To see her happily scuttling around, her eyes twinkling with curiosity, you’d never imagine just how far 17-month-old Victoria has come in her short life.
Her parents, Michael and Hélène, had every reason to believe the arrival of their first child in September 2017 would be peaceful and picture-perfect.
But another daunting reality quickly set in when, in April, a mere 16 weeks into the pregnancy, a cerebral and vertebral anomaly resulting from placental insufficiency was detected by the doctors at Hôpital Honoré-Mercié in Saint-Hyacinthe. A referral to Sainte-Justine’s high-risk pregnancy clinic (GARE) followed and, two weeks later, a delay in her growth was confirmed.
June 2017. With three months still left to go in the pregnancy, the situation became even more complicated. Victoria started showing signs of cardiac distress. Her medical team was adamant: it was too risky for her to stay in her mother’s womb. A C-section would have to performed, and the prognosis was dire.
That day, we had to deal with one piece of bad news after another. There I was, petrified that I was going to lose my baby.
Hélène Bérubé, Victoria's mom
On June 14 (far earlier than her expected delivery date of September 4), just 28 weeks into the pregnancy, Victoria was born. She weighed all of 1.2 pounds. Her parents’ first touch had to wait four whole days – a light, refreshing breeze before the onset of a raging storm. Because despite how tiny and fragile her body was, Victoria would soon be waging a struggle of Herculean proportions.
We can’t express how grateful we are to the staff at Sainte-Justine. When you’re a parent in the neonatal unit, you feel powerless. You’re plagued by worries. You’re constantly stopping yourself from crying and staunching your deepest fears, while you focus on getting your child better and stronger. But you’re also surrounded by kindness, caring and expertise.
Hélène Bérubé, Victoria's mom
Two weeks later, any progress she had begun making was stopped short by a severely perforated intestine. Emergency surgery was the only option despite the extreme risk for such a small patient. Fortunately, the operation was a success, but the road ahead was anything but free and clear.
Victoria had to be fed through a tube for five months. She was dependent on supplemental oxygen for five and a half. And she had a stoma in for more than eight. But when she was eventually discharged from the Sainte-Justine neonatal unit on September 28, 107 days after she came into the world, Victoria proudly weighed in at almost 6 pounds .
Today, we know that without some of the equipment that the hospital had acquired less than a year before we got to the neonatal unit, Victoria might not even be here today.
Michael Roy, Victoria's dad
True to her name, Victoria has emerged “victorious” from her battle and is defying all the medical odds. Last month, all decked out in a pretty pink lace dress, she took her first steps. From there, who knows how far she’ll go?