A recent family photo of parents Alana and Fraser with their twin daughters Isla (left) and Avery (right)

A recent family photo of parents Alana and Fraser with their twin daughters Isla (left) and Avery (right)

They could fit in the palm of our hands.

That’s how tiny our twin girls were after a traumatic delivery eight weeks earlier than expected.

But even the long, stressful labour felt like nothing compared to the thought that these little humans we had anxiously waited for, that we already named — Avery and Isla — may not survive.

We were well prepared for their premature births. Our incredible team of health care providers at North York General Hospital (NYGH) walked us through every possible outcome and every step that would be taken to ensure their health.

Still, nothing can truly prepare you for what follows after bringing two new beings into the world before their tiny organs are ready.

Skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, even holding our newborns — things that many new parents take for granted — were completely out of the question for us. The girls couldn’t even breathe without assistance, so they were immediately brought to the Tippet Foundation Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), incubated and hooked up to life-saving machinery.

You can only imagine the concerns we had about their health.On top of that, we couldn’t help but wonder, would we ever be able to make up for lost time and create that special baby-parent bond?

Luckily, we were able to take comfort in the fact that nearly 6,000 babies are born at NYGH each year, and approximately 500 of them are premature or critically ill and require life-saving support in the hospital’s NICU. That’s how we knew we were not alone.

Our girls were fortunate enough to have access to the state-of-the-art equipment — funded almost entirely by donors — and expertly trained staff that premature babies can’t live without in the days and weeks after birth.

However, these vital pieces of equipment are nearing the end of their lifespans. What’s more, the number of premature babies in Canada continues to rise, which means there could be an even greater need for NICU beds and neonatal clinicians in the near future.

This holiday season, your gift can help NYGH replace this aging equipment, create more functional areas for monitoring premature or ill newborns, and ensure they can continue to staff the unit with highly trained physicians and nurses that specialize in this type of care.

While in the NICU, Avery and Isla were progressing every day, eating more and more through their feeding tubes and getting stronger with each passing moment. We had nothing but confidence in the care they received, and your support means that other parents of premature babies can feel the same way.

Our twin babies have grown into happy, healthy toddlers. In fact, Avery has just taken her very first steps and Isla is now standing on her own! But we would not be able to report such exciting news without the incredible care that was made possible because of donors like you.

The Tippet Foundation NICU at North York General was our home for many weeks, and it will be home to other families this holiday season. Your generosity will help our hospital look after the growing number of premature babies in need of world-class care.

We hope you know that any contribution, big or small, makes a huge difference in the lives of your neighbours, maybe even loved ones and friends.

It requires a very special person to do what they do at NYGH. Major stakes are at play and they handle it all with such grace, not to mention finding the time to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Thanks to generous donors like you, NYGH can continue to deliver exceptional care, right here in your own backyard.

With warm wishes this holiday season,

Alana and Fraser