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Donor Stories

Donor Stories

Stephanie & Nell

This is my fourth and final time being a donor for the Milk Bank. I've been blessed with abundant milk for each one of my sweet babies and have been honoured to be able to share that abundance with others. My older daughters have seen me pump and save milk when their siblings were infants, and they are so happy to know we've been a part of helping other babies get better.

However, I know that not every baby who receives donor milk grows to full health, or gets to go home with their families. We know that not every story has a happy ending, now more than ever. Our last baby, sweet Nell, was born with congenital heart disease, and was only three and a half months old when she died from complications of her illness. Our grief is deep, too deep for words, and our journey through it will be long.

In her final day in the hospital, as we said goodbye, even as we knew that she would never return to health, Nell still received a very small amount of my breast milk by an NG tube. This was not something I asked for, it was simply something that her care team continued to do for her, even though we were all preparing for her death. It was a small gesture on the part of the care team, but it meant a lot to me. She was important and precious, no matter how long her life was.

During Nell's multiple stays at the hospital, I saw other families and babies on their own health journeys, many much longer than ours. Again and again I felt humbled by how much other people were helping us - everyone at BC Women's, BC Children's and all of our friends and family at home - and how impossible it would have been to go through this without their generosity and kindness. I understand now, with a painful clarity, how vulnerable it feels to ask for what you are not able to give your baby yourself.

It was a mixed emotional moment when I brought in my last donation to the Milk Bank - grief intertwined with gratitude. I miss my baby girl so much, and nothing will take away that pain. But I am thankful to be able to donate milk one last time. I've been given much by others, and in this small way I can give a little to someone else, for the sake of Nell and all the babies who need special care.

My heart goes out to all the families who sit at bedsides, who hold tiny hands, who whisper gentle words, who watch and pray and sing and hope and grieve, and love these little ones who are so precious. I hope this milk donation makes other families feel in some small way a little more supported on their journey. 

Kelli's story

When I went into labour 5.5 weeks early, I had no idea what kind of journey we had ahead of us.  Our baby boy spent 3 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kelowna General Hospital.  Being able to provide him with breast milk was always important to me, and became more important once he was born preterm.  I immediately began pumping after he was born, and continued to pump every 3 hours day and night.  He received the expressed breast milk through a feeding tube until he was strong enough to nurse.  Even once we brought him home from the hospital, I continued to pump milk along with nursing him.  My husband was beyond supportive of all my feeding efforts and took ownership over cleaning and sterilizing the pump parts between feeding sessions.Kelli L milkbank.jpg

During our time in the NICU, I met and became friends with a wonderful mom whose baby girl was also born preterm.  Months later, my NICU mom friend encouraged me to get involved in the Milk Bank.  Although neither of our babies ended up needing donor milk, we recognized that there was a chance we may have, and that it is the reality for many preterm babies in the NICU.

I am beyond grateful for all the support that we received during our NICU experience; from those close to us like friends and family, but also from strangers like doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, fellow NICU parents and more.  Becoming a parent is amazing and beautiful, but also stressful and overwhelming, particularly if you are in a position to be needing donor milk.  I hope that donating my milk can help out a fellow parent (or two!), and be my way of contributing to a community need.  It is such a privilege and an honour to be a mom, and be able to share my milk with babies who need it.

Paolina: Counting my blessings
My husband and I tried effortlessly to have a child for 8 years of our 12-year marriage. After being pricked, poked and tested for everything under the sun we were told we had “unexplained infertility” basically, a big “we don’t know what’s wrong with you but you can’t seem to have a kid.”
You hear stories about having a couple extra glasses of wine, going on vacation, resting with your feet in the air constantly and taking Robitussin…yep we tried it all with no luck.  I got consumed with my career to try and get my mind off this ugly curse that continued to haunt me.  
Being a faithful person, I prayed constantly for the one thing in my life that my husband and I had no control over, it was emotionally taxing and nothing will bring you to your knees in prayer more than having absolutely no control over something your heart aches for every second of every day and with every single breath you take. 
Surrendering the answer and continuing to pray offered me peace and comfort while I tried to practice patience with our constant failed efforts, until one day, November 3rd, 2016 to be exact, after a blood pregnancy test…I was told I was pregnant. 
I had an unbelievable sense of calm which surprised me at the time considering how I had always pictured this moment. 

