Siblings both members of the YANA family

Karilyn, right, with her older sister, Sabrina. Both siblings are members of the YANA family, after being helped by the community organization on separate occasions. Photo suppliedKarilyn, right, with her older sister, Sabrina. Both siblings are members of the YANA family, after being helped by the community organization on separate occasions. Photo supplied
Karilyn Geiger. Dec 15, 1990. 1,135 grams, 28 days old, next to a banana. Photo suppliedKarilyn Geiger. Dec 15, 1990. 1,135 grams, 28 days old, next to a banana. Photo supplied

Andrea Rose

Special to The Record

When Karilyn Geiger was born in November of 1990, three and a half months early, she wasn’t much bigger than a banana. Weighing in at just 925 grams (approximately two pounds) she was a tiny fighter who eventually overcame the obstacles of her premature birth.

Brian and Sandy Geiger and their two-year-old daughter, Sabrina, were in for an emotional ride when Karilyn’s early arrival required them to leave the Valley for the mainland.

“We were dairy farmers in Black Creek” Sandy explains. “It wasn’t easy picking up and leaving, and we had this little one at home.”

Sandy’s labor couldn’t be stopped; baby Karilyn was determined to come early. Sandy was sent by air ambulance to Vancouver where she delivered her premature baby. She spent the next two months in the BC Children’s Hospital NICU before being transferred to Victoria General Hospital, and then back to St. Joseph’s in Comox.

Unsure where to turn, Sandy reached out to a friend back home, Carol, who was involved with YANA, an organization that was still quite new to the Comox Valley. She was able to connect Sandra and Brian with food vouchers and a place to stay, all provided by the organization.

“To us, it was just like a godsend,” said Sandy. “It was just amazing, I didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know what to do.”

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. Our purpose is to improve access to healthcare by providing travel funding and accommodation.

It was not only YANA’s support program that helped the family but Carol’s personal support that gave them hope and light through a dark and difficult time.

“Our family didn’t want to talk,” said Sandy. “We’d previously had a baby at 24 weeks and lost her. Having one at 26 weeks, they were scared to be positive about it. Having somebody there that would help walk us through it was something you don’t expect to have to deal with. She gave that hope that she was going to be okay.”

Karilyn was OK; after a long journey and 14 weeks spent in hospital, she returned home to parents and sister Sabrina, defying the odds for an infant born so early. But the family wasn’t finished with YANA yet. In 2001 their daughter Sabrina was diagnosed with a type of skin cancer that required treatment and surgery. The family found themselves back in Vancouver, reaching out to YANA once again.

Oak Manor apartments, YANA’s downtown accommodations that many YANA families staying in Vancouver still use today, became the Geiger’s home away from home.

“We were able to have the whole family together,” said Sandy. “When Brian wasn’t able to come over I could still go over with the girls. I think it made the process a lot better.”

The family has continued to stay connected with YANA and they’re huge supporters of the organization.

Brian and Sandy describe Karilyn, their now-grown-up daughter, as tiny but tough, and a big supporter of YANA as well. She works and lives in Smithers, B.C. with her husband, and her parents tell us they’re both doing really well.

“It definitely took a village for everyone to get us through this, and it worked.”

Andrea Postal is a member of the client services team for YANA

***

The annual Valley Vonka fundraiser in support of YANA is now in full swing.

Chocolate bars are available for purchase (by donation), with “Golden Tickets” randomly inserted inside five Valley Vonka chocolate bars.

Finding a Golden Ticket gives you a chance at one of five great grand prize packages, from Mount Washington Alpine Resort; The Old House Hotel & Spa; Kingfisher Oceanside Resort; Canadian Tire; and Peninsula Co-op.

There are still two unclaimed Golden Tickets (as of Monday, April 19).

Participating locations include:

• Parker’s Appliances

• Oh Spa

• Locals Restaurant

• Mount Washington

• The Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa

• Canadian Tire

•Old House Hotel & Spa

• Hot Chocolates

• Sure Copy

• YANA office

• Bomback & Co.

• Pilon Tools

• Mackenzie Gartside & Associates

• Blinds Bubbles Boutique

• Return-It Depot

• Brian McLean GM

• Living Room Pharmacy

• Bennett Sheet Metal

• Courtenay Nissan

• Ives Burger Law

• Hyland Precasting

• CSN/Reliable Auto Body

• Comox Valley Record

Follow the Comox Valley Record Newsroom Facebook page (facebook.com/ComoxValleyRecord) for the latest updates regarding availability.

Comox Valley