Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, April 3, 2023
Jasper Myers – Special to the Record
YANA has been a part of the Long family since their youngest daughter, Penny, was born in 2021 and immediately airlifted to Victoria General Hospital where they spent four months.
Her mother, Sophia Long, said Penny was struggling to breathe right after she was born.
“She was born with a, surprise to us, genetic condition,” said Long. “She struggled to breathe and she had some physical dysmorphic features… the respiratory thing was the big problem that brought us to Victoria and kept us there. She actually ended up having a tracheostomy placed when she was five weeks old, and she still has the trach today.”
YANA supported the Long family throughout those first four months, providing them with a daily allowance and accommodation the entire time. To this day, Long said they regularly have to leave the Comox Valley to get medical care for Penny. And every time they leave, YANA is right there to support them.
“Whenever she gets a cold, it’s like a really big ordeal,” Sophia said. “She ends up needing more support than we can give her at home, so we end up in the hospital either at Children’s or Victoria General because of the trach. The trach doesn’t allow her to be admitted in any other pediatric unit in the province other than the pediatric ICU in Victoria or Vancouver.”
Long said they will usually start with a visit to the emergency room, which usually leads to being sent out of town.
“As soon as we are in the ER, we’re either given an envelope of money or we check in with whoever, usually Kourtney [Van Velzen], and they get us set up with funding and accommodation,” she said. “It just takes this huge weight off of our chest when we’re in these crisis modes.”
Regardless of time of day, Long said YANA is available to them and gets back to anyone in need as quickly as possible.
“I don’t know if they answer in the middle of the night, but they are there pretty early in the morning,” she said. “The nurses in the ER and in maternity and I think maybe peds (pediatrics) as well, they have the ability to just give you an envelope of cash from YANA, and then they get you to sign this paperwork, and then that gets kind of the ball rolling.”
In the Longs’ case, when Penny was airlifted after birth, Sophia and her husband started driving down to Victoria and YANA called them before they had a chance to reach out themselves.
“They called and checked in with us, and were like, ‘we have a room for you, a hotel room,’” said Sophia. “We could just basically drive up and check in. And it was already taken care of, which was amazing.”
Sophia said YANA is a huge part of their life. She said YANA always has their back and provides more than just financial assistance.
“We have Kourtney’s cell phone number. And I just text her and I’m like, ‘okay, we’re in the ER again,’” said Sophia. “And they just always offer us support emotionally. ‘Are you okay? Is everything okay? Is there anything we can do to help?’”
She said YANA even helps out with the cost of travel for the ferry or when she or her husband have to drive down to Victoria, which she said takes the pressure off of them and allows them to focus on Penny.
“I just feel like we’re super fortunate that we had this child in this Comox Valley because I know there are other communities that don’t have the same kind of support, and it’s a huge thing,” Long said.
YANA (You Are Not Alone) is a not-for-profit organization in the Comox Valley that helps families who need to travel for medical treatment for their children or a pregnant mother.