NICU care of newborns celebrated at ‘Bloom’

Tina Searcy (left) and Amy Novakovski are co-directors of 'Bloom: an Evening of Love'
Tina Searcy (left) and Amy Novakovski are co-event directors of ‘Bloom: an Evening of Love’

When the life of a newborn hangs perilously in the balance, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) marshals all its resources to save that life. Many people who have benefited from NICU in those critical moments want to give back.

They had that opportunity at ‘Bloom: an Evening of Love,’ a gala evening to raise funds for NICU. Now in its fifth year, Bloom was originally founded by those who felt a debt of gratitude to NICU.

Amy Novakovski’s newborn son failed to breathe when he was born and subsequently had aspiration problems. He landed in the NICU where he spent four days fighting for his life. ‘Dutch’ as he is known, is four now. “He’s perfect,” said Novakovski. He is a twin, born after his sister who was healthy from the start.

Bloom was originally conceived on a smaller scale and with a different name. Due to the response, what started with a steak night to raise a couple thousand dollars expanded into a larger vision. On May 14 over 300 guests attended the sold out event at the Travel Lodge Hotel.

The name changed to Bloom last year. “We decided to change gears and go a little bit more classic with our event versus the traditional steak night,” said Novakovski, who serves as co-event director alongside Tina Searcy. “We wanted a name that would encompass the event that could mean everything – the motherhood, the babies – so that’s where Bloom came from.”

Generosity was in bloom at this Evening of Love, both in monetary and emotional support. Several stories were shared of those who have been helped by NICU. Novakovski said friendships and partnerships are formed between people who share the common bond of their NICU experience.

Meaghan Craig hosted the evening and mentalist Curtis Strauss performed sleight of hand tricks at individual tables while guests enjoyed dinner. Tim Palmer conduct a live auction of eight or nine items listed in the program. One of those was an evening with Warman resident, Chef Darren Craddock who offered a five course meal paired with wines for four people. Many silent auction items were up for bid, from restaurant gift cards, to artwork, pottery and woodwork.

A grand prize of a trip to New Orleans was donated by Gateway Travel in Martensville. Tickets for a Westjet flight for two anywhere they travel were raffled at $10 for a single.

Approximately 10 per cent of all newborns in Canada require a stay and care by NICU. The Saskatoon NICU increased their number of beds from 32 to 38, as of December 2015.

There is no specific designation for the funds raised at Bloom. Novakovski said the money goes directly into NICU’s regular operating budget to be used as they see fit.

Donation to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit a way of saying: ‘thanks’

Tina Searcy of Warman (left) and Amy Novakovski of Martensville (right) present a cheque in the amount of $33,019 to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Manager Adeline Riehl
Tina Searcy of Warman (left) and Amy Novakovski of Martensville (right) present a cheque in the amount of $33,019 to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Manager Adeline Riehl

Tina Searcy of Warman does her best to keep her tears at bay when she talks about how she almost lost her infant daughter in the hours after she gave birth three years ago.
“If it hadn’t been for the staff at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) here at Royal University Hospital, things could have turned out a lot different,” said Searcy. “Our story has a happy ending. My daughter is now a healthy and happy three-year-old thanks to these people. I will always be indebted to this place.”
Searcy, along with Amy Novakovski of Martensville and other young mothers are part of an organization dedicated to raising funds for the NICU. They presented a cheque in the amount of $33,091.73 to NICU manager Adeline Riehl at RUH on Wednesday, June 10.
The funds were raised through an event called “Bloom: An Evening of Love in support of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit” held last month on the Mother’s Day weekend.
“There are many parents who have gone through a similar experience,” said Searcy. “Lots of people are looking for a way to say ‘thank you’ for the care and compassion. This is our way of showing we’re very grateful.”
Amy Novakovski, one of the founders of the group, said the latest donation brings the accumulated total for all four years to $91,310.73.
“It’s so exciting,” said Novakovski. “We surpassed last year’s total, and that’s really what we wanted to do. Right now we’re just shy of $100,000 in donations over four years.”
Novakovski said the group is already coming up with ideas for next year’s fundraising event, and the enthusiasm among volunteers is growing.
“We’re going to be doing this for a very long time,” she said.
Four years ago, Novakovski gave birth to premature twins, a son and a daughter. “My daughter was born healthy, and my son was born not breathing,” said Novakovski. “They whisked him away to the NICU, and they looked after him for five days. They brought him back to me and his sister on my birthday, which was exciting.
“They were instrumental in caring for him and allowing him to come home with me.
“Every day I am reminded that they saved his life and he’s here because this unit existed.”
NICU Manager Adeline Riehl, said the funds will be put to good use.
“We always have need of things that aren’t covered in our capital or operating budgets,” said Riehl. “The money could perhaps go towards enhancements to the unit that provide for family comfort, or towards educational sessions for staff members.”
Riehl said the capacity of the 32-bed NICU occasionally is increased to as many as 38 beds, depending on the demand and the level of care required for each infant.
“We sure couldn’t accommodate 38 critically-ill babies at the same time,” she said. “But if we have some kids that aren’t needing as much support or equipment, then we can sometimes have two or three babies attended to by one nurse. A lot of times the babies are so sick they need a full-time nurse and sometimes even two nurses involved in their care.”
Riehl said the new Children’s Hospital, slated to begin construction later this year, will allow for expansion of the NICU.
“We will expand to a 45 bed capacity, and we will have individual patient rooms, which allows for privacy for families,” said Riehl. “We’re so crowded in here there is virtually no privacy at all. It will be a much better facility all around.”
Riehl said the number of critically-ill babies that are admitted to the NICU is increasing every year, partly because of the increase in population.
Donations to the NICU are tax-deductible, and can be made directly to the NICU at any time during the year.