As hospitals limited labour and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, Valour Place in Edmonton has helped more than 15 families welcome newborns into the world — that’s a third of all “Valour Babies” born in the last decade.
“We call them Valour Babies. They come into the world with Valour,” said Sylive Keane, executive director of Valour Place on 111 Avenue near 111 Street in central Edmonton.
Normally, the temporary home for veterans, RCMP, military members and first responders and their families would see a maximum of four moms-to-be seeking out help at the facility because either they, or their babies require urgent care.
Since the pandemic, that has changed.
“COVID has affected a lot of hospitals,” Keane said.
“Some hospitals, like Yellowknife, are just not allowing ladies to give birth in their hospitals.”
Moms from the Northwest Territories, as well as ones from across Alberta, have spent time at the home.
Kathleen Scarf, her five-year-old daughter and RCMP officer husband flew to Edmonton from Yellowknife when she was 37-weeks pregnant.
The were forced to travel south because the Stanton Territorial Hospital in that city moved to only offer emergency services for labour and delivery in December.
“We would have been in a hotel room for between three weeks to over a months stay,” Scarf said.
“To have a five-year-old cooped up in a hotel room for three plus weeks would have been difficult and challenging.”
The family was able to stay at Valour Place until baby Meyers was born. They are now back home in Yellowknife.
High-risk mom’s have also been seeking out a place to stay at Valour Place.
Osbelys (Bella) Cabrera-Gonzalez, from Wainwright in central Alberta, has been staying at the home since November 2021. Her husband works for the military police.
Cabrera-Gonzalez was 18-weeks pregnant when she found out she had a tumour on her cervix. Doctors removed it and put in a stitch to keep her cervix closed during the pregnancy, but she needed to stay close to her health-care team at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
She said the couple would have struggled to afford to stay in Edmonton and that could have had devastating consequences.
“We probably would have lost the baby,” said Cabrera-Gonzalez.
Instead, at 36-weeks pregnant, they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their baby boy. Cabrera-Gonzalez said staying at Valour Place, especially while her husband was working, offered more than just accommodation.
“There was other people in the house, so you were alone — but you weren’t alone.”
Health-care teams are also able to travel the short distance from the Royal Alexandra Hospital to the home to help pregnant women, so they don’t have to go into the hospital.
Valour Place is celebrating it’s 10-year anniversary. It was originally built to help soldiers who were coming home from Afghanistan and needed accommodation for an extended period of time.
“Having family nearby was the number one thing that helps with successful rehabilitation,” Keane said.
Valour Place has expanded who it helps over the last decade.
“We’ve had people with transplants, cancer treatments, babies, amputations, PTSD treatment —so we’ve really had a lot,” she said.
“The babies are a welcome thing for the others in the house.”
The Valour Baby program offers families a keepsake blanket. They are homemade by volunteers from the community.
“They are flying in from Yellowknife and they have nothing,” Keane said. “They have a place to stay but they don’t always have the essentials to start off.”
The program is also hoping to provide families with a gift bag of essentials such as diapers, baby wash and sleepers. Valour Place is asking for financial donations and has created an Amazon Wish List.
Items from the wishlist are also being accepted at the facility. Valour Place says the items will help families get them through until they can be at home.