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On August 7, 2008, Arlene Juby received a phone call from her daughter asking her to come immediately to the hospital in Victoria. Her daughter and her granddaughter were travelling back from a trip to the mainland, via Victoria, and though Arlene did not know why she was needed so urgently, she sensed the seriousness of the situation instantly.
That same evening Arlene’s granddaughter, Ruby, was air-lifted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver with a diagnosis of leukemia.
“She was six years, two months, and two weeks old,” Arlene recalls, remembering feeling numb. That night she wrote in a journal, something she hadn’t done before. “This is something that happens to other people, not us,” she composed, “but it has happened.”
There would be many more nights for Ruby, for Arlene, and for their family. Almost a year at Children’s Hospital and a stem cell transplant would follow.
“YANA played a significant role during that time,” says Arlene. “The YANA apartment on Oak Street had everything that was needed and the financial part was a big help. YANA kept our family together.”
After returning to the Comox Valley, Ruby continued with regular check-ups at Children’s Hospital, first every two weeks and then every few months. In November 2012, after a routine blood test, Ruby was re-admitted to Children’s, the leukemia had returned.
“She was ten years, five months, and twenty-nine days old,” says Arlene. “And we were back at square one,” explains Arlene. “Again, YANA was there. I don’t think there is anything like YANA anywhere else, it seemed sent from heaven that it was available to us, it meant everything.”
Shortly after Ruby finished her second phase of long-term treatment, Arlene made a significant donation to YANA. “I had decided that when I could help, I would. YANA was at the top of my list.”
Since then Arlene has been a monthly donor, supporting YANA through Canada Helps, an on-line giving platform for non-profits.
“Arlene’s story reminds us of the close connection many of our donors have to the children and families we support,” says YANA Executive Director, Marcie Dumais. “We are grateful to be part of this circle of giving that ensures we are able to help when it’s needed.”
Arlene shares with relief that her granddaughter is a healthy teenager. “I can’t adequately express what YANA means to me, even after so much time has passed. It will be with me until the day I’m gone.”
To donate click here.
~ Originally published April 27, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record
From the outside, it’s just a white, sealed envelope with YANA’s address stamped on the top left.
If you have ever received one from St. Joseph’s staff or given one to a patient, you know that inside these envelopes offer support when it is most needed and represent something very unique and special about the Comox Valley.
“The relief that parents feel when I hand over a YANA emergency funding envelope is palpable,” explains Kelly Phillips, Clinical Coordinator of the Maternal Child Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “The enclosed cash and letter provide reassurance for parents in time of incredible stress and uncertainty.”
YANA’s emergency funding is offered to Comox Valley families when a child or pregnant mother needs to be transferred directly from St. Joseph’s Hospital to a medical facility outside the region. The program is administered by frontline hospital staff. More often than not, emergency transfers are unexpected and cause a great deal of fear and anxiety for families concerned for their loved ones.
“Parents are scared, being able to offer them something to show them that they are not alone means a lot,” says Phillips.
Marcie Dumais, Executive Director at YANA, remembers a mother telling her that she climbed into the helicopter wearing a robe and slippers, completely shocked about what was ahead but determined to stay right at her child’s side.
“It is important that we offer some cash as a small cushion to get families through the immediate situation and that we encourage them to connect with us for further funding and accommodation,” says Dumais. “Many of these emergencies result in long periods of time away from home so the invitation to connect ensures families have the support they need.”
Last year, YANA assisted with 46 emergency transfers involving children. The YANA Board of Directors recently doubled the cash gift, a decision that was possible because of tremendous community support.
“The Comox Valley cares about its people. Our emergency funding program is an excellent example of our compassion for one another. We feel privileged to connect families with their loving community,” says Dumais.
To donate click here.
~ Originally published April 20, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record
A special part of YANA’s service to local families is the apartments. Located on Oak Street within walking distance of Children’s Hospital, these four one-bedroom units are a home away from home for Comox Valley families. The apartments offer a place for families to be together, a place to retreat, prepare meals and to heal.
The apartments have a special volunteer named Jayne, also known as “the apartment angel.” A long-time Vancouver resident and recent retiree, Jayne recalls receiving a call from her daughter who lives in the Comox Valley.
“My daughter asked if I would be interested in volunteering with an organization that assisted families who needed to be in Vancouver for the medical care of a child,” remembers Jayne. “After meeting YANA representatives and seeing the apartments I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
Families who arrive in Vancouver by emergency transfer will often meet Jayne when she brings them the keys to the apartment. She helps with all things apartments; checking them between clients, making sure they are clean, ensuring linens are folded and easy to find, taking inventory, restocking necessities, and giving them lots of love.
“The families that use the apartments are under stress and I want to make everything as easy as possible for them,” says Jayne. “I want the apartments to be a welcoming place and to feel like a home.”
Complications around her twin pregnancy forced Kate Ashton and her family to Vancouver three months before her due date. Having only recently relocated to the Comox Valley, without nearby family support, and faced with a very serious condition was incredibly overwhelming, still Ashton says that, “remaining optimistic felt like the only choice.” “The YANA apartment offered my husband and I and our 21-month-old son a normal life while waiting for the birth of our girls,” recalls Ashton.
The twins, Lucy and Abilgail, were born small but healthy much to the relief of their family. The Ashtons continued at the apartments, waiting for the girls to be strong enough to leave the hospital. Abigail’s first night ‘home’ was spent at the YANA apartment. A few days later Lucy was released and the Ashtons were able to return to the Comox Valley.
“Regardless of how long they are here or for what reason,” says Jayne, “the families that stay in the apartments have the common experience of needing to care for a sick child. I feel blessed to be able to help in easing some of that stress.”
To donate click here.
~ Originally published on April 13, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record
Thirty years ago, a little girl named Roberta became critically ill and had to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. A diagnosis of congenital heart failure with severe complications changed her family’s life in an instant.
Roberta’s mother, Sandra Williams, stayed in Vancouver with her young daughter for months at a time. Roberta’s father stayed behind in the Comox Valley working and managing a household with three other children, while travelling to Vancouver whenever he could. The financial and emotional costs, during this time, were devastating to the Williams family.
Drawing from their own experiences, and after meeting other families in the same position from all over the province, the Williams family made a promise to our community. They committed to the ideal that no family should be alone when faced with having to leave their community for the medical treatment of a child.
YANA (You Are Not Alone) was founded in 1986. This grass roots organization had its humble beginnings operating out of the Williams’ home and helping one family at a time. Sandra, her friends, and her family were determined to realize the vision of keeping families together during their most difficult times.
YANA now operates out of an office on Rosewall Crescent in Courtenay. We help children and pregnant mothers residing in School District 71 who need to travel outside our community for medical care. We provide accommodation and funding to help with expenses. To date, YANA has funded thousands of trips for medical care in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and other locations. Last year YANA helped 141 local children, providing over $84,000 in financial assistance and covering $89,000 of accommodation expenses. Our courageous clients and their brave parents face many challenges and, in some cases, incredible heartache. YANA’s goal is to ease some of the burden. Our core belief remains unchanged since our inception; when a child is ill the whole family needs care. The Comox Valley has shared this belief for 30 years.
Sandra Williams, founder of YANA, passed away in 2009. She left a legacy of giving, compassion, and caring that has become part of the Comox Valley culture. We are proud to continue her work and to offer local families the love and support of their community.
To donate click here.
~ Originally published April 6, 2017 in the Comox Valley Record