The last few weeks of December are a time to take stock of the past year. While most of us were homebound for the better part of 2020, the opposite was true for new parents Zoey and Cody. Their first Christmas with their son, Jasper, will be spent at the Sainte-Justine ICU.
Zoey and Cody live in Kahnawake, in the Montérégie region. They had been trying to get pregnant for a year when they found out Jasper was on his way. But only 32 weeks along, Zoey’s water broke. She hightailed it to the hospital in LaSalle where she had been going for regular checkups. They confirmed she was in labour, much earlier than expected.
When it was discovered that Jasper had fluid around his lungs, the family was transferred to Sainte-Justine, where every effort was made to give him the chance to stay in his mother’s womb for as long as possible. Not long afterward, Zoey was diagnosed with mirror syndrome, a rare complication where the mother develops preeclampsia and starts building up fluid in her lungs, just like her baby. She started having trouble breathing. An emergency C-section was the only option.
It was March 20, 2020. The pandemic was in full force. Little Jasper came into the world weighing just 3.7 pounds.
The first time I laid eyes on our baby was on a screen. I couldn’t get out of bed after the C-section, so Cody went to see Jasper in his room and we did a video chat. I wasn’t able to be with him or touch him until the next day.
Jasper was born with Down syndrome and several congenital anomalies that needed surgical correction. Although they had successfully drained the fluid from one of his lungs before he was delivered, the other lung needed additional attention. In the weeks that followed, they also operated on his bowels and an artery in his heart.
So what stands out in these young parents’ minds when they think back on 2020? Jasper’s surprise arrival, for sure. The first time they could touch him. The first time they could hold him, nine days after he was born. The first time the three of them could be together as a family, on June 10, given the lockdown measures that went into effect a week after his birth and that limited contact to one parent at a time.
His face lit up when we both came into the room. He was so happy!
Jasper is now nine months old and is improving every day, even though he still needs an oxygen mask to help his lungs mature. He was transferred from the NICU to the ICU in September.
No matter what he goes through, even on the worst days, Jasper always has a smile on his face. He’s such a happy baby!
His parents are by his side from morning to night. Jasper is extremely cuddly and affectionate. He is starting to play with toys and is fascinated by colours. A physiotherapist checks in regularly to help support his development. Sainte-Justine is his world, and the only one he’ll know for the next six to twelve months.
With the holidays just around the corner, Zoey and Cody told us how they plan to celebrate, just the three of them, at Sainte-Justine.
We’ll be right there with Jasper and open gifts together. We’ll give him a bath, which is one of his favourite things. Then we’ll sing some Christmas carols. We’ve even got special holiday outfits to wear. It’s an important day for us. It’ll be hard not to be with the rest of our family, but we will make it as magical and festive as possible.
Christmas at Sainte-Justine is always very special. Being able to make these connections with our families is a real privilege. This year, with the pandemic cutting them off from their loved ones, the Tree of Lights is even more meaningful as a symbol of hope and encouragement.
Dr. Laurence Ducharme-Crevier
Home to the largest neonatal intensive care unit in Canada, Sainte-Justine attends to 1,500 preterm babies every year. Your donations are what makes it possible for our teams to keep providing state-of-the-art care to these, the tiniest of patients. And with the Tree of Lights shining bright throughout the holidays, they and their families will know we are all with them in spirit. Thank you!