Pictured above: The Steane family
David Steane recalls stretching his legs after hours of holding his premature son skin-to-skin in Sunnybrook’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“I would stare at the ‘Wall of Fame’ – stories of babies who left the unit and were thriving. It was emotional, and it gave me hope for the future,” says David.
For two months, David and his wife Nicole took shifts holding and talking to Nathan, who was born weighing two pounds and six ounces.
Now, the couple are watching with pride as Nathan enters his third year at Wilfrid Laurier University. Pursuing a criminology and policing major, he’s passionate about hockey and keen to join the university’s intramural hockey clubs.
The family’s journey with the hospital didn’t end with Nathan; his two younger brothers both spent time in the NICU. Matthew was born five weeks early (he’s about to begin his first year at Brock University and hoping to eventually earn a golf scholarship) and Mike, the family’s youngest at 14 years of age, was born six weeks early.
“We grew up feeling like every other kid,” says Nathan, who saw the team in the Neonatal Follow-up Clinic after leaving the hospital. “You would never have thought we were in the hospital with our parents going through all of that worry about us.”
Nicole and David say connecting with other families was particularly meaningful during each of their son’s stays in the unit. “We talked to everyone, particularly other parents. It’s an unusual start as a parent to have your baby in an intensive care unit. The other parents knew the highs and lows and were such a support,” adds Nicole, who adds she also keeps in touch with members of her sons’ health care team.
The family also made an effort to learn about research studies, such as one about caffeine reducing apnea in preemies and volunteered to participate. “Our approach was that the information could not only help our babies, but other families down the road,” says David.
With days to go until the start of university, the family sits in their kitchen, jokes flying between them. David says he wants to reassure families with babies currently in the NICU.
“They can make it out and have a normal life.”