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BC Women's patient thankful for help through heart-wrenching time

Keana Huntley’s baby was born three months early, weighing just a little more than one pound – and the 17-year-old still managed to find the strength to finish high school remotely, while at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.
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​Seven years later, she’s now looking back at one of the hardest times of her life with appreciation.

“It was rough,” says Keana, now 25. “I honestly kind of blocked most of it out because I thought, ‘I just have to get through this.’”

She remembers a nurse named Amy, who helped the family through their time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

“We actually went back to thank her. She was so personable and sweet. She had this mother-like, caring personality.”

Keana also recently wrote in to the BC Women’s Hospital “Messages of Thanks” just as her daughter was approaching her seventh birthday. It read: 

“Thank you so much to the nursing staff BC Women’s. Seven years ago, I had a little girl born at 28 Weeks. Without the help of the NICU staff, I don't think we would have our little girl today. It was a very traumatic time for myself and my husband. We had to overcome many challenges as our daughter fought for her life. She weighed 1 lb., 13 oz. and is now a very healthy, happy seven-year-old.”

Looking at Addyson Huntley today, you’d never guess she was born 12 weeks early.

“She’s been the tallest in her class,” says her mother, Keana Huntley. “She’s thrived since she left the hospital.”

Second trimester emergency delivery

Keana was close to seven months pregnant with Addyson and in the second trimester of her pregnancy when she went to the hospital in her hometown of Fort Nelson for what she thought was heartburn.

“Doctors told me I had to deliver the baby immediately,” says Keana.

Turns out Keana had HELLP syndrome, a serious complication of pregnancy affecting the wellbeing of both the mother and the fetus. Keanna’s placenta was starting to detach. 

 “My body was basically going into shock,” she says. “It hits about 50 in 1,000 women and I developed it, but no one realized it. I was going in for nosebleeds and water retention, but was told it was because the air up North is dry.”

Keana was taken by air ambulance to Prince George and went straight to the operating room, where her daughter, Addyson, was born March 27, 2013 via caesarian section. 

“She was breathing on her own, but she was too small to care for there. They flew her to BC Women’s that night at midnight,” says Keana. “I had no idea until the next morning.”

Addyson’s father, Jordan, flew with her, but Keana had to stay in Prince George until she was stable enough to fly. By the time she arrived in Vancouver, Addyson was already 5 days old.

“It was very hard. I was trying to wrap my brain around the fact that my baby was taken out of my body,” says Keana. “I was trying to pump, but I had no milk so I ended up getting donor milk from the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank.”

Keana was discharged from hospital after eight days, but Addyson was in the hospital for nearly two months. Keana and Jordan stayed at the Easter Seals House across from the hospital.

“I still had to finish high school,” says Keana. “I did correspondence while we were in the hospital so I could finish with my grad class.”

Keana did graduate, but Addyson was developing health troubles. 

Growing in a crib instead of a belly

“Everything was growing like she was still in the womb,” says Keana. “Her nose cartilage was growing and her skin was thickening. We saw every little thing develop on the outside, how it develops on the inside. 

“She’d forget she wasn’t in the womb and her body would revert to functioning that way. Her heart rate would drop and you’d have to rub her on her back to remind her to start breathing again.” 

Addyson needed constant medical care and monitoring in the NICU, including help with her breathing. 

 “It was traumatic. I was always waiting for a call to say that my baby didn’t make it.”

Addyson was always pulling out her feeding tube and taking off her diaper. The nurses started calling her “Sassy Addy.”

Premature in a pandemic

Addy got better and over the years, she had seizures (unrelated to being premature) that stopped by the time she was six years old. Now, Addy is a healthy and happy Grade 2 student going to school full time, even through the pandemic. 

“She does really well,” says Keana, who now has two other children aged, 2 and 3. “I was told to expect that Addy would have a learning disability, but she was one of the best readers in her class - and she's still sassy! The name stuck well.”

Keana does worry about Addy catching COVID-19.

“It definitely freaks us out a little bit,” says Keana. “She’s healthy, but the pandemic targets lungs and she’s had pneumonia four times.”

Keana works in a dental office and is going back to school for diagnostic imaging. For others, who may experience having a premature baby, she recommends just taking each day as it comes. 

“BC Women’s is the best place to be with your child,” says Keana. “You can’t be in better hands.”

BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre; NICU
Women's Health
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