The Horbatch family surround baby Prym at B.C. Children’s Hospital before bringing the newborn home to Port Alberni. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Family grateful for ‘a little backup’ from Port Alberni

Newborn with hole in her heart needs parents’ around-the-clock care

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Unable to return to work as they provide round-the-clock care for their newborn, a Port Alberni family is thankful for the support received from their community.

Monika “Prym” Horbatch, born Dec. 9 at B.C. Children’s Hospital, was brought home to Port Alberni nearly three weeks ago, closely monitored by her parents, Cole and Heather. With their three other young children, they had to remain in the Lower Mainland after Prym arrived with multiple health complications including a hole in her heart.

The family has no diagnosis at this stage, so months, possibly years of observation come before exploratory surgery and any procedure that would correct Prym’s heart defect.

“For her, there is a lot of wait and see,” Heather said. “We don’t know how she’ll develop.”

The quest for a diagnosis extends well beyond careful observation. Working with a genetic councillor, they were approved last week for extra genetic testing through a laboratory in Finland, one of two labs worldwide that do genome sequencing.

Both parents are health-care workers — she’s a licensed practical nurse, he’s a care aide — but caring for Prym and her siblings means neither one can go back to work. That financial strain led their close friend Katherine McGill, who also hails from Port Alberni, to start a GoFundMe campaign just before Christmas.

“I figured they need some backup,” McGill said. “It’s just been amazing the number of Port Alberni people who’ve got behind it.”

So far, people have donated more than $10,000.

“It’s been so overwhelming,” Heather said. “I wasn’t expecting any of this. It’s hard to put into words.”

She thanked all community members who have helped out. That includes the Lions Club, which donated a freezer to enable her to donate breast milk, a long-term charity she supports through the B.C. Women’s Provincial Milk Bank. The bank assists in the care of premature or sick infants.

The family knew in advance of Prym’s health challenges. Part of their preparation involved a visit to Ronald McDonald House, the Vancouver facility that supports families with sick children. It’s an “amazing” resource, Heather noted.

“Right now she’s a very sleepy baby,” Heather said.

They take turns, setting their cellphone alarms so that they can wake and feed the baby every three hours. She feeds through a nasogastric tube. Her cognitive ability is still unknown.

Next month, the family has to return to the Lower Mainland for four days of appointments. They expect to be making the same journey monthly for the foreseeable future.

With two children in elementary school and a third still at home, they have a balancing act ahead of them. The other children, Liam, Marika and Maeve, adore their new sister, though.

“They love her to bits and just want to stay home all day long and give her little hugs and kisses,” Heather said.

The fundraising web page can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y7zacf9q

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