Mireille Larosa and Martin Archambault moved to North Vancouver from Montreal in April, 2016 with their son William, who was four years old at the time. They were also expecting their second child, Charles, who was due to be born in June. The Archambault-Larosa’s were just starting to settle into their new community when tragedy struck.
In September, William fell from a two-storey window onto paving stones, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was in the ICU for several days, followed by several weeks in BC Children’s Hospital 3R Neurosurgery ward, and Sunnyhill Health Centre learning how to walk, talk, and use the right side of his body again.
Kids are amazingly resilient and just three months later, William thankfully made a miraculous recovery from his injuries. The family decided to celebrate by taking a trip to Hawaii together; when tragedy struck once again for the Archambault-Larosa’s. Charles had, what would be first of many, a tonic-clonic seizure that lasted 30 minutes. They were devastated and so worried. Charles had to be airlifted to Honolulu, where he spent several days in the ICU to stabilize, before they could return home.
In shock and complete disbelief, they found themselves back at Children’s Hospital in the neurosurgery ward, with the same nurses and doctors who had cared for William. This time though, there was no concrete diagnosis, no one really knew what was wrong with Charles. It was surreal and overwhelming.
Introduction to Canuck Place
Mireille and Martin were introduced to Canuck Place Medical Director, Dr. Hal Siden, and it was in that moment that everything changed. Dr. Hal reassured them that they were not alone. That Canuck Place would provide additional resources to support Charles, and medical care to manage his symptoms and pain. During that initial visit, they didn’t fully comprehend the scope of support that Canuck Place would provide; a saving grace that would keep their family whole during unimaginable circumstances.
“Pediatric palliative care is complex and uncertain and has to be approached as both an art and science. The magic of Canuck Place is that we see and recognize the unpredictable, that uncertainty and lead with a gentle therapeutic approach that respects the uniqueness of every family’s situation.” says Dr. Siden.
The Archambault-Larosa’s decided to go directly to Canuck Place after being discharged from Children’s Hospital. Canuck Place nurses and doctors cared for Charles for a few days in-hospice, to get to know him and the family. Over the course of those days, Mirielle and Martin were shown how to care for their little boy at home; how to bathe him, feed him, and administer the many medicines he required to manage his symptoms. Canuck Place nurses empowered them with the knowledge to care for their baby, and ensured they had the strength and skills to manage Charles’ complex medical care at home.
I knew I could fully trust them to take care of baby Charles. I could sleep, read a book, spend time with William and Martin – bring back a sense of normal even if only momentarily
“They knew how to make me feel safe and reassured that Charles was in good hands. Canuck Place nurses cared for me wholeheartedly too, they empowered me and taught me so much.”
In addition to the complex medical care they received both in-hospice and in-home through the 24 hour nursing line, the Archambault-Larosa’s also received invaluable grief, bereavement, and spiritual counselling support.
“Caring for our sweet baby Charles shattered me to my core. Canuck Place counsellors helped me navigate my new reality, guide me, ground me, and by extension my family, as our world fell apart” says Mireille.
Canuck Place Care
Every light is precious, no matter how long it shines. Baby Charles’ light, with his beautiful golden hair, and his big brown joyful eyes, shone bright and touched the lives of many. Canuck Place nurses, doctors, counsellors, and recreation therapists, helped the Archambault-Larosa’s create lasting memories that are now priceless reminders of a life lived.
“Canuck Place allowed baby Charles to live the best life he could. They always sought ways to reduce his pain, better his condition, increase his comfort, and improve the effectiveness of his treatments.” says Martin. “The day Charles passed away, William had an excursion to a farm with recreational therapists, and brought back a sunflower for Charles. To this day, sunflowers have a special meaning for us.”
There is a sense of isolation that comes from caring for a terminally ill child. Death and grieving are uncomfortable; death and grieving of a child are unthinkable. Canuck Place makes dying a part of living. They honour a family’s individual grief journey, which reduces suffering and helps the whole family live well after the child has passed.
“As parents of a terminally ill child, we often find ourselves isolated and very much alone. That isolation completely dissipated the moment Canuck Pla25ce got involved. They offer an open ear, an open mind, and they welcome children, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, with open arms. Everyone at Canuck Place stands with us, by us, and gives us the strength to carry on. There is never a feeling of being alone with Canuck Place in our lives.” says Martin.
For 25 years, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice has been providing exceptional complex medical care, while helping children and families embrace living fully with the time they have left together. But not without donor support. You can light a life this holiday season for Canuck Place children like Charles. Don’t wait. Donate. canuckplace.org
“The healing environment that Canuck Place creates for families facing the darkest moments of their lives, is incredible. To all the donors, no amount of words can explain how important Canuck Place is to our family,” says Martin. “They’ve kept us unified; we are stronger than ever as a couple, William is thriving, and is making joyful memories of Canuck Place and baby Charles with his new baby brother Theo. William today is a fine gentleman with a kind and tender heart, surely moulded in part by his experience at Canuck Place.”