Finding hope for parents with medically fragile children

Tyler Clarke
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Hope’s Home provincial director Nicole Cook, right, is seen with her son Ethan and Hope's Home founder/executive director Jacqueline Tisher at the recently expanded Prince Albert childcare facility for medically fragile children. 

If Prince Albert had Hope’s Home a few years ago, Nicole Cook and her family would not have had to move to Regina.


“The whole concept around it -- why didn’t we have this before?” Cook asked on Saturday, calling the child care centre for medically fragile children a no-brainer.

“Bringing Hope’s home to Prince albert, it just made sense,” she said. “I don’t want families to have to move away from their home town. I want them to stay here and I want them to access the same type of care, here, as they would anywhere else.”

Hope’s Home opened with in Prince Albert about one year ago. On Saturday the organization announced the availability of 46 new child care spaces, bringing the centre to a new capacity of 90.

With a waiting list 71-strong for infant spaces alone, director of education Mickey MacGillivray said that she’s confident they will reach capacity by September.

Cook’s story dates back to the birth of her and husband Stephen’s son Ethan about eight years ago.

Shortly after Ethan’s birth he was diagnosed with a handful of conditions -- “Basically, his trachea was really floppy and he was having a hard time eating and breathing,” Cook explained.

“It got so bad that he actually stopped breathing in my husband’s arms and we had to stimulate him to get him to wake up.”

The family found themselves constantly travelling to hospitals in Saskatoon and Edmonton.

“The bills kept piling up because we had to pay for a place to stay in Edmonton for 30 days straight or 60 days and we had to pay for our mortgage in Prince Albert,” she explained.

“It was a hard decision, but my husband and I sold our house and moved in with his parents in Regina.”

In Regina, Cook met up with Hope's Home founder/executive director Jacqueline Tisher, who’d started a small child care centre in her home for medically fragile children.

“She had no idea how much it would grow and the amount of impact it’s had on the province,” Cook noted.

Leaving her job as a LPN to join Ticher’s effort, Hope’s Home has continued to expand. A recently-announced expansion in Regina brings their number of child care spaces to 90.

As someone who grew up in Prince Albert, Cook said that she’s particularly proud of the effort in her home city -- a city she wishes she could have been able to stay in.

The whole concept around it -- why didn’t we have this before? Nicole Cook

“I love the north. I love the northern communities. I love the forest and it was really hard for me and my family to move to Regina to try and find support,” she said.

“Now that Hope’s Home is here in Prince Albert I think that we’ll able to help out lots of families from having to travel and move to those bigger cities when their comfort levels are here in Prince Albert.”

On Saturday, Ethan, 8, joined his parents in wishing the Prince Albert Hope’s Home luck in their expansion to 90 child care spaces.

Joining them was Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens who helped announce the expansion, noting that the provincial government provided $194,166 for the project.

Of the 90 spaces currently available at Hope’s Home, 30 per cent are earmarked for medically fragile children.

“Our medical children always take precedence, and then after that we, of course, take the typical kids,” director of operations Jena Baldrey explained.

“We have nurses here, we have developmental workers here, and you don’t see that in many other centres.”

The centre is currently finishing up renovations that will see four 24-hour respite care rooms open.  These spaces will allow parents much-needed breaks from caring for their medically fragile children.

As Cook’s story highlights, some parents stay up all night out of fear their child will stop breathing and need to be revived.

“Hope’s home is always there to provide for the community needs, so all the time I’m looking for what are the needs, here,” Baldrey said of the non-profit organization.

“We’re always looking for how we can help parents with transportation, how we can link them with resources, and we go that extra mile, I think.”

Hope’s Home operates at 550 First Ave. E., a building previously known as the Prince Albert Family Church. 

Organizations: Prince Albert Family Church

Geographic location: Regina, Edmonton, Saskatoon

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