September 5, 2018
Story by Vanessa Gomez | Photo by Sharman Hnatiuk
EDMONTON — Having a newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be a stressful time of overwhelming worry for parents. Vince and Liz Lahaye braved this reality when their baby boy, Francis, arrived three months early, weighing barely two pounds.
“It was life or death for the first several weeks we were in here,” says Liz. “We couldn’t predict what was going to happen. It was very scary and emotional.”
The extremely premature infant spent 95 days in the Stollery’s Royal Alexandra and David Schiff NICU sites. He underwent multiple surgeries and blood transfusions and was on respiratory support for months.
While Francis’ uncertain health kept the Lahaye family on pins and needles, the Stollery aimed to make their experience as comfortable as possible during their emotional ordeal.
To educate and ease families into the NICU environment, the hospital’s Family Advisory Care Team, comprised of staff and families of the NICU has created a one-of-a-kind video — Welcome to the NICU. The video introduces the staff seen on a regular basis and graduate families of the unit as they share advice and success stories to help future families.
“This video was made by families for families. So many families don’t know they are coming to the NICU and we hope this video can relieve the stress and anxiety they feel about the environment,” says Jill Larocque, a neonatal nurse practitioner at the Stollery.
Funded by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, the video gives a tour of the NICU and shows the spaces where families will be spending their time. It also provides tips on how to be a parent while in the NICU.
“Letting parents know they can still be involved in the care of their babies is so important,” says Vince. “You don’t have to keep your distance — and the staff here are so encouraging in making sure we could still be parents to Francis, given the circumstances.”
Today, Francis is doing well and grows stronger daily. While he still has a long road ahead with therapy, doctors’ appointments and tests, Liz and Vince say they’re hopeful he’ll eventually lead a normal, healthy and happy life.