HPR Hero LORNA LEVAC
“We were referred to Mount Sinai Hospital during my first pregnancy by my doctor. That’s where we learnt the baby was not going to make it. It was just a matter of time."
Tears roll down Lorna Levac’s cheeks as she walks a painful path. Every mother’s nightmare had become her reality. After dreaming about the patter of tiny feet, her expectant bundle of joy turned to despair.
“In January of 2010, we were so happy to learn that we were expecting our first baby! We had recently gotten married and wanted to start a family, so to find out we were pregnant was very exciting news for both of us.”
During the first trimester, Lorna found out she had a large fibroid on her uterus, which is a benign (non-cancerous) tumour, about the size of a grapefruit. Her doctor monitored the fibroid, but was not concerned as it wasn't affecting her pregnancy even as it grew larger. However, this fibroid did cause other problems for Lorna. It put pressure on her right kidney, which then formed a very painful kidney stone. As a result, she had to be hospitalized for two weeks so that she could pass the stone. Her doctors kept monitoring the baby throughout this time and everything appeared to be okay.
“A few days later at a follow-up appointment, the doctors told us that our baby's heart had stopped beating and had passed away.” As the hospital prepared for Lorna to deliver the fetus, her body was not reacting well to the hormonal changes and the fibroid was still very large, causing great concern as it impeded a safe natural delivery. The doctor and health-care team in the high risk pregnancy unit carefully monitored Lorna and even when it was deemed to be safe to deliver the fetus, her body went into shock and she was whisked away into emergency care for treatment which ultimately saved her life.
“There, at the birthing floor where mothers were holding their new-borns, I was holding on to the child that died in my womb,” says Lorna. To her relief, the nurses at the hospital took her to another room where she could be alone.
That was then.
5 years later, Lorna holds on to Ben and looks at him with the deepest affection in her eyes. “He’s my second child,” she says while sitting with her husband John by her side. “Oh the one we lost will always be our first,” he echoes.
“We each look back over the exceptional care that we received and will always be grateful to the staff at the Mount Sinai Hospital,” says Lorna. Later in 2011, Lorna's fibroid was surgically removed in 2012 they were blessed to be pregnant once again.
“Once again, we were under the care of the doctors at the same hospital, but were considered a normal, routine pregnancy and everything was fine both with my baby and me,” Lorna smiles for the first time.
“Our son, Benjamin, was born on John’s birthday via a scheduled c-section. Ben was admitted into the NICU after his birth due to laboured breathing caused by fluid in his lungs but within 48 hours he was discharged into our postpartum room. What a tremendous joy and miracle it is to be parents to our wonderful little boy!”
That day marked the birth of one more relationship. That of Lorna and the Mount Sinai Hospital.
“It became an important mission for us to give back to the Mount Sinai Hospital, the staff and the future babies and mothers that need to be under the exceptional care of the high risk pregnancy program.”
Even though Lorna lost a part of her own self when she lost her first child, it paved way to something she had never expected. From her loss was the birth of new beginnings. The birth of a new life, the birth of a new relationship between Lorna and John, and the birth of a sense of gratitude. “You know, had it all been smooth, we would perhaps never even have valued the extra care we got,” says Lorna, her voice filled with indebtedness till today. Lorna and her husband John believe they couldn’t have moved on without the help of the hospital. Their gratitude extends beyond mere words.
A gratitude that turned into action as she and her husband channeled their energies to give back to the Mount Sinai Hospital that took care of them during their hour of need. And so was born a charity run/walk covering distances of 5km, The Single, 10km, The Double, 15km, The Triple and 20km and The Grand Slam. “We wanted to pay back, and arranging marathons was the best way we knew how to since my husband and I are both runners,” she says.
Lorna has ever since been hosting this race along with her husband with the support of her friends and neighbours. During the first year, the event included over 50 runners/walkers and 15 volunteers who also attended. In 2011, this increased to over 60 runners/walkers and 20 volunteers. In 2012 the event grew to 85 runners/walkers and 20 volunteers! In 2013 there were a ton of people. In 2014 they had 70 runners and 15 family members plus over 25 volunteers who raised over $33,000. “This year our goal is to have 100 runners/walkers and 25 volunteers plus to raise much, much more money!” exclaims Lorna. The fundraising goal has been set to provide 4 joey beds which are an innovative infant care bed created specifically to complement the modern neonatal unit. Their ergonomic design increases ease of patient care and reduces external stimuli for the baby and facilitates mother-baby interaction.
Over the past five years, Lorna along with her husband have raised over $115,000 which has contributed to the purchase of 4 joey beds, 3 cribettes for infants and 1 wireless fetal monitor transducer system. The cribettes are for when infants graduate from the NICU and are moved from the incubator into a cribette before being released from the hospital to go home. The wireless fetal monitor transducer system measures the strength and duration of contractions during labour and is a critical piece of equipment for monitoring a high-risk pregnancy. In addition to this Lorna has been donating to local hospitals and purchasing new mattresses for mother’s beds.
For her, the Mount Sinai Hospital still resembles hope. “I want to honour the hospital and the workers. For them, they may have just been doing their job that day but to us, what they did was exceptional.”
Aaron Lutes, Development Officer, Mount Sinai Hospital says, “Lorna speaks with a lot of conviction. When she speaks, people listen. They begin to realize what’s important to them. It’s more than just money that Lorna brings to the place.”
When Lorna speaks, her audience isn’t a community of people. It’s humanity. The participation in the marathon is her faith repaid. “We want to bring in as much funding as possible to make sure others have the care that we’ve had,” he says
They may never be able to forget the past but they have found peace. Through their work they pay homage to their unborn child and to those who helped them get through the ordeal. The runners in the Lorna’s marathon finish the race with more than just a sense of accomplishment. The finish line of the marathon is a threshold to joy and hope.
Lorna Levac, thank you for allowing others to learn from your story of despair and hope.
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