Seventeen years have passed since Heather Bala-Edwards left the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Foothills Medical Centre with her new baby, Adam, in her arms. For Heather, it feels like a lifetime ago but reliving the memories makes it feel more like yesterday. At 32 weeks pregnant, Heather thought she was experiencing false contractions, but when she went to be checked at the hospital, they quickly determined she was in full labour. Eight hours later, at just 3 ½ pounds, Adam was born.
The NICU is a place that most families won’t need to experience. There is an expectation of a healthy mom and baby, but that is far from the reality for many families. The experiences of each family who walks through the doors of the NICU are unique, but there are many commonalities and messages that resonate from one family to the next.
One of these common experiences is the community that is found within the embrace of the NICU – from the staff to the other families who are the only people who can truly understand what you are going through. For Heather, this sense of community became her village that helped pull her through some of her scariest days as a new parent, navigating the uncertainties that come with having a critically-ill newborn. Adam spent the first six weeks of his life in the NICU (both at Foothills Medical Centre and Rockyview General Hospital).
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, which is true. But it really takes a village to raise a preemie and that village is found within the walls of the Foothills Medical Centre NICU.”
“I genuinely feel such gratitude for the compassion shown to us and for the next level excellence and care we received. I will forever be grateful and changed from that experience. It is because of the care we received that we have Adam, the biggest gift in my life.”
One of the things that Heather clearly remembers from her time in the NICU were images of NICU graduates hung on the walls. These images were inspiring for Heather and as she was taking them in one day, one of the nurses commented that Heather didn’t need to worry because Adam would be on that wall one day.
“This experience took my appreciation of the medical profession to the next level, to see the compassion and excellence in care being delivered on a daily basis. It opened my heart to anyone going through something similar and an appreciation of how connected we all are through our shared experiences.”
“For anyone walking this journey right now, know that you are in the best of hands and that you are not alone.”
Heather’s story is one of hope for families that find themselves needing the care of the NICU. Hope for a future with a healthy child. At 17, Adam is planning ahead for his own future; one that looks bright with plans for university, athletics and music. While Adam is looking ahead to his high school graduation, he was first and foremost a graduate of the Foothills Medical Centre NICU.
We are incredibly grateful to Heather for her significant donation to the Newborns Need Campaign.