I've learned many, many things (some I wish I could forget) in this journey but what I've learned is so important is to 'give back'. It was almost an 'instant' need for Michael and I, we wanted to give back. Mr.B has taken so much in terms of hospital support, etc and we felt that if there was a way to give back we would try to do just that. It is the reason that we started donating blood every 56 days (or so). The blood donations started initially with the want of replacing the 37 transfusions that B's had but then we figured why would we ever stop? The need for blood will never stop! If anyone is interested in joining us, whether in Calgary or wherever you are, please click on the link for the FB page for updates!
I had a pressing need to give back to The Alberta Children's Hospital this Christmas, our home away from home. It is a big hospital with a great deal of amazing donors but I wanted to make an impact where I knew that I appreciated it when we were there, the NICU. We have a world class NICU over at Foothills Hospital (almost across the street per se) so when they built the ACH they didn't initially include a NICU (silly I know). They soon realized there was a need for somewhere to put these wee surgery patients that were coming in from the other NICU's for surgery. The NICU at ACH is only for surgery kiddo's and they are generally children that are born clinging to life (as was Mr.B). There are only 8 beds in total (but that is about to change this year!!) and they are generally always full.
Mr.B was born in November and due to part hope and part not grasping (or wanting to grasp?) the seriousness of our child's situation(s), I held out the hope that B would still be home for Christmas. If you've followed our story you already know that no, B didn't make it home for Christmas (or for another 7 1/2 months). B had heart surgery when he was 22 days old and from there went septic/meningitis and was critically ill (again) over that first Christmas. I would say it would have been an awful Christmas, and I suppose it was in a few regards, but it really wasn't in most. The ACH NICU was and is an amazing place. The staff are incredible, the Dr's are astounding and we felt that Mr.B got the best possible care. The staff went out of their way for the families that year, we came in to homemade baking, presents and so many other wonderful things through that hard week. The Nurses who work in Pediatrics do it because of love, not because of a paycheque and they are amazing. The Nurses who work in the NICU's do it because it is their calling, they are gifted with a gentleness and hope like no other. The NICU Nurses hoped with us, they laughed with us and yes, they even sometimes cried with us. Our journey in the NICU was made so much easier with the staff that supported us and cared for us.
I put a call out to anyone that wanted to help, either with a donation or with time and I was humbled that so many people were willing to help. While most of the donations came directly from Mr.B's family and personal friends some came from others that I've not had the pleasure of meeting and some came from other Parents of ACH that know all too well the life of an ACH Parent. For Mr.B's second Birthday I set up a 'wishing well' to take donations for ACH and our incredible family and friends donated over $400 to it and that was my starting point for the Season to Give Back.
Each fancy shoe box was filled to the brim! The majority of the money went to gift cards for Co-op, Safeway, restaurants, ACH Cafeteria, and the Good Earth (ACH coffee shop). Inside there was also a blanket, a new pair of booties/socks, a 'Baby's First Christmas' ornament, home baking, an inspirational word find book, and a 'set for life' lottery ticket. I am so proud to say that each box was worth about $250! Way to go Team Mr.B!!!
We had planned on 8 boxes total and that is what I had made and I did discuss with a few of you (as I wanted it to be a complete surprise) what I wanted to do if there was an 'extra box'. Sure enough, there were only 7 babies in the ACH NICU for Christmas this year and it gave me SO much pleasure to take our additional box and deliver it to one of my favourite families on Unit 2. This family hasn't known a Christmas at home with their little one (who is a few months older than B) as their child hasn't come home yet (in over 2 years). I was able to give them a little more love then I had initially planned and was so happy to do it! The 'Baby's First Christmas' ornament and the wee booties I gave it to one of my favourite Unit 2 Nurses and asked her where it should go (I know there are many kiddos that had their first Christmas there). She chose to give it to a baby arriving 'home' to ACH from heart surgery in Edmonton Christmas day. I added a huge box of chocolates for the Unit 2 Families in the family room and another box for the Unit 2 Staff and we were done!
**Thank you to Angela MacKenzie for helping me assemble and deliver the boxes, with B so sick I don't know how I would have found the time to do them otherwise!**
We were able to deliver them all on Christmas Eve (I had planned for earlier but life and B have a way of changing for me). I have heard back from two of the NICU Nurses that they were very well received and that the Dad's were the ones that were emotional. I know how hard it is to go down to a lower income after a baby arrives and I know how much stress it adds when that baby is sick. I also know that the Dad's feel a good deal of pressure to provide for their families and yet feel the grief of not being able to be present in the NICU as much as they'd like. I left the hospital that night with a sense of 'lightness' and happiness but also some sadness. (I think I also knew in my heart that we'd be spending our own third Christmas in a row there the next day)
For anyone that still wants to donate, B always has a page open for ACH donations on their site, click here. (His story does need to be updated on it!)
Among all my Thank You's I need to give I also have another huge personal Thank You to give first.
On the night of December 14th we had 14 gift bags dropped off at our front door for us by a 'Secret Santa'. 14!!! (The hilarious thing is that the 'secret' was a bit busted since Mike saw the vehicle and I had a good guess who it was!) For this person to take the time out of their own busy life and shop and wrap up 14 individual gifts for the boys and us was, well, astounding to me. We are so blessed daily with the kindness and love that our friends and family bestow on us. I've said it before but can't say it enough, so much of this journey has been made bearable by our support network. (I'm not supposed to tell but this Secret Santa's name might rhyme with Gina Lachuk...or that could just be her name ;).)
To all of our donors (and for goodness sake if I've some how forgotten you please tell me and I'm SO sorry!!) in no particular order as I love you all the best!:
Hicks Family (North Vancouver, BC)
Zebedee Family (Calgary, AB)
Fawcett Family (Vanderhoof, BC)
Fawcett Family (Stetler, AB)
Fawcett Family (Ponoka, AB)
Tania Stephenson (Calgary, AB)
Ursula Stephenson (Calgary, AB)
Kelly Lock (Calgary, AB)
Reichel Family (Calgary, AB)
Harding Family (Rosemary, AB) And for the wonderful necklace!
Jacobsen Family (Calgary, AB)
Reutlinger Family (Airdrie, AB)
Johnson Family (Burnaby, BC)
Begaliyev Family (Calgary, AB)
Martens Family (Calgary, AB)
Angela MacKenzie (Calgary, AB)
And to the 90+ people in attendance at B's 2nd Birthday that donated to the 'Wishing Well', your donations inspired me to give back in a bigger way then I had originally planned! We love each and every one of you!
From Our Home To Yours...