Kristin Young Shares Her Story

After being told that she would most likely never be able to get pregnant, Kirsten Young and her partner Josh Roy, had settled into a comfortable life in their hometown of Salmon Arm, BC.  Imagine their surprise then, when they found out that Kristen was expecting a little miracle in late February 2017!

“We were so excited,” recalls Kirsten.  “I couldn’t wait to meet my baby.”

Indeed, Kirsten and Josh’s miracle baby couldn’t wait to meet them either.  On Boxing Day, after 32 weeks of a difficult pregnancy and several early labour scares, Kirsten again felt the signs that her body was preparing to deliver, eight weeks too early.  This time though, little Levi was coming.  He was born at Shuswap Lake General Hospital on December 26, 2016; a beautiful, tiny baby boy weighing in at just 4lbs.

“It happened so fast, I was definitely in shock,” says Kirsten.  “I didn’t have time to pack an overnight bag, not even a toothbrush.”

Because they require a level of advanced neonatal intensive care, pre-term infants like Levi born at community hospitals across the southern interior must be transferred to a referral hospital.  At Level 2B, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Kelowna General Hospital is the regional tertiary care hospital for infants born at 30+ weeks gestation.  Within 24 hours, Levi was transferred via ambulance to KGH.  His Mom and Dad followed, travelling through the snowy passes to meet their son in Kelowna.

While Levi was receiving world-class medical care from his NICU team, Kirsten also recovered at KGH. However, after 48 hours, she was discharged.  Josh had to return to Salmon Arm to work.  With no other options, Kirsten camped beside her tiny son’s bedside on a large fold down chair for the next three and a half weeks.

At any given time, one in four hospital beds at KGH is needed by someone from outside the Central Okanagan.  The reasons to travel for healthcare vary from emergency trauma to acute mental health; neonatal to cardiac.  But whatever the purpose, it is always a stressful situation.

As you can imagine, it is critical that new mothers stay close to their babies while in the NICU, for feeding and snuggles, and to do their best to bond during a time when a little one needs all the love they can get in order to grow and thrive.

With your help, we can keep give families like Levi’s a home-away-from-home at KGH so they can focus on caring for their loved one.

For new parents like Kirsten and Josh, being away from home presents significant hardship both emotionally and financially.  Other large provincial referral hospitals in the Lower Mainland and Calgary benefit greatly from Ronald McDonald Houses.  Which is why, together with the support of donors like you, the KGH Foundation is building JoeAnna’s House in order to keep families together when they need it most.

“Having JoeAnna’s House will be such a huge help for families like ours,” says Kirsten. “For four weeks, I had no privacy and all I wanted sometimes was a place where I could retreat after a long day by Levi’s crib. I was tired, emotionally drained and I missed my partner.  I wanted to take a shower, change my clothes and eat a simple meal. JoeAnna’s House is such a needed resource.  It will change everything.”

Located across from the shores of Okanagan Lake, JoeAnna’s House will be a 20-bedroom home right on campus at KGH.  It will incorporate many home-like touches to ensure families feel comfortable and safe while caring for loved ones.  There will be a large kitchen, inviting dining and living rooms, children’s play area, guest laundry facilities, an exercise space and even a day-use area.  Families will be able to share their experience and receive support from the other guests who are going through a similar situation.

In short, your ongoing support of JoeAnna’s House will change everything for families like Kirsten’s.

Since launching our campaign to raise the funds necessary to build JoeAnna’s House, the project has received unprecedented community support.  We were able to break ground this past October and our hope is to open doors to families as early as Christmas 2019

Knowing the ongoing need we will have to support families travelling for care, we must continue our fundraising efforts.  Please consider a monthly gift today to keep families comfortable, safe and close to their loved ones.

Monthly giving is a great way to provide continued support for these families and every dollar will have a huge impact on the 1 million residents throughout BC’s interior region.  As more people travel to Kelowna for lifesaving specialist care, the need for a safe landing for their loved ones will only continue to grow.

Today, little Levi is a healthy, rambunctious two year old, thanks to the outstanding care he received from the NICU team at KGH.  The family is looking forward to spring in the North Okanagan.  They want to share their story so that the hundreds of out-of-town families like them whose babies are born too soon, have a warm and safe place to lay their heads at the end of the long days by their baby’s bedside.

When we work together we can accomplish big things.   Please give.