I woke up Monday morning, nervous but calm. I know, a very weird combination. I was going to be photographing my first Helping Hearts session that day. I was nervous, because while I’ve volunteered in the past, and I’ve photographed kids with cancer, this was the first time I would be doing a session in the NICU at Children’s Hospital. I was calm, because I knew in my heart that I was going to be doing something special that day.
Special doesn’t even begin to describe my experience. When I’d received the family’s details, I called Amanda the next morning to set up the session. I knew from the email that Hailie had been born 3 months ago in Penticton, BC with a paralyzed diaphragm. She spent 6 days on oxygen before being medi-vaced to Children’s and put on a ventilator for the next month. She was then placed on a bi-pap machine for two weeks, but when she developed a small infection around her nose, they placed her on high-flow nasal prongs. After two weeks on the nasal prongs, she was placed back on the bi-pap, as she was having difficulty breathing again. I can only imagine how hard that would be. To know that your child is struggling to breathe and there’s nothing you can do but love her. Amanda shared that this has been the hardest part of her journey so far, watching Hailie struggle to breathe, being in an incubator and not being able to hold her and comfort her.
When Eric and I arrived at the NICU, we had to remove our jewelry and scrub in. We then followed David, Hailie’s dad, to their room, arriving just as the nurses finished taking her off the bi-pap machine. She’s allowed two 45 minute “breaks” from the machine a day, so they’d scheduled one to coincide with the session. I was immediately taken with the strength that Hailie showed. Despite everything she’s been through in the last three months, she could still protest with the best of them. She has bright eyes and from what her mom tells me, they still don’t know what caused the paralysis, but she’s improving. They are hoping to be going home in a few months. Hailie just needs to gain a little more strength.
Amanda and David, thank you for letting me tell your story. Hailie’s so sweet and I hope she continues to grow stronger and that you’ll be able to take her home soon. Here are a few of my favourite images from your session, I hope you enjoy them.
Hailie with her mom and dad. They seem so in love with her.
Holding onto dad.
Grandpa’s soothing touch. Shortly after he started to stroke her face she stopped crying. He was planning on heading back up to Penticton at 4 the next morning for work. What amazing dedication to your family.
A kiss from Grandma, who’s been here helping Amanda from the beginning. Hailie is certainly surrounded by love and support. I can only imagine how hard it would be to be so far from home, with no real idea of when you’ll be heading back.
So alert. Hailie seemed to know just what we needed her to do in the short time we were with her, so that we were able to capture a wide range of photographs.
Mom and Dad holding onto Hailie’s beautiful little toes. (I just can’t help myself, I love baby feet!)
Comfortably asleep on mom.
Her strong grip on mom’s hair! Eric tried at one point to get Hailie to let go of Amanda’s hair…Hailie was not impressed!
Our time was up. Grandpa needed to put her bi-pap machine back on.
Hailie fought the bi-pap a little but was able to find comfort in mom’s arms and the beautiful blanket made by grandma.
Helping Hailie get comfortable in bed for her nap, with Pooh Bear on the wall to keep her company.
If you know of anyone who could benefit from the services offered by Helping Hearts, please send them to the website for more information. We have photographers across Canada, who are willing to donate their services to amazing families such as Hailie’s. Thank you for helping to spread the word.