By Andrea Rose
Special to The Record
It was February of 2007, Michelle and Bob Wells were excitedly awaiting the arrival of their twins, Megan and Connor, who were expected to stay safe on the inside for a few more months.
It seemed the twins had other plans though, and at just 29 weeks pregnant Michelle went into pre-term labour and was flown from St. Joseph’s Hospital to a higher level of care at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Bob recalled his first encounter with YANA as he prepared to follow behind his wife; a nurse had handed him an envelope with cash and a note from YANA, funding provided through YANA’s Emergency Hospital Funding program and designated for families who are unexpectedly sent out of the community to access medical care for a pregnant mother or a child.
“One of the nurses just handed me an envelope and I asked what it was for, she said it was $100 cash from YANA, and I remember saying, ‘we’re okay, we’re sort of relatively prepared, we have our overnight bag’, they said, ‘there’s no choice, you have to take the envelopes,’” said Bob, laughing at the memory and the kindness felt from his community in a time of such uncertainty.
“For us, that trip, being able to get some money from YANA that we didn’t ask for, I guess an analogy is, it’s kind of like a hug from your community. We didn’t know what was going on, certainly lots of anxiety, a lot of fear… you don’t know how things are going to turn out. To have that support was absolutely amazing. We kind of thought that would be the end of the story.”
The doctors were able to get Michelle’s labour under control and the couple returned home about a week later. Life was getting back to normal. And then, at 36 weeks, Michelle began to show signs of complications with the pregnancy. After being assessed at the hospital it was clear they would need to relocate again, this time to Victoria.
“We literally got in our car, drove to Victoria, and while we were doing that, at the same time, unbeknownst to us, YANA was working in the background to get us a place to stay,” said Bob.
YANA arranged for a place for the couple to stay at Easter Seals House and provided the family with funds to help cover some of the expenses of being away from home.
|Proud parents Bob and Michelle Wells pose with the twins, Megan and Connor. Photo supplied|
Bob and Michelle welcomed their twins into the world the day after arriving in Victoria. Connor was doing quite well but Megan was struggling with breathing and feeding complications as the result of a cleft palate. Despite that, both babies were expected to return home within a month.
After three weeks in the Victoria General Hospital NICU Connor was given the all-clear and it was hopeful that Megan would follow close behind. It was only a week later that the hospital gave the green light for Megan too, and Bob eagerly headed down-Island to bring his daughter and wife home, when he was pulled over by an unexpected phone call.
“When I got to about Nanaimo I got a phone call from the hospital and they asked me to pull over, and that’s when they said there’d been some difficulties when they were feeding Megan,” Bob said.
Megan required a special feeding protocol to prevent milk aspiration when she drank, a result of the cleft palate she was born with.
“Unfortunately one of Megan’s nurses mistakenly squeezed her bottle at the wrong time, and that ended up getting Megan with aspiration pneumonia. One of the side-effects was that she’d gone into cardiac arrest… all we knew at that point is that she wouldn’t be coming home that day,” said Wells, describing how the terrifying setback came with the uncertainty of the future, while Megan fought to regain the strength and health she needed to come home.
For the next three months, the couple would travel back and forth every few days sharing their time between the twins and living between their family home and their Easter Seal home that YANA continued to provide for them to stay in, in addition to their continued help with the living expenses.
After a long and uncertain four months and close to 40 trips back and forth, Megan was finally healthy enough to return home.
Over the years since their first encounter with YANA and the many follow-up trips that followed, it’s been important for the family to give back to YANA and to show their appreciation for the community’s support that made such a tremendous impact on their lives.
Bob, formerly the owner of My Tech Guys, has generously provided the organization with equipment and technology support for YANA’s internal operations and many of their annual fundraisers. Connor and Megan know intimately the story of how they came to be a YANA family and they’ve creatively given back over the years by selling hot dogs for YANA and hosting by-donation Star Wars movie nights. Connor, Megan and their younger brother Quinn also started a bottle collection company to give back to other local charities, and have collected almost 25,000 bottles since May of 2020.
“That support you get from the community, I can certainly say for myself, that’s really wanted to make me give back to the community even more,” said Bob. “At the end of the day, what YANA’s meant to us, I think, is really that embodiment of the best in our community, of people who are really there to support us, and not just support us, but allow the community to give that support back.”
YANA (You Are Not Alone) YANA is a community organization that offers travel and accommodation funding to Comox Valley families who need to travel for medical reasons.
Andrea Postal is a member of the client services team for YANA.