“That’s a big part of what this place is: hope,” said Rod Smith, director of development for the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, the organization that owns and operates the 10-bedroom house at Victoria General Hospital.
The facility, which provides a home away from home for families travelling to Victoria for a child’s medical care, is celebrating its one-year anniversary with an open house on Sunday.
Parents sometimes leave Victoria General Hospital’s intensive care unit discouraged about their child’s illness or injuries, he said. A few minutes later, they find themselves sitting around the kitchen table at Jeneece Place with parents facing similar challenges.
“Parents come here and share their concerns, hopes and fears,” Smith said. “Doctors have mentioned it’s become part of the healing process.”
That’s true for Nanaimo’s Dustin McHardie, who proposed to Stephanie Hendrickson at Jeneece Place on Christmas Day.
The couple’s first child, Sienna McHardie, was born three months premature at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Dec. 10.
The infant weighed just one pound, 11 ounces, had a brain bleed and needed help breathing. She was flown to Victoria General Hospital for intensive care.
In Nanaimo, the couple live in a 12-metre trailer and have two small seasonal businesses. Paying for months-long stays in hotels in Victoria was not affordable. And they didn’t want to be separated at a time when they need one another.
“We’re so fortunate and lucky,” Hendrickson said at Jeneece Place on Friday.
With a place to stay, the couple has been able to focus on their child.
Sienna is now a pound heavier. She is expected to stay in hospital about another two months, Hendrickson said.
“I told Jeneece if my daughter grows up to be half the woman she is, I would be the proudest mother in the world,” Hendrickson said.
Jeneece Place was the dream of 18-year-old Jeneece Edroff, who suffers from neurofibromatosis that causes tumours to grow along nerve pathways. She raised more than $1 million for children’s charities over seven years, and began fundraising for Jeneece Place in 2009.
“It’s amazing who I’ve got to meet here and the stories I’ve heard,” Edroff said Friday.
Since opening its doors on Jan. 23, 2012, 325 families have stayed at Jeneece Place. The majority of the families — 94 per cent — are from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
The home, which is open year round and run by nine staff and 17 active volunteers, costs $325,000 a year to operate.
A one-year anniversary open-house for the facility, located at 1 Hospital Way, is being held on Edroff’s 19th birthday, Jan. 20, from 1 to 4 p.m. She will be in attendance for at least the first hour, she said.
While the anniversary is cause for celebration, Edroff continues to struggle with a tumour in her right leg. She plans to have it operated on at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on Feb. 22 — despite a dispute with the province over payment for the surgery.
“I’m still going, no matter what.”
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