Parents thankful for the Champions who cared for their baby

**Photos included in this story were taken before social distancing measures.

Joy and her husband never imagined that the birth of their son Henryk would be such an emotional roller coaster. The story of their experience at the Children's is a testament to their doctors’ commitment throughout Henryk’s hospital stay, as well as their gratitude to the nursing staff.

When my son Henryk was born in June 2019, we could not imagine that he would stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the first six months of his life. He was born at 33 weeks with a birth defect called long gap esophageal atresia. Due to severe preeclampsia, I wasn’t able to meet him until 36 hours after his birth. I remember asking the lactation consultant if he could recognize that I was his mother. She reassured me wholeheartedly: “We can care for your baby but only you can love your baby.”

Her words have stayed with me, but I can also tell you that my son was surrounded by love during his entire 182 day NICU stay.

How to cope with this new reality?

We were met by kindness and care throughout. In the hours after Henryk’s birth, Dr. Sherif Emil sat at my bedside as I recovered, gently explaining my son’s diagnosis and the next steps. In the days after Henryk’s birth, we met wonderful NICU nurses who were a great source of comfort. We did not know it at the time, but these kind women would be at our side for months to come, for so many key moments and milestones.

As time passed, an incredible team grew around Henryk. In addition to his surgeon, Dr. Emil, there was his neonatologist and radiologists, plus a group of outstanding primary bedside nurses, nurse practitioners and specialists from occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, music therapy, and more. These guardian angels were with our family for everything from procedures and surgeries to holidays, story times, and morning dance parties.

We spent our days at the Children’s but had to sleep at home.

Leaving your newborn baby night after night is intensely painful, but we were reassured knowing that he was in excellent hands.

As we waited for Henryk to get big enough for surgery, Dr. Emil and his team were preparing for what would be a ground-breaking operation. He showed such dedication and innovation, consulting with many international colleagues. He sat with us on numerous occasions, always clearly communicating and never making us feel rushed as we asked question after question.

The surgery took twelve hours. Henryk was intubated and deeply sedated for days. Staff comforted my parents in the waiting room, as my husband and I sat at Henryk’s bedside late at night. Then there was that unforgettable afternoon: cheers broke out in the halls and I was enveloped in a sea of hugs, after x-rays revealed that the magnets deployed during Henryk’s surgery had finally come together.

After two long months of recovery, it was finally time to go home. His long time nurse was with us for an emotional last day. We had grown so attached to these beautiful people. They not only cared for Henryk but they treated us with profound empathy, providing so much emotional support. After countless goodbye hugs, we finally drove our baby home, just in time for Christmas.

Sharing our gratitude

After we were discharged, my husband and I gave over a dozen Champion pins to members of Henryk’s primary team, to honour their hard work and kindness, and help the Children’s Foundation support the hospital’s urgent needs. During long, difficult days, we hope that Henryk’s doctors and nurses will look down at their little aqua rocket ship and know there is a family across town who thinks of them all the time. We hold them in our hearts and will be forever grateful.

Joy, Henryk’s mom


Would you like to thank a staff member or team at the Children’s? Find out more about our Champions Pin program.