For over 200 days Jack McVey has been in the hospital, away from his twin sister Elliott, and away from his parents Alana and Adam. A complicated pregnancy from the start, Alana was on bed rest for four weeks to help correct a placenta bleed with Elliott. At 21 weeks Alana started having symptoms that were concerning. On their way to a birthday party, Alana and Adam went to the emergency room in Lloydminster to get checked out.
The doctor in the ER ordered many tests, and an ultrasound showed that Alana was going into preterm labour. The babies were both at risk, so Alana was admitted to the hospital in Lloydminster right away. The couple was told that if Alana went into labour while still in Lloydminster that their babies would not survive.
Alana and Adam prayed for their babies, waiting for the day that Alana could be transferred to a ital equipped with a NICU..
Two weeks later Alana was transferred to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. Each day that Alana was in hospital was another day that that babies could grow stronger.
On November 12, 2016, a team of 20 medical professionals surrounded the McVeys as Jack and Elliot were born via an emergency C-section while Alana 25 weeks pregnant. From that day on Alana and Adam have done everything they could to keep their babies alive.
Alana & Adam in the hospital with Elliott.
The McVeys were told from the very beginning that the journey for both Jack and Elliott would be tough. The first hour of their lives was critical, and each hour after would only prove just how strong the twins were.
Jack & Elliott together in Hospital. Photo Credit: Carrie Jane Photography
At the beginning, Elliott was light and sound sensitive, so Alana and Adam would spend time with her late at night holding her close for hours at a time. Elliott soon underwent a steroid regimen to help her lungs. She did better than expected, and was breathing on her own six weeks after she was born.
Jack posing for the camera.
As Elliott started to get better Jack’s medical needs continued to grow. Even when Alana and Adam celebrated Elliott’s discharge from the NICU after 121 days, their worry grew for Jack as he was transferred to the Stollery Children’s Hospital for surgery. After many failed attempts to take his breathing tube out, Jack had a tracheostomy to give him a stable airway and to let his damaged airway heal.
The McVeys’ everyday life did not feel very normal. They would stay at the hospital at their babies’ bedsides changing diapers, holding Jack and Elliott close. Watching their tiny movements were the moments Alana and Adam cherished. As the weeks progressed, it got a little easier for Alana and Adam to consider this their new normal.
In December the McVeys moved into the Ronald McDonald House®. Alana and Adam walked into the House in survival mode. They didn’t have time to breathe or think; they just had to get through their journey minute by minute. For the first four months of their stay, they would eat, sleep, and then head to the hospital.
Alana & Adam introducing Elliott & Jack to Santa at RMHCNA.
Alana and Adam knew that the House was a safe space to be close to their children in the hospital, but RMHCNA became so much more for their family. Adam had to be off work to be in Edmonton with his family – and staying at RMHCNA meant they would not be overwhelmed by debt from this journey. The McVeys don’t have to think about where their next meal is coming from, how they will get to the hospital, or where they are going to sleep. All they have to think about is Jack and Elliott.
The Ronald McDonald House® is the first home that the twins would ever know.
“You don’t think that it will ever be your family. When you need this support you are grateful that it’s here because you don’t know what you would do without it,” says Alana.
Milestones, like special holidays, are tough to celebrate when there’s so much going on in the hospital. The McVeys spent Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter at the House, surrounded by other families and community supporters. Alana’s first Mother’s Day was spent at RMHCNA. Adam took the twins to a pop-up Mother’s Day shop run by KDM Management Inc. showering Alana with love and appreciation.
Enjoying a Mother’s Day lunch at RMHCNA.
Alana and Adam have fought hard to be parents. They’ve been fighting since before the babies were born and they continue to fight every day, ensuring that their children have the best care possible. Now that Jack and Elliott’s medical journeys are progressing, Alana and Adam just want to be Mom and Dad.
“Miracles happen here for families. It is a place of so much hope, support, love, and encouragement. It is a House of perspective,” says Alana.
Jack’s first trip outside.
Jack is now able to be at the House during the day. Instead of parenting in shifts, Alana and Adam can be together with their twins, living life as normal as possible. “It was so exciting to bring Jack to the House so he could meet all the people who love him and ask about him every day, even though they’ve never met him. It was really special,” says Alana.
When they shared their first meal together as a family at the House they had both twins together and were surrounded by their family. For Alana and Adam, it was their first normal family moment in over 200 days.
Brother & sister snuggles.
The McVeys have been trying to sort out what Jack’s new reality will look like. Finding care for Jack back home had felt like an unmovable boulder in their path. They felt powerless and confused, so they booked a meeting with the Family-Centered Care Coordinator at RMHCNA who connected them with people who had solutions to their life back in Lloydminster.
Now they have a support system to lean on made up of other caregivers staying at the House, volunteers, staff, and community donors who lift them and celebrate them. In two weeks the McVey family hopes to return to Lloydminster with a bright full future together.