Vic. Hospital Foundation launches campaign to fund neonatal unit necessities

Volunteers take pledges at the Give a Little Life Day radiothon at the Victoria Hospital in 2019. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

The Victoria Hospital Foundation has launched a $2 million campaign to equip and furnish an expanded neonatal unit expected to open next year.

The Little Lives-Local Love campaign will include the annual Give a Little Life Day radiothon, which will take place at Mann Northway this year as a result of the pandemic. The radiothon raised funds to expand the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in 2018, drawing in over $1 million.

“We believe that our babies, our newborn babies, and our mothers and fathers deserve the best equipment, and presently they don’t have that. Currently, they’ve got outdated equipment and equipment that can longer be fixed. They do not have enough equipment,” said the foundation’s CEO Sherry Buckler.

“We know that it’s not going to be easy. We know it’ll take some time, but it’s that important of a goal that we are determined to see it through until the end.”

Buckler said they’ll be fundraising until the opening of the expanded NICUwhich the Saskatchewan Health Authority anticipates will be about a year from nowand maybe even after.

Marianne Turcotte has allowed the foundation to use her story for the campaign.

As a funeral director in Prince Albert, she’s used to seeing heartbreak, pain and griefbut nothing could prepare her for those emotions to sweep over her own family.

While she was pregnant a few years ago, Turcotte and her husband lost their baby girl a short eight weeks before her due date.

It all started when her water broke early. When that occurred again this past April when she was 28 weeks along, Turcotte’s first thought was “this can’t be happening again.”

“Losing a child is a nightmare no one ever wants to face. And until you experience it, you have no idea how devastating it is,” she said in a post on the foundation’s website, used with permission from the Herald.

“So many thoughts ran through my head as I prepared to go to the hospital: Would I be left with the heartbreaking task of introducing Charlee, our five-year-old daughter, to another sister and telling her that we wouldn’t be able to bring her home because she had died?”

Because she was so early on in her pregnancy, Turcotte was admitted to a Saskatoon hospital. Two days later, on Apr. 28, she delivered her baby, Addie.

At 3 lbs 2 oz., she wouldn’t be able to leave the hospital for another 47 days.

Marianne Turcotte and her husband, Travis, pose with their five-year-old daughter Charlee and their newborn baby Addie. (Victoria Hospital Foundation/Website)

Addie was eventually transferred to the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert in order to be closer to their support systems.

Although she received quality care, Turcotte said there was barely room to move and little privacy. The chairs were tattered, she said, and it was clear that the baby’s incubator had been well-used.

The money from the campaign will go towards equipment such as infant ventilators, pullout beds for parents, breast pumps, oxygen blenders and newborn resuscitation equipment.

The Give a Little Life Day radiothon will be broadcasted on all three Jim Pattison Broadcast Group stations between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Dec. 4.

The Car Guys at Mann Northway are this year’s presenting sponsor.

Buckler said in order to take donations safely on that day, you’ll be able to drive through Mann Northway’s car bays. You can also call, fax or mail in your pledge or donate online.

“The hospital’s needs still continue, and they’ve continued throughout the pandemic,” said Buckler.

“We still have patients coming to the hospital presenting with a heart attack or cardiac issue; we still have accident victims to care for; we still have premature babies being born.”

In an interview, Turcotte added that many parents aren’t as fortunate to have the time to prepare for delivery –– that’s why it’s crucial to have a comfortable space in a nearby hospital.

“Imagine the stress of delivering your baby prematurely, during a pandemic and in a strange city far from home, the discomfort and expense of staying in a hotel with your husband and toddler, just to be near your sick baby,” said Turcotte.

“Now imagine … coming home.”