Joyce’s family left Angola five years ago, fleeing persecution and yearning for a better life. They first went to Brazil, then from Brazil to Quebec, confronting challenge after challenge strewn along their path. That’s when Sainte-Justine came into their lives: a safe haven, a family, and one they will never forget. Julia and Patrick, Joyce’s parents, found support and solace in the arms of the teams who restored their faith in humanity and let them, once again, bask in the joys of parenthood.

April 2015, Huambo: gunshots rang out in a church in Angola’s third-largest city during a raid by state police. A bullet claimed the life of Patrick and Julia’s younger daughter. An unimaginable tragedy. Julia was also wounded, but the family managed to make their way outside. The first step on their road to freedom.

Brazil took them in as refugees, and things started to look up for Julia, Patrick and their surviving daughter. But it didn’t last. Julia lost a baby five months into her pregnancy, and two other miscarriages would follow.

Not longer after the family left Brazil for Quebec, Julia learned, to her great surprise, that she was expecting once again. After years of stress and worry, she feared this tiny miracle might not come to be. Sure enough, only five months into her pregnancy, things started to go wrong. Her water broke. She checked into Maisonneuve‑Rosemont and was quickly transferred to Sainte-Justine, where Joyce was born at only 24 weeks and 2 days. It was April 19, 2020. The pandemic was in full force. But at least the outcome was a positive one for the family, and the beginning of a journey that would put a fierce little heroine to the test.

The next day, the 660-gram newborn was wheeled into the operating room to correct a perforated bowel. The procedure was a success and took the pressure off her growing intestines for the next three months.

I’ll never forget our experience. Just as I was starting to feel confident again that everything would be all right, I was gripped by the fear that we would lose this precious and unexpected gift. I had to draw on the inner strength that appeared as soon as Joyce came into the world.

Julia

Joyce’s mother
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Joyce's dad holding her in skin-to-skin contact, just a few weeks after her birth.

Immature lungs are one of the challenges preemies born this early have to deal with. Supplemental oxygen was a must for Joyce. She also needed a procedure to close an opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery, also known as a PDA. In full-term babies, a PDA usually closes on its own after birth. But not in Joyce’s case. And her tiny heart had to work very hard to compensate.

So, at only 10 weeks old, she was back in the OR for a cardiac catheterization to repair the defect. Dr. Joaquim Miró, a pediatric cardiologist at Sainte-Justine, and his team carefully implanted a device the size of a pea to seal the opening. Sainte-Justine was actually one of the first hospitals in the world to use this procedure in 2011. It is a very delicate and precise operation that requires leading-edge expertise and highly sophisticated equipment, none of which would be available without donors like you.

The cardiac catheterization room where we perform these procedures was built through the incredible generosity of our donors. Not to mention the fellows who are vital to performing these surgeries who and receive funding from the Foundation to pursue their postdoctoral training. I myself trained in Boston 30 years ago with the Foundation’s support.

Dr Joaquim Miró

Pediatric Cardiologist
CHU Sainte-Justine
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© Geneviève Beaupré
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A ray of sunshine

Joyce was sent home with her parents after 156 days in the neonatal unit. Today, thanks to their unconditional love and the support of the entire Sainte-Justine family — of which you are an important member, she is doing well. Her very name evokes the happiness she has brought into the lives of the people around her. Her beaming smile brightens up every room. And Julia, Patrick and Joyce’s big sister are finally starting to feel like a new chapter in their life is beginning — one of contentment, peace and hope for the future.

This is the first year Julia will be celebrating Mother’s Day with both of her daughters at home. She could not be more grateful.

I was absolutely devastated and overwhelmed by everything we had gone through. Sainte-Justine gave us our life back, like nobody else could. They do so much good with their hands, but they also warm your heart. My fondest wish is for them to continue to provide the same amazing care to other premature infants like Joyce.

Julia

Joyce’s mother

On behalf of all mothers and babies, we thank you for making Sainte-Justine a place of love, a place of trust and a place of optimism for the future. The reason we can provide such high-level care with a distinctly human touch is because of you.

Happy Mother’s Day! ♥

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© Geneviève Beaupré