That’s when Willow entered the world on Sept. 2, 2019, weighing only one pound 14 ounces. She was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where she was hooked up to machines that barely fit her tiny body.

Following nearly four weeks of care, Willow was one of the first patients to be transferred into the new NICU at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital (JPCH). On Sept. 29, 2019, Willow and her family were welcomed into their own individual room, with a beautiful purple blanket waiting for Willow from Foundation donor Irene Dubé, who hand-knit hundreds of blankets, one for each bed, offering a piece of home for patients.

The new NICU offers each baby and family a private room, which is dramatically different from what previously existed, where babies were cared for in side-by-side open bays. The private rooms offer added confidentiality, while allowing parents to be engaged in their newborn’s care. Sarah said their experience at JPCH last fall was one of the best things that could have happened to their family.

“The family space meant more quality time. I could hold her for longer and more often. I finally started to feel more like a mother and we deepened our bond. The staff kept her safe in her new space while they were getting used to it as well. Willow started to sleep better, which allowed her body to grow faster,” Sarah said.

Willow’s incredible progress resulted in her being discharged an entire month earlier than planned. After spending a total of 67 days in the NICU, Willow was able to go home on Nov. 7, 2019.

“We are forever grateful to the NICU staff and everyone that believed in building Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital. It saved my daughter’s life,” said Sarah.

It didn’t take long until the family was settled at home and adjusted to having an oxygen tank around at all times. Willow stayed on oxygen for two months at home, but was able to breathe on her own in January.

Willow has since returned to JPCH for a few different follow-up appointments. This includes a sleep study to see how her lungs were doing overnight without the oxygen. The family has also met with Willow’s new pediatrician and has had blood work done, since she had two blood transfusions after birth.

Today Willow is a happy and healthy one-year-old, who loves being outside, going for hikes and seeing new things.

“I love watching Willow learn new things. To see how much she has overcome already in one year of life makes me so proud. She is one strong, resilient little girl. My little warrior Willow impresses me every day. I love her cuddles, giggles and unconditional love. I am so lucky to be her mother,” said Sarah.

The NICU on the fourth floor of Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital opened with 44 bassinets, with capacity to expand to 48 in 2021 if required provincially. Five of these rooms are dedicated to care for twins.

“Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital has made a significant difference in our NICU service. The most notable change to me is the space we have now. We are thankful for JPCH and the Foundation every day for our new single room unit, which is not only helping us provide care better, but is a huge support to the families as they now have their own space and privacy,” said Dr. Sibasis Daspal, Medical Director of the NICU at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

Daspal said the NICU is equipped with state-of-art equipment, all of which play an important role while managing the province’s smallest patients.

“We are very fortunate that we had our new unit last year, and it has especially helped while going through the recent pandemic. As we have space to care for more sick infants, this has definitely helped us managing our babies in the province closer to their home,” said Daspal.

Daspal also added that JPCH is much more than just a hospital for Saskatoon, but a way of connecting the whole province in many ways, such as a NICU out-reach program, transport services and remote presence via robots.

Help support NICU families just like Willow’s by donating today.

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