It still amazes me today…my daughter is 6 months old, even saying it, writing it…”my daughter”, blows my mind. Not a day passes where my husband and I don’t look at her with tears in our eyes in disbelief and complete and utter gratitude for something so precious, so perfect that only God could have sent it to us. 
I protected my heart during my pregnancy and always prepared myself in the case this experience would be a short one, I prayed daily that my baby would be protected in utero despite any complications I would have in pregnancy. All we wanted was our child to be healthy and for us to be able to take care of such a precious gift.
I am a donor to the BC Women’s hospital milk bank because I realize how fortunate I am to be a mother, a mother who could carry her own child, deliver her own child and a mother who can also nurse her child. Gifts that are denied to so many. As a token of gratitude for the incredible blessing I have been given, I would like to share whatever I can to help the health and wellbeing of any other baby in this world that can benefit from it. 
The milk I am donating comes with good vibes, intentions and always a prayer for good health.
With love, 
Paolina and Bianca Federico

Brittney, Jon and Zane's Special Gift

I first considered donating breast milk to the BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank when my son Zane had his first set of vaccinations.  The nurse was very impressed with Zane's weight gain since birth, especially since he was exclusively breast-fed. She suggested that I consider donating breast milk, which planted the seed in my head.  A few weeks later, I went to the Provincial Milk Bank websit, and read about the incredible benefits of breast milk for very tiny and sick babies in the NICU.  I learned that these babies cannot always tolerate formula, and how it can be difficult for mothers to constantly pump in order to establis their milk supply after giving birth.  The inspirational stories and adorable pictures tugged at my heartstrings, and I knew that this would be a great way for me to contribute and provide these babies and their families with a very special gift.

Brittny Zane photo.jpg

Donating to the Milk Bank is very empowering experience; knowing that you are helping babies and families in need is an extremely special feeling that words cannot describe.  Each time I pump for the Milk Bank, I explain to Zane that we are giving the milk to babies who are either very sick or very tiny in the neonatal intensive care units, or families that may need breast milk for their child.  My husband Jon, has been very supportive, cleaning my pumping equipment diligently every day.  We thoroughly enjoy the experience of giving back, and encourage others to help the BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank in any way that they can.

Cecilia & family share their blessings

I am a donor to the BC Women's Hospital and I am very grateful for the 4 children that God had sent me. Besides my beautiful children (8, 7, 4 years and 1.5 month), God has blessed us with the gift of breast milk which was more than enough for them until they naturally weaned off. 

Drawing by Cecilia's daughter, aged 8

I always have the question of how to dispose of my extra breast milk. For my last 2 births, I have been "tricking" my older children to drink the extras. This time, when I was giving birth to my 4th, I was told by my husband that apparently the Milk Bank is short of milk supply and is looking for donors. Later, I did more research on how the milk donation is used. I see the true need of premature and sick babies. It is not a matter of preference but that of survival. 

Drawing by Cecilia's daughter, aged 4

My husband and I consider it necessary to perform this act of charity towards our little brothers. And as a mother of four, I totally understand how parents feel to have a sick baby who is struggling to survive. I hope my contribution can help ease the anxiety of the parents and shorten the child's recovery time. I hope my motherly love can overflow to other babies who are in need in this special way. Our family will remember those little ones in our daily rosary. God Bless. 

PS: My 2 daughters (8 and 4) would like to share their drawings (pictured).

