Dozens of families, including Jordan (left to right), Lincoln, Easton and Aissa Blanchard, attended the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s 33rd annual reunion party for graduates of the unit at Jeneece Place at Victoria General Hospital Thursday. (Kendra Wong/News Gazette staff)

Baby reunion party brings laughter, smiles to VGH

Event gives families, staff in neonatal intensive care unit chance to reconnect

Lincoln and Easton Blanchard have gone through hell and back again – and they’re just over one year old.

The twins were born 12 weeks premature and required multiple surgeries to fix a handful of medical problems. But their parents, Aissa and Jordan, believe their twins are alive thanks to the hard work and dedication of nurses and staff at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Victoria General Hospital.

Thursday, the Blanchard’s brought their twins back to the hospital – this time to celebrate with those who helped keep them alive. They were one of dozens of families who gathered at Jencee Place at VGH for the NICU’s 33rd annual reunion party for graduates of the unit. Thursday’s reunion, which included appearances by superheroes Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman, gave families and the staff who cared for the infants the chance to reconnect.

“This is such an important event for us because … it allows the staff who worked really hard and invested a lot of emotion and energy to these families to see how well they’re doing. It’s a really happy, joyful event,” said Gillian Kozinka, a long-time neonatal nurse and current manager of neonatal and perinatal services.

But it hasn’t always been a time of celebration for many families, including Aissa and Jordan. When they first found out they were pregnant, they were ecstatic. Aissa always wanted to be a mother, and after several months of consultations for in vitro fertilization, their dreams of having children were finally coming true. But having twins also meant a higher chance they would be born premature.

The couple had just moved to a new home in Nanaimo when the twins were born via C-section on July 9, 2016 – 12 weeks early. Within a couple of hours Lincoln and Easton were flown to the neonatal care unit at VGH and placed in incubators.

“It’s hard emotionally and physically. Our life was turned upside down and shook,” Aissa said.

The newborns had a number hurdles to jump through in the weeks following their birth. Easton was born with a heart murmur that continued to grow, making it difficult to breathe and eat, that eventually required surgery. Shortly after, both twins, who only weighed three to four pounds, had a double hernia, which caused their intestines to pass into their scrotum and had to be surgically moved back up.

Finally after spending more than 70 days in the neonatal care unit, Aissa and Jordan were able to take their babies home for the first time.

“They’re really good babies. We’re so blessed. Some people say it’s because we’ve been through hell and back with them already that of course they’re going to be good now,” laughed Aissa.

Lincoln and Easton are not alone. Between 2,500 and 3,500 babies are born in Victoria every year, of which 450 to 550 will receive care from a specialized medical and nursing team at the neonatal unit at Victoria General.

Bill Regier’s daughter, Violet, was one of those babies. Violet was born premature and spent two months in the neonatal care unit because she had problems going to the washroom and feeding. Reiger said the nurses were incredibly patient and made them feel at home.

“Coming here acknowledges that these people are doing such good work for children,” Regier said of the reunion party. “In the world we live in these days, to have something like this is fantastic.”

kendra.wong@vicnews.com

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Dozens of families attended the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s 33rd annual reunion party for graduates of the unit at Jeneece Place at Victoria General Hospital Thursday. (Kendra Wong/News Gazette staff)

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