“There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.” – Unknown
James and Ashley Ross experienced the unthinkable when their newborn son, Weston, passed away in their loving arms only 24 hours after he took his first breath in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Kelowna General Hospital. The hope and anticipation of welcoming their little one into the world quickly washed away in an ocean of grief.
James and Ashley, though, resolved to channel a small part of their grief into a project that they hope will honour their son, add joy and bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of families each year, and express their gratitude for the care and support they received while in the NICU.
Every year, more than 1,800 babies are born at KGH, with 160 (approximately nine percent) born pre-term, or before 37 weeks gestation.* Thanks to the generosity of KGH Foundation donors through the Giving Giggles campaign, the NICU at KGH is the most advanced perinatal unit in the Southern Interior region, and the main referral hospital for pre-term births as early as 32 weeks.
Being able to ‘graduate’ from the NICU is a big deal. It means a baby is big and strong enough to be on their own, disconnected from specialized equipment like an incubator, ventilator, and/or oxygen hood. They get to go home. For any parent who has experienced life in the NICU, graduation day is a day they will never forget.
And that is what inspired Weston’s gift to the NICU. James and Ashely wanted to make a graduation sign that parents could personalize for their baby and take a photo in front of when they are able to go home.
James, a carpenter, built a beautiful wood frame, completing the project. And if you look closely, there is a little ‘W’ on the airplane on the sign – a tribute to Weston.
“We wanted to inspire hope and future success for NICU graduates, stemming from our deep love and a way to honour Weston, promoting positive life-long memories of him for our family,” explains James. “Alyssa Marson, an amazing nurse in the NICU at KGH, helped us develop this idea. It was a team effort, and her thoughtfulness has been inspirational.”
“As a NICU nurse, I work very closely with parents over the course of their stay. It is very special to be a part of their emotional journey, through the highs and lows,” says Alyssa. “People like James and Ashley are one of the many reasons why working in the NICU can be so rewarding.”
The Ross’ chose to make a donation to the NICU at KGH, and Alyssa approached the KGH Foundation for assistance with the design and production of the sign.
“Honouring Weston in this way has assisted our family through an extremely difficult grieving process,” says Ashley. “It also acknowledges the amazing support and empathy that we received from the doctors and nurses who cared for our family in the NICU.”
Ashley continues, “Weston instilled a love and strength in us that we didn’t know existed.”
The Ross family can take comfort in knowing that their dear Weston will always have an imprint on this world, not only in their hearts and memories but for years to come as a part of every KGH NICU baby ‘graduate’.
*2021/22 data from Interior Health.