“It’s not a place you want to be, but if you have to be there, it’s probably one of the best.”
That’s how Brittney Harding and her husband Ryan describe the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Regina General Hospital. It’s a place they spent many days in – 81 to be exact – after their son Jayce was born. It’s a place where they lost, grieved and celebrated.
In January 2015, the Harding family discovered they were pregnant. A month later, they learned Brittney was carrying twins. Everything was fine until their 16-week ultrasound when medical staff discovered there was no fluid around one baby. The growth of the baby was restricted, something potentially fatal.
Brittney had ultrasounds every two weeks to track the growth of the twins. The progress was heartbreaking, as Jayce continued to grow while the second baby remained the same.
“Dr. Carson was really straightforward. He told us there’s a chance they’ll both make it and a chance only one will make it,” Brittney explains. “We were as prepared as you can be.”
But nothing can truly prepare you for the worst. Two days after being admitted to the hospital at 27 weeks, Brittney had an emergency C-section. The twins were rushed to the NICU and after just 36 hours, the girl, Avea, sadly passed away. She weighed only one pound six ounces.
For nearly three months, the NICU would be home to Jayce. Brittney and Ryan drove back and forth from their home in Emerald Park twice a day to be with him and watch him grow.
We were there to watch everything, and the NICU nurses and doctors were really good at explaining everything,” Brittney says. “They were there to guide us through every step of what was happening.
Today, Jayce is a healthy and active three-year-old. But Brittney and her family haven’t forgotten their time in the hospital or that 500 other vulnerable babies require care in Regina’s NICU each year.
In appreciation of the exceptional care they received, Brittney and Ryan held fundraisers for the Z99 Radiothon for three years, representing the three months Jayce spent in NICU, and today the family continues to give back. The Saskatchewan Health Authority estimates an average day in the NICU costs roughly $1,700, depending on the condition of the baby. When Brittney and Ryan realized Jayce’s 81-day stay cost around $138,000, the couple decided to do what they could to raise money for the NICU.
“Even just the little bed he had to stay in costs thousands and thousands of dollars but every penny is worth it,” explains Brittney. “We learned lots through the nurses. Some of them told us they were in other NICUs in the country and even out of the country, and they feel Regina’s NICU definitely has the best equipment.”
Dino Sophocleous, president and CEO of Hospitals of Regina Foundation, agrees.
“Stories like Jayce’s show just how important it is to continue to invest in technology for our NICU in the Rawlco Centre for Mother Baby Care, as it touches so many people across southern Saskatchewan. With ongoing support from our community, the Foundation will continue to help maintain one of Canada’s best and most family-friendly NICUs, right here at home.”