Tess and Thea: A Story of a Tiny Preemie-Turned Thriver

Every step you take in the Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk and Wheel is a step for baby Thea.

Thea was the size of her dad, Garrett’s, hand!

Despite no definite diagnosis for her prenatal complications, Tess Harvey and her care team prepared for the high likelihood that her daughter would be born prematurely. It would take very specialized and complex equipment to ensure her tiny daughter had a fighting chance – equipment purchased thanks to donors and community support!

In the early stages of her pregnancy, Tess Harvey experienced bleeding and immediately sought medical help. Upon initial assessment, the physicians at the Strathmore emergency room were shocked that Tess had not yet had extreme complications due to the amount of blood she had lost.

Over the following weeks, Tess was prescribed strict bed rest in attempt to mitigate more blood loss. At a 23 week ultrasound, it was discovered that her cervix was opening. She had to go immediately to the Peter Lougheed Centre, at which point she underwent an emergency procedure to prevent preterm birth, and met with the Foothills Medical Centre’s NICU team to make a plan for the rest of her pregnancy.

The physicians and care teams could not determine why this was happening to Tess; other than the bleeding, she felt completely fine! Despite no definite diagnosis, Tess and her care team prepared for the high likelihood that her daughter would be born prematurely.

At 27 weeks and two days gestation, Tess began experiencing contractions. Along with her husband Garrett, they quickly arrived with her overnight bag to the Foothills Medical Centre, where the staff were prepared and already aware of her difficult pregnancy.

“I had prepared my overnight bag, but was not prepared for what was about to come. We were impressed at how diligent the communications between physicians and hospitals had been. When the Foothills team was aware of my specific case when I arrived at the hospital, it reduced my fear of delivering so prematurely,” reflected Tess.

The first time Tess held her newborn daughter, Thea.

On July 15th, 2020, at 6:30 AM, Thea Harvey was born, welcomed to the world by 11 members of the care team who were ready to “catch the little football,” as Tess joked.  

Precious Thea spent three months to the day in Calgary’s Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU).  

As Tess reflected on Thea’s first night in the NICU, she fondly recalls a special nurse, Melissa, as the ‘calm after the storm’.

“Nurse Melissa told us that we didn’t have to be afraid of her being so small; she showed us how to change her, take her temperature, and hold her, and most importantly, she showed us that the best thing we could do for Thea was to help and be a part of her journey through the NICU.”

Tess explained how the care team was there to support not only tiny Thea, but her entire family. “The nursing staff, specialists, and physicians became our family, especially during COVID when we couldn’t see our friends or family. They answered all of our questions, talked us through situations, and made sure we were doing ok,” Tess said.

View from the Care by Parent Room at South Health Campus

After four weeks in the Foothills NICU, tiny Thea was transported to the South Health Campus NICU. The Inter-Facility Transport Team (IFT) Team, who Tess regularly works with in her role as a part-time EMS ambulance dispatcher, transported Thea, a moment which resonates with Tess to this day.

Thea spent another ten weeks at the South Health Campus NICU, where she experienced great difficulty gaining weight. When the well-known feeding program did not work for Thea, the care team quickly adjusted their strategy, until Thea began to grow in size and strength. 

As Thea’s health improved, Tess and Garrett spent a few nights in the Care by Parent room at South Health Campus, where Thea spent her first night alone with her parents, disconnected from hospital monitors. These nights were designed to mimic a night at home and prepare the family for the transition. Tess and Garrett brought their daughter home on October 15th, exactly three months to the day she was born.

The Harvey family, fall of 2020.

Today, Thea is an adorably bossy, independent, fierce-spirited healthy baby. “Having a NICU baby doesn’t stop once you leave the NICU,” remarked Tess. “Home care nurses come and check on her, we have frequent visits with Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and other specialists to make sure Thea continues to thrive now that she’s home.”

With preterm newborns at greater risk for physical and developmental challenges, the family is assigned a robust care team to track Thea’s development until they are five years old. As Tess said, “Until you’re in the NICU, you don’t realize what it means to have a preterm baby. I am so incredibly grateful that I was lucky enough to have my preterm baby here, in Calgary.”

Tess, Garrett, Thea, and her big brother, Brett, are excited to participate in this year’s virtual 2021 Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk & Ride, which supports Calgary Health Foundation’s Newborns Need Campaign. 

Join us at the 2022 Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk and Wheel and register todayClick here to learn more about Calgary Health Foundation’s Newborns Need campaign. For the Harvey family, the NICUs are worth celebrating and supporting, thanks to the life-saving and life-altering care they provided Thea and so many other newborns.

Smiling Thea, today!

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