Lisa Dean felt like she had no one.
The Winnipeg mother spent eight days in the NICU at St. Boniface Hospital last year after the birth of her second daughter, Aydrah.
Unfortunately, Aydrah was born with abnormalities that meant she did not survive her time in intensive care.
“The staff made it really, really easy to be in the NICU,” Lisa said. “They painted with us, they took time with us, they baptized with us.”
“They lifted us off the floor when we were at our lowest points.”
Lisa said the doctors and nurses try as hard as they can do provide loving support for families in the NICU, but they are taxed by heavy workloads. She wanted an understanding shoulder to cry on – someone she could talk to who had been through the same situation.
Her husband, Dustin Dean, agreed. He said losing a child was like something out of a movie – something he never imagined happening in real life.
“But when you’re going through it and you need help and somebody to talk to and reach out, it was hard,” he continued. “Not that the resources aren’t there, but sometimes it’s difficult when you’re trying to go through the system finding somebody.”
Lisa and Dustin decided it was time to act.
In honour of Aydrah – who Lisa calls “the sweetest little baby ever” – they made the choice to give back to the staff at the NICU and to other families going through heartbreaking losses like the one they had just experienced.
The Deans turned to social media to create a support group. What began as a small, tight knit crew at their house expanded – to the point that Lisa had to find another place to host their monthly meetings.
She was blown away by the number of people who heard about the ‘With love, Aydrah’ project, shared her Facebook page and showed up to the events that run every second Monday of the month, but soon realized it made sense.
That’s not all the Deans are doing for families spending time in the NICU.
Lisa began making gift bags for mothers to help spread the word about the support group. In the bags, she included essentials like snacks, Kleenex and water bottles – as well as a note with information about how to get in touch with the support group.
She said many doctors’ offices have been helpful, putting up posters promoting the group, which can be found on Facebook.
Lisa encourages anyone struggling with the loss of a baby to reach out. She said she has been lucky enough to find counselling services that will offer free support to members of the group, and wants as many people as possible to benefit from it.
For the Deans, there is a happy ending.
Their ‘rainbow baby’, Maliyah, was born within a year of Aydrah’s death.
“It’s baby after the storm kind of thing,” Lisa explained. “Like we went through some really hard times and this is our little piece of Aydrah.”
Lisa and her family are grateful to the St. Boniface Hospital for the support they received last year, and give back to the team of doctors and nurses as often as they can.
You can do the same by donating to the hospital during its annual Radiothon of Hope and Healing happening today from 9am to 6pm.
Donations can be made online or by calling 204-237-7647.