It was Dec. 26, 2019—Boxing Day—when Lincoln ‘Little Fighter’ Santano made an unexpected, early entry into the world at Kelowna General Hospital. He was a long way from home.
His mother, Natalie, had been experiencing premature labour and was quickly transferred by air ambulance to KGH from their hometown in Creston, B.C., so Lincoln could receive the specialized care he needed. He was born nine weeks early and would remain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at KGH for 44 days.
Natalie’s husband, Kitt, was present for Lincoln’s birth but had to return home to Creston just three days later. The challenges that pre-term babies and their families face are significant. However, when there are already five little ones at home, and home is over 400 kilometres away, the hardship is penetrating.
“I was emotionally overwhelmed,” Natalie explains. “I needed to be with Lincoln. And my other children needed me, too. My husband had to work and was carrying all of the responsibilities at home. I was worried about Lincoln, and I missed my family.”
Two days after Lincoln was born, Natalie was discharged from the hospital. Exhausted and scared, she needed to find a place to stay where she could sleep at night and rest in between visits to bond with Lincoln while he received care at KGH.
Accommodation in Kelowna is often hard to find and costly, especially when the stay can last upwards of a month or more. For many families wanting to maintain a presence at KGH for the period of their loved one’s treatment, the lack of affordable short-term accommodation in Kelowna adds significantly to their hardship.
Everything changed when Natalie was referred to JoeAnna’s House.
At JoeAnna’s House, Natalie found a home away from home; a warm, inviting place to rest and relax within steps of the Lincoln’s bedside in the NICU; a place to be in community with others who were navigating a similar, difficult path.
This year, the health system has been challenged like never before. The threat of COVID-19 arrived like a freight train. Yet, even in the midst of one of the greatest medical challenges the region has ever faced, tiny, pre-term babies just like Lincoln are being born. Beloved grandfathers are suffering strokes. Heart attacks and car accidents do not yield for global pandemics.
Thanks to the superhuman efforts of its wonderful staff, JoeAnna’s House has remained open during COVID-19 to support young mothers like Natalie and ensure the families of patients hailing from outside the central Interior can stay close to their loved ones while they are receiving care at KGH.
Every year, thousands of families from across the B.C. Interior must travel from their homes in order for a loved one to receive life-saving, specialized care at KGH. As the leading referral hospital for more than one million residents in the B.C. Interior, at any given time, one in every four beds at KGH is occupied by someone from outside the Central Okanagan.
“They come to us from towns and communities from across British Columbia—from Williams Lake to Osoyoos, Grand Forks to Golden,” states Darlene Haslock, manager of JoeAnna’s House. “Keeping the doors open during COVID-19 and beyond is critical to supporting these families. Being able to stay at JoeAnna’s House is their lifeline!”
Research shows that patients heal better when surrounded by their loved ones.
They get better when together.
But help is needed.
As the region continues to grow and KGH continues to expand its capacity to offer advanced, specialized medical treatment, the need for JoeAnna’s House has never been greater.
Even during the pandemic, families must still travel to Kelowna to support their loved ones, now under more strain than ever.
“We are a community that is grateful and compassionate,” says Doug Rankmore, CEO of the KGH Foundation. “It can—and does—accomplish big things when we work together.”
Because of the support from generous donors, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and sisters and brothers are able to stay close to their seriously ill family member.
“I hope people know the profound impact their giving will have,” shares Natalie Santano. “Giving to JoeAnna’s House is about bringing some happiness and peace into peoples’ lives when they truly need it the most. It’s a gift that cannot be measured. I will never forget how blessed I felt being a guest at JoeAnna’s House.”
Please consider a gift today for the many families who need to travel to Kelowna to receive care.
For more information or to donate visit JoeAnnasHouse.com.
JoeAnna’s House is owned and operated by the KGH Foundation, an independent, board-directed, non-profit organization. JoeAnna’s House is managed with a small staff and dedicated volunteers and funded entirely by the generosity of donors.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Okanagan Edge.
All Think Local Stories