Comox Valley family receives YANA support during week in Nanaimo

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Originally published by the Comox Valley Record, March 27, 2023

Jasper Myers – Special to the Record

Alex Maertz, like any parent, first thought her daughter Ren’s cold was just that – a cold. She had no idea she and her daughter would end up spending almost a week in hospital in Nanaimo.

“We thought it was just a cold that her older brother passed down to her, but she was showing some more severe signs,” said Maertz. “So we went to our family doctor and she’s like, ‘Just to be safe, I’m going to recommend going to the ER because they can do a scan and do a better assessment.’”

So Maertz took her daughter to the Comox Valley Hospital on March 7, and said they got in quickly. Once in she said they did an X-ray of Ren’s chest and detected fluid in her lungs. Ren had pneumonia.

“So they don’t have a pediatric doctor on staff in the Comox Valley, so they are like, ‘Well, we’re going to transfer you in an ambulance to Nanaimo’,” she said. “It kind of just gradually started escalating and I was like, ‘Well, I guess this is much more serious than I thought’.”

Maertz said they got to the hospital around 5 p.m. and were immediately met with nurses who she said made one of the scariest times a little better.

“A swarm of amazing pediatric nurses came and just made us feel super welcome and wonderful… and really reassuring and just took such good care of us,” Maertz said.

The nurses, Maertz said, got to work on helping her daughter immediately, which she said is when it really started to sink in that this was serious.

“Because she was so congested she hadn’t really been eating that day at all and so they put an NG (nasogastric) tube into her nose and then into her tummy so that she could get some food and fluids in her so she didn’t get more dehydrated than she was,” said Maertz. “They put a little oxygen mask near her to just get her numbers up closer to 100 because she dropped pretty low into the 70s and low 80s when she was really struggling to breathe.”

Maertz had been messaging a friend about what was going on, and the next day she said that friend told her about YANA.

“She’s been in the hospital a few times with her kids and recommended I contact YANA and in the moment I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I forgot about YANA’,” she said. “I designed one of their shirts a couple of years ago for the big bike ride, so I had a connection to them already, and in the moment I just wasn’t thinking about anything except for Ren, just kind of focusing on her.”

The next morning Maertz called Kourtney Van Velzen, and said Kourtney was on top of everything and sent an email with details of everything YANA was going to provide to them during their stay at the hospital.

“They made it so easy and they’re just so incredible,” Maertz said. “I’m very grateful for the community we live in and the organization that helps get all those donations so that families in the Comox Valley can stick together.”

During that initial phone call Maertz said she was asked for her email so YANA could send her an e-transfer to start and help out. She said throughout the week they followed up with her to assure her that if the hospital stay became longer, YANA would be there to continue supporting them.

Alex and Ren finally left the hospital and returned home March 11, and she said YANA made that week away so much better for her entire family.

Maertz said she had never spent more than a night away from her husband and son, and her husband had to take the week off work.

“It was just amazing, they allowed for my husband and son to be able to come down more than once because it’s about $50 each time with gas prices these days, it just allowed us a little bit more freedom with visits, which was amazing,” said Maertz. “It was pretty wonderful what they’ve done.”

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.