Three-year-old Griffin Ovenden handed peach-shaped ornaments to Royal Inland Hospital staff on Monday and was met with tears and hugs.
The moment was shared over the loss last year of an infant baby — Griffin’s late sister — fondly known during her short time alive as “Georgia Peach.”
“It means a lot to us to have this day together,” mom Brittany Ovenden told KTW.
Georgia Ovenden was born nearly one year ago on Jan. 7, but died from a rare fetal maternal hemorrhage while in the uterus. It was a heartbreaking loss for the family, a loss shared by compassionate hospital staff. It was the reason the Ovenden family joined the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation this week to give thanks and launch its annual holiday campaign, which this year will help purchase equipment for the neonatal intensive care and labour delivery units at the hospital.
The nurses who deliver babies and deal too often with the tragedy of losing a child say compassion is part of the job.
“I think it’s just the time spent with them, to be sitting and listening to them, talking with them,” labour and delivery nurse Lori Wells said. “It’s not all about the physical care, which also is important, but it’s the emotion time that we spend during a tragic loss.”
Nurse Tanis Hubberstey said when a parent loses a child, that family becomes priority. She said staff “revamp” their whole system in order to ensure families receive that emotional support.
That support will come again in two weeks, when the Ovendens return to the hospital to have another baby.
Brittany is carrying a baby boy and the nurses ensured her they would be on shift. Hubberstey changed her shift.
“If you lose a child and you have a miscarriage, you hold your breath for 12 weeks and then you can relax and enjoy the rest of the pregnancy,” Hubberstey said. “Brittany and Kevin, even though they are enjoying this pregnancy, part of their heart is holding a beat until this baby is in their arms …. It was an honour that they trusted me and remembered me and I can’t imagine what they’re going through, so of course I’m going to accommodate a need.”
So far, the baby is healthy and Brittany is ready to give Griffin a new little brother.
“We’ve been monitored very closely, so we have actually got to spend a lot more time with the lovely nurses in labour and delivery,” she said. “But, yeah, everything’s looking really good.”
RIH Foundation CEO Heidi Coleman said the foundation aims to raise $100,000 for the neonatal intensive care and labour and delivery units at the hospital.
“We’re buying equipment that’s on the major equipment list, so we desperately need it,” Coleman said, noting government funding covers only about 10 per cent of what the hospital needs. “We have to choose what is the highest priority, so the Foundation helps.”
In addition to Georgia Peach ornaments that will don the trees of hospital staff this holiday season, the foundation is sending ornaments to residents in the mail and asking them to make a donation and send back to the hospital the ornament dedicated to a loved one or in memory or honour of someone. The ornaments will be hung on a Christmas tree on the second floor of the clinical services building.
“It’s really nice,” Coleman said. “We love to read them and people come to read them.”
The Ovendens have also provided ideas to the hospital and helped to launch a working group that will explore better ways to support grieving families, including providing mementos.
Those who wish to donate to the RIH Foundation campaign can also go online to rihfoundation.ca.