Early in February, a Ronald McDonald House mom wrote me the following email:
My family is staying at the Ronald McDonald House here in Edmonton. I’ve seen your contact info on the screen in the kitchen and today browsed through some of your sessions. You do beautiful work. My daughter Alice was born August 30 in Regina. After 7 weeks in NICU, struggling with a heart condition, respiratory issues and constant pnemonia from fluid in her lungs, as well as being unable to feed without turning blue, we were finally flown by air ambulance to Edmonton. Alice was diagnosed with a laryngeal cleft, operated on and expected to thrive. After a month, we came home and tried living as normal a life as possible despite Alice’s condition remaining the same. She continued to always be sick, and had difficulty swallowing even just her own saliva secretions, and we spent continued time in hospital in Saskatoon and Regina. Eventually we came back to Edmonton, this time with our 3 year old in tow. We’ve been back 3 weeks, had several surgeries to repair a newly discovered connection between Alice’s trachea and esophoegus, and she continues to challenge her medical team at the Stollery. Her surgery repair has failed in that the seal they created to keep fluid out of her lungs burst and her doctors don’t want to operate again until she can grow. At 5 months she weighs 8 pounds. So we are here growing for the time being. Alice has spent almost all of her life in hospital. Her big sister had been premie and spent 3 months in the NICU herself. So we are definitely not strangers to calling a hospital home. We’ve never had the opportunity to have those typical newborn photos that everybody does. If there’s a chance for us to have something even more special that could capture Alice on her brave journey, we’d be so very grateful. I hope to hear from you. Regardless of whether you are able to shoot Alice or not, I want to tell you that it’s a pretty terrific thing you are doing offering your talents to families with sick kids.
Any of you who know me, also know that part of the reason I started offering family sessions to Ronald McDonald House families was because I felt like our family missed out on the “normal” maternity and newborn photos when Kane was born. Then, as our lives continued to be intertwined with the Stollery, I began documenting what happened. I completely understand Jacqueline and Simon’s desire to have Alice photographed in hospital.
I got to meet Alice, along with her mom and dad, a few days later. Alice was not feeling 100% and was not very happy to be out of her parent’s arms, which lead to a lot of great family shots.
When I sent Alice’s parents the sneak peek of their shoot I got the wonderful news that they were going to be discharged the next day. Jacqueline was so excited because Alice was NJ tube and PICC line free. This is a BIG, freakin’ deal to hospital parents. So happy that this little family, and Alice’s big sister, Amelia, are finally home together.