YANA founder helps family in need: a historical account

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record – April 14, 2021

Andrea Postal, Client Services, YANA.  Special to the Record

The first few months of Angela Furlotte’s life were anything but easy.

In the fall of 1988 at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Angela was welcomed by big sister Melissa, and parents Heather and Tom, who couldn’t have predicted how challenging the coming months would be with the newest member of their family. It wasn’t long after Angela was born that Heather realized something wasn’t right with her little girl, who presented symptoms that doctors couldn’t identify a cause for, causing obvious pain and distress.

“I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, she cried constantly,” Heather recalls, choking up at the memory of the heartbreak and helplessness she’d felt for her baby. “Life was hell, as you can imagine.”

After many months and many doctors, a local physician identified the cause of Angela’s extreme discomfort. The diagnosis required the family to travel to Vancouver to BC Children’s Hospital, where Angela would undergo surgery at just a few months old.

Angela Furlotte had serious health issues as a baby. YANA (You Are Not Alone) helped the family with its medical expenses.

The young couple arrived with Angela and two-year-old Melissa in tow, scared and alone, with the added worry about how they would afford the trip and where they would stay. A close family friend and Angela’s godmother, Jeanette, contacted the Legion in Comox about their situation. The legion in turn contacted Sandra Williams, founder of YANA, who happened to be at BC Children’s Hospital that same day Tom and Heather arrived.

Heather recalls how it all miraculously unfolded.

“Sandra and Roberta were over at (BC Children’s) for a cardiac appointment that day. Jeanette got ahold of us and said, ‘there’s going to be a lady to meet you in the lobby…can you meet with her?’ We said ‘sure’.

“This lady came up to us, she sat down, she took my hand and she said, ‘Hi Heather, hi Tom, hi Angela and Melissa. I’m Sandra and I’m from the Comox Valley, I’m here to help you.’ We just cried.”

In those days YANA was just a small society made up of community members and volunteers who worked tirelessly to raise money for families just like the Furlottes. YANA was able to provide them with money for food and a place to stay, but most of all, they gave them the gift of support and the care of a community in a time of crisis.

It’s been 32 years since Heather’s family was helped by YANA but the feeling has held through the years. The community support was felt deeply through the hands and heart of Sandra, and Heather speaks with emotion about the memory.

“It was like a human touch, not in your weakest hour, but your hour where you don’t know what’s going to come,” said Heather. “That little angel (Sandra) came and sat down beside us… and assured us that everything would be okay.”

Angela is all grown up and in her 30s now. She enjoys her three dogs while working and living in the Comox Valley along with her parents. Heather tells us she’s doing well.

Heather and Tom have shared with Angela the story of how YANA helped them, and the connection to the organization is one Heather tells us she’ll always hold close to her heart.

“I don’t know what else to say, we’re forever grateful.”


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