Adelyn's storyAdelyn at 4 years old

It was with thankful hearts that my husband and I decided that we wanted to donate breast milk to the BC Women's Hospital.  Our daughter Adelyn Charlotte Currie was born on November 14, 2011 at Royal Columbian Hospital.  She was born after 25 weeks gestation-- she weighed only 695 grams (1 ½ lbs) and was 9 inches long.  Miraculously, Adelyn survived the many obstacles of being born so early.  Although she had some complications (infection, a brain bleed, and an open valve in her heart), she gradually grew stronger and started gaining weight.  We held Adelyn for the first time when she was three weeks old.  

Like all "micro-prems" (babies born under 1000 grams), most of Adelyn's systems were extremely immature.  Her eyes were still fused shut when she was born, her skin was translucent, and she couldn't breathe on her own.   She was on a ventilator for a month and wore a CPAP mask for two weeks after that.  Her digestive system was also very immature so she was given only 1 mL of breast milk every four hours until her body could tolerate digesting more milk.  After three weeks she was being fed 10 mL of beast milk every two hours through an NG tube into her stomach.  Since a premature baby's digestive system is so fragile, breast milk is absolutely the best nutrition for the baby and protects the baby's system from breaking down.

I started pumping breast milk for Adelyn immediately, knowing that she needed breast milk to give her the best chance possible at survival and also hoping that eventually she would be able to breastfeed.  Since Adelyn was consuming so little of the breast milk I was pumping, I started freezing the extra milk.  

Adelyn was transferred from Royal Columbian Hospital two months after she was born.  She weighed 4 lbs, 4 oz and had been breathing on her own for two weeks.  She was in hospital (in Kamloops) for another five weeks, growing stronger and learning how to drink from a bottle and trying to breastfeed.  We finally brought Adelyn home on February 23, 2012—five days before her due date.  She had been in hospital for 101 days and weighed 6 lbs, 11 oz when she came home.

By the time we brought Adelyn home, she was starting to breastfeed a bit but I continued to pump milk and bottle feed her as well.  Adelyn started breastfeeding exclusively when she was 6 months old.  By this time I literally had a freezer full of breast milk!  We had been told about the Milk Bank/donor program by the lactation consultant at the hospital and we decided that we would be thrilled to donate the frozen breast milk to the Women's Hospital.  

We are so thankful for Adelyn and so grateful for her miraculous survival—we hope that the milk we donated will help give other babies a better chance for survival and a healthy life. 

Anna's StoryDonor story - Anna

I would like to introduce you to Anna. She is now nearly 6 months old. She was born on March 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm. Weighing in at 8 pounds 5 ounces and 20.5 inches long.

She was born at home after a precipitous labour (1 hour 20 min). My contractions were 7 minutes apart the entire time and ended with one coupling contraction, water breaking and pushing immediately. I was assisted by two amazing midwives who got to my home in record time! and were, thankfully, there in time to catch her. It is a good thing too because Anna took a minute to breath. I don't say that in the off hand sort of way – just a minute, when you really mean a second – but in the terrifying long minute of silence that felt like an eternity upon her arrival. Apparently her heart rate was strong, she was pink and once the umbilical cord was cut she opened her eyes, looked around and just needed a few puffs of air to get her going. But I couldn't see any of that. All I could hear were hands vigorously rubbing my baby. I was terrified. Anna was fine. Better than fine, she is the happiest baby I have ever met – will flash anyone her huge smile if they meet her eye. But I will never remember the feeling of thinking my baby might need help. Serious help.

She is my second daughter, second child. I had no problems nursing my first and had plenty of milk to spare. So, when one of my midwives suggested I donate my very serious overflow of milk to the milk bank, I had no hesitation. If Anna and I could help even just one baby, it would mean the world to us. I thought that she might be in trouble when she was born. She was totally fine but it could so easily have been different. If she had needed help (beyond the amazing calm care of our midwives!), I would have wanted another mother and baby to help her – if they could.

Anyway, as you can see she is as happy as can be and one very rolly baby who was happy to share 164.5 ounces of her spare milk earlier this year!

Shiv's story: Milk Bank recipient shows gratitude by giving backDonor story - Shiv

Bhaveena Goradia always felt strongly about breastfeeding. For her, it was a given that when she had her first baby, she would be a breastfeeding mom.

