Sarah and Kyle Lesage are no strangers to YANA.
Their first time encountering the generosity and support of the community-funded organization dates back to 2017, when their first-born child, Harvey, was airlifted to Victoria for suspected pneumothorax shortly after he was born. YANA was immediately there, supporting the family with money for food and travel. Harvey made a full recovery from what ended up being a treatable infection, and after three days the family returned home, full of gratitude for the support they received while away.
No more than a year later, Sarah, Kyle and Harvey were anticipating a double-blessing to join their family; twins were expected to arrive sometime in the late fall, but in August of 2018 Sarah’s water broke at just 27 weeks pregnant. Much like their big brother, the twins seemed to have their own grand entrance in mind, which included Sarah being emergency-airlifted, this time to Vancouver, to monitor and prepare for a very early arrival.
The twins were born at Royal Columbia hospital where they spent the next 2.5 months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Kyle and Sarah were again met with the support of YANA, including the hospital emergency funding that was given to them when they left the Comox Valley hospital. YANA also took care of arranging and covering the cost of an Air BnB while they were away, as well as providing financial support that would help take some of the weight off of Kyle’s lost wages. Most of all, they were able to turn their much-needed attention to their very premature twins, and not the financial and logistical challenges of being away from home.
Fast forward to February of this year, the couple welcomed a fourth child into their family, a beautiful baby girl named Elenni born at the Comox Valley Hospital. While the couple had high hopes for a smoother start than their last two birth experiences, little Elenni had other plans.
“Although her delivery was everything I hoped for after a traumatic experience with the twins, the minute she came into the world, she was not acting like your typical newborn,”said Sarah. “She was lazy and lethargic. I didn’t get that skin-to-skin like I was really hoping for. Instead, they got her on an oxygen mask and brought her to a room where they monitored her with what little they had in the hospital for infants who need extra care.”
The hospital had concerns over a possible brain bleed as the cause of the respiratory issues Elenni was having. By morning a helicopter had been arranged to fly her to Victoria where she could receive a higher level of care.
“I wasn’t able to fly with her due to just coming out of surgery the night prior, and we needed a vehicle once we got there. So while Elenni was brought by helicopter, I was delivered by ground transportation, and Kyle drove behind,” said Sarah. “It was extremely heartbreaking to be separated from her only being 12 hours old. But we knew this feeling all too well, and we needed to be brave once again.”
The family also knew that they could rely on YANA once again. There are no limits or lifetime maximums with YANA’s funding and accommodations programs, and the couple was blown away by unconditional support from what they’d come to know as a true gift and lifeline, right from their very own community.
“We were hoping we wouldn’t (need it) this time around, but alas, YANA was there again to offer support,” Sarah says, describing how YANA was there almost immediately, no questions asked.
“I felt extremely guilty for needing to rely on YANA for a third time. But they made me feel so loved and looked after. Like no strings attached, guilt-free kind of feeling.
“(We received) $200 in cash before even leaving the hospital, and Kyle was put up in Jeneece Place, so the stress of where he was going to stay was immediately taken off. We could focus on our baby girl. We once again were overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity YANA gives. It truly is a beautiful organization.”
Thankfully, Elenni’s condition turned out to be much less critical than was first suspected; there was no brain bleed, and the medical team felt that her breathing and feeding issues were due to her being born three weeks before her due date.
She was placed on an NG tube and stayed in the NICU for a total of 10 days.
During her time at Jeneece Place, Sarah made friends with another mother of a 25-week old boy who was also far from home and struggling to make ends meet.
“She had to raise funds through GoFundMe in order to pay for her stay and lost wages. I cannot imagine that added stress along with trying to care for a baby who needs extra care. I think every community needs an organization as helpful and loving as YANA.”
The realization of just how special an organization YANA is, and just how much it truly takes a community to make what they do possible, has made it a no-brainer for the couple to jump in and help any way they can. Kyle, among myriad talents, is an experienced videographer and technological guru, and has helped the organization pull off the complicated live streaming component for YANA’s Big Love virtual event for the last two years, and it’s been an honour for them to give back.
“(Kyle) has seen firsthand how the whole community backs YANA,” said Sarah. “Having YANA at your side is like having the whole Valley holding your hand. We are humbled by being part of the giving and receiving end of YANA and the Comox Valley’s generosity.”
Over the past five years YANA has supported the Lesage family through three births, four babies, and many long days and sleepless nights away from home. Thanks to the incredible support of a community that continues to say yes, families like the Lesage’s can know that no matter what may lie on the road ahead, they don’t have to walk a single one of those days alone.
YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a community organization offering help to Comox Valley families who need to travel for medical treatment for a child or for a pregnant mother.
For more information, visit yanacomoxvalley.com