Some stories are best told in numbers. Eighty-eight: the number of days the 3 Van Marrewyk babies spent in hospital, following 55 ultrasounds. Eleven thousand: dollars raised in the past two years, and 50, 000: dollars raised year to date. Five thousand: the amount outstanding to fund the purchase of a jet ventilator for Royal Columbian Hospital's NICU.
The Van Marrewyk family is raising funds for the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation through the Scotia Bank Vancouver Half-Marathon and 5k on June 28, 2015. The whole family, including their eldest daughter and the triplets, are walking 5km to honour the facility that got them through a tough times.
December 19, 2009, the were told they were having twins. A month later, they learned they were actually expecting triplets, a wonderful shock. One baby can feel overwhelming and when I asked Ron Van Marrewyk how they managed three, he said, "You can't worry about it, you just do it. Looking back, we don't know how we made it through." It was a long road.
Week 21, scans showed "Baby B" had an umbilical cord implanted in the wrong spot on the placenta. "Baby C" was taking more nutrients and blood flow was becoming problematic. There were size differences between the babies. Stephanie Van Marrewyk was placed on bed rest. There was risk of fetal death and a decision to be made on how to manage the situation. One option was to fly to Holland for surgery. A team at BC Children's Hospital was willing to do the procedure to try to save as many of the babies as possible, unprecedented in BC. Fortunately, it was not required.
There were ultrasounds every three days and in the 29th week, a reverse flow in the umbilical cord was discovered, prompting an emergency c-section. The triplets were born at BC Children's Hospital where they remained for three to four weeks. They fought staph infections and were transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital.
Because "Baby A" had her own placenta, she progressed more quickly, was bigger and still is. Babies B and C were identical twins, sharing a placenta. "Baby A" got to come home before her siblings were transferred to Richmond Hospital. After 7-8 days, all the triplets declined and were transferred back to Royal Columbian.
Ron said, "I'll never forget the day they were transferred back. We went in at 11:30 p.m. and Andy had meningitis -- all three girls did. Paige was seizing. Shauna declined in all her statistics. We were back in the NICU. The Dr. sat down with us with a coffee in the 23rd hour of his 24-hour shift. His break was talking to us to plan their care." He described the experience as eye-opening as to how the facility runs; a remarkable place between the doctors, nurses and management.
Describing living through the hospitalizations, Ron said, "You do what you have to do. There were weak moments but you have to keep fighting for what's happening and stay in the moment. We didn't have time to worry. There were three babies that needed attention. You don't have time to look around and see what's around you. You just keep going and doing what needs to be done."
Ron spoke with pride about the tireless efforts of his wife facilitating full nutrition until the girls were six months old. Meanwhile, he was juggling his own business. Ron described it like the movie 50 First Dates. Every day, everything needs to be sterilized, cleaned, and people would help with nighttime care. Every day was like hitting the reset button. It was just how they survived.
In the end, he wouldn't have it any other way. The girls are perfectly healthy, other than one who needed tubes in her ears. They feels blessed, so they fundraise in recognition of the gift of life they've received. They feel part of something special. Funding doesn't cover everything RCH needs, so each year the family does a "little piece" to address astronomical equipment costs. They enjoy being part of the decision to purchase something specific. He describes the Foundation as an incredible group of people: dedicated, passionate, well managed and like a family.
The girls are starting to understand what it means to raise money for something they care about. For the first two years, the family planned walkathons, food and activities, each event a six-month ordeal. This year, Scotiabank has taken on the logisitical considerations so they can focus on enjoying the event together. They are looking forward to the walk and seeing their hard work turn into life saving equipment the hospital so desperately needs.
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