The mothers that come through the doors at Canuck Place are some of the most resilient, courageous, and strongest people you’ll meet. Stephanie Hill-Davie is one of these incredible mothers. Her son Owen was introduced to Canuck Place when he was just six years old after being diagnosed with a single gene defect affecting multiple organs.
“I remember feeling oddly calm,” Stephanie says as she recalls the first time she met the Canuck Place nurses when discussing Owen’s care plan. “The entire room listened — my tears didn’t make them feel uncomfortable. They paused at appropriate times and they asked questions I wished others along this journey had asked. It felt like the room was filled with support that was ready, willing, and able, to lift some of the weight we carried.”
Despite receiving the devastating news of Owen’s diagnosis, Stephanie continues to live life fully while caring for Owen along with his siblings Nora and Oliver.
While each day can bring new challenges and seem overwhelming at times, Stephanie describes the care at Canuck Place as one-of-a-kind. “From phone calls, home visits, hospital visits when admitted, the kitchen staff that make amazing meals, the counsellors dedicated to families, music therapy that makes Owen smile, to the school teacher that pours her heart and soul into delivering fun education.”
A true highlight for Owen’s visits at Canuck Place are the team outings made possibly by Canuck Place’s recreation therapy team. Owen loves being able to go to camp with his brother and the joy their family feels that the boys can spend time together outside of the home is unmeasurable.
The clinical staff at Canuck Place are like family who love Owen, working together as an incredible team. Our nurses recognize the extreme stress parents endure caring for a child with a disease or condition where there is not a cure. They create individualized family care plans that evolve as the child journeys through their illness and condition. Our nurses, physicians, counsellors, recreation and music therapists work very closely with families, they embrace life and the moments that count by understanding what matters for each child and their family. The talented team—including over 205 volunteers who have continued to volunteer throughout the pandemic—provide exceptional care for children with short lives and help families live every moment fully. Stephanie notes that because of Canuck Place donors, their family was given much-needed rest, has received world-class advice and guidance, and has lived fiercely.
The impact of Canuck Place care is truly positive for Stephanie and her family. Medical respite care at the hospice, has been an integral part of Owen’s individualized care plan and something that the family cherishes. “It’s the only time where we can leave Owen with someone and trust that he is in good hands,” Stephanie explains.
“Staff call when they have questions, they send pictures at bedtime to ensure his brother and sister who miss him, know that he is being well cared for.”
For the Hill-Davie family every respite stay holds a new experience. Plane rides with Santa and nerf gun wars are some of the fun activities that her children speak fondly of. For Stephanie, she remembers the little moments. “I remember the first morning I slept in the house and I rounded the staircase and smelled fresh baking and hot coffee.” Simple services that allow her to live in the moment and be fully present with her family.
For most families, Canuck Place is a home away from home. A safe landing. A refuge from the storm. “You become used to people rushing around that are helping care for your child, but at Canuck Place that isn’t the case, Stephanie explains. “Every single person takes time. Time to talk, to eat, to play, and time to help. They give you back the time you feel you’re losing. It’s a unique place where you’re learning to live.”
In a reality where a family may not have much time, Canuck Place can help families ensure that no moment is missed.
This Mother’s Day, give the gift of togetherness. You can help Canuck Place mom’s like Stephanie have the chance to just be a mom. Donte wait. Donate.
A version of this story was published in The Vancouver Sun on May 7.