Age: 4
Hometown: Saskatoon
Condition: Premature birth

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 August 2019, 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.

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.

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 baby 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. Sarah said their experience at JPCH 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 2020.

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.

Willow and her family have recently had to navigate a new diagnosis, as she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in October 2020. While Willow is continuing with therapies, she is a happy toddler, who loves being outside, going for hikes and seeing new things.

“I love watching Willow learn new things,” said Sarah. “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.”

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