It takes a Community to Support our Smallest Patients

When Sonali Joshi went into labour with her twin girls, she was just 29 weeks pregnant. “They were so early that we hadn’t even chosen names for them yet,” Sonali recalls. “We thought we had another 11 weeks.”

Sonali’s twin girls, Maya and Shyla, were born by emergency C-section in Toronto. They weighed just over two pounds each. Each baby was surrounded by a care team of ten caregivers to provide breathing support and medications to the girls.

Because they were born so early, they needed to be transferred to a Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – a special unit for newborns that require the highest level of care.

Sonali’s care team phoned each Level 3 NICU in the surrounding area looking for a space for the girls – including Toronto, Hamilton and even one in Buffalo, New York. At one point, it was suggested that the twins might need to be separated to receive care in two different hospitals – a prospect that was terrifying for Sonali. How could she manage the logistics of being with both of her daughters in two separate hospitals? Sonali also had a three year old at home who needed her care. Fortunately, Kingston is home to a Level 3 NICU that had two beds available for the girls. Maya and Shyla were airlifted from Toronto to the KHSC Kingston General Hospital site arriving that night.

Still in Toronto recovering from her C-section, Sonali was fearful about what was in store for her daughters. Despite being in recovery from major surgery, Sonali left the hospital just two days later – against the advice of her caregivers – and headed to Kingston, desperate to be with her daughters.

“When I arrived, I just burst into tears,” she said. “I was so emotional about everything that had happened. But my girls were receiving the best possible care. The nurses were amazing and the doctors were phenomenal.”

With the support of caregivers in the NICU, Sonali was included in the process of learning to care for her daughters over the next several weeks. “They want parents to be involved,” she said, “You’re not treated like an audience member.”

Dr. Robert Connelly, Neonatologist and Department Head of Pediatrics at Kingston Health Sciences Centre supports this model of care by parent. “We know that our tiny patients and their families need an environment that better supports family involvement in care. We know that care-by-parent produces the best long-term health outcomes for premature and critically ill newborns.”

“At times it was hard not to be able to have our whole family together,” Sonali recalls. “And it can be a roller coaster during those first few weeks. We are so grateful that our care team included social workers who were so helpful and kind.”

Maya and Shyla spent 32 days at the KGH site before being airlifted back to the Level 2 NICU in North York. After two months of care, the girls were strong enough to go home.

Today, Sonali describes her daughters as healthy and smart. The family continues to support the NICU here in Kingston in gratitude for the care they received during those first scary weeks. Kingston’s NICU is one of only five in Ontario to offer the highest level of care. We are so fortunate to have this care available to families from across the region.

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