But, when she ended up having an emergency caesarian and giving birth to her son six weeks early, her body wasn't yet ready to produce milk—and her plans to nourish her baby with breast milk solely looked like they might be thwarted.

That's when the staff at BC Women's told Bhaveena about an option she hadn't considered.

For the first week of his life, Bhaveena's newborn son, Shiv, was fed a mixture of donated breast milk and Bhaveena's own milk. Bhaveena pumped every three hours, morning and night, trying to get her own milk to come in. By the end of that week, she was producing enough milk to feed Shiv on her own.

Bhaveena knows first-hand the value of the Milk Bank to a mother who can't breastfeed her own baby. "Breast milk has so many essential nutrients," she says.

And for some babies who can't tolerate formula, it can help make the difference between life and death.

When she returned home with her son, Bhaveena continued to pump and freeze her breast milk. She ended up with more than Shiv needed, so she decided to give something back to the hospital that had helped nourish her newborn.

"I ended up accumulating a lot of extra milk, so I decided to donate it back to the Milk Bank," she explains. "It was about two to three grocery bags full!"

Bhaveena was happy to show her gratitude to the Milk Bank by becoming a donor, too!

"Hopefully other mothers found my milk useful, too," she says.

Please help the babies who rely on the milk bank by making a donation today.

Do you have a story you wish to share? Please contact us.  

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Recipient Stories

Recipient Stories

Matthew's StoryRecipient story - Mathew

My Matthew was born with a cardiology team peeking through the delivery room door. It was not a matter of whether to operate but a decision of when and how many times.

To everyone's surprise Matthew did well after delivery. It was decided that Matthew should grow as much as possible before his first surgery. We left the hospital believing we had a "few months" to care for our sweet boy and prepare for the scary first stage of repair.

My milk was slow to arrive and almost nonexistent. I was pumping an ounce at a time with no improvement in sight. We supplemented with formula. In the first weeks of life Matthew's diet was 90% formula.

Matthew became very constipated, He also became congested. We thought he had a cold. His blood oxygen saturation started dipping into the low 70's high 60's. This was alarming. We were in the emergency room a few times in those first few weeks and no one had a good explanation for Matthew's decline. Surgery was booked and we were trying to stay positive.

It was during Matthew's recovery in the Children's Hospital ICU that I asked our nurse about donor milk, mentioning the constipation. She agreed that we should get donor milk for Matthew. We went home with a prescription for pasteurized donor breast milk, PDM and we felt blessed to live in a city where our baby was so well cared for.

Matthew's constipation and congestion disappeared and his saturation stabilized. All of these symptoms returned when the dietician at Children's worked with us to increase calories by adding formula again to the PDM…It was clear that commercial formula was not an option in any form or dilution.

Then another problem: BC Women's Milk Bank was in low supply, very low supply. We called in every day and prayed with fingers crossed that they would have enough milk for Matthew. With the Christmas season approaching we were able to get less and less. In my mind there was no alternative to breast milk if Matthew was going to thrive.

I resorted to the internet. While my mother-in-law held my baby I drove all over Greater Vancouver, meeting women in parking lots and on doorsteps. I felt so grateful for the generosity of other Moms willing to pump milk for strangers. I also felt terrified to be giving Matthew unpasteurized milk. The safety of my baby's diet relied on my gut instinct. I asked about meds from my donors, hard to ask about disease … I threw milk in the garbage on occasion, sometimes just because I didn't like the look of someone's home. This was always heartbreaking as we never had enough to really get ahead.

Thanks for reading Matthew's story. Matthew is now a year old and doing well. We feel so incredibly grateful to have been able to receive donor milk when we were in desperate need. Here's hoping that funding and awareness will increase so that other families will be able to receive all that they need when their babies need it.

Matthew received donor milk from the BC Women's Milk Bank . Unfortunately we are unable to meet the needs of many critically ill babies like Matthew. We hope Matthew's story will encourage more women to donate to the BC Women's Milk Bank.

Have a story you wish to share? Please contact us.

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