Privileged to Care
One Family’s Grief Brings Comfort to Others
“My sister-in-law Noopur Parmar and her husband Neil were living overseas for work,” says Dr. Neelam Gupta, an obstetrician whose family made gifts to Covenant Foundation to enhance care at the Misericordia Community Hospital. “They had a baby due in about a month and my mother-in-law Krishna and I were getting ready to join them to welcome our family’s first grandchild. Noopur, who’s also been a friend since childhood, had been getting excellent pre-natal care but called to say she felt like something was wrong. I told her to go in and be checked out.”
“She did and everything was fine, but it happened again the next day, and again. Everything appeared ok. The third day though, we learned the baby had died. It was then Noopur started getting the run-around about when they could schedule the delivery, so Krishna and I just jumped on a plane that day. We brought Noopur back to Edmonton, back home to the Misericordia where I work. I asked one of my partners to take care of her. She delivered in our hospital under excellent nursing and medical care.”
Covenant Health’s Misericordia Community Hospital (MCH) has a 35-year-plus history of innovation when it comes to bereavement in labour and delivery (L&D), says Gwen Bouwsema, Unit Manager for L&D, “We asked a group of parents who had lost infants about the care they received in our unit. We asked them what could help more and what didn’t help. We ended up understanding we needed to make the room less clinical, and more comfortable. So we started in small ways, as we could, like bringing in a coffee pot for the families.”
“We also started making memory cards and putting together memento boxes of the infants who passed away, so the parents would have something. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a wonderful organization, arranges photographers to come to the hospital to capture portraits of the infants. We call them if a family is willing. The staff that care for these families are dedicated to them. They don’t split their time between other patients and the staff care for and grieve with the family. It’s not unusual for nurses and doctors to cry with patients.”
Noopur Parmar and her extended family, of course, were recipients of this work and all the understanding of infant bereavement Misericordia Hospital L&D staff have acquired over time. “I’ve worked in many hospitals over my career, and I’ve never known staff like I’ve worked with for the last six years at the Misericordia. I am very, very happy and proud of the care we give our patients, that’s why we brought my sister-in-law here” Dr. Gupta explains.
“And in the end, that incredible care, the work the nurses do, that’s the reason my family decided we should try and help make this better for the next person that goes through something like this. Our gift speaks volumes about the care my family received. The nurses still ask about Noopur. They haven’t forgotten her. This gift is really a testament to the people here at the Misericordia Hospital and the amazing effort they put into their work.”
Dr. Gupta, her husband and her extended family donated funds to Covenant Foundation to help refurbish the L& D bereavement room at the hospital. Covenant Foundation augmented the generous donation from the family, which allowed the unit to allocate a larger room and outfit it more comfortably. There are custom-milled closet doors that allow medical equipment to be tucked away; soft wallpaper promotes a serene atmosphere; a window allows patients and families a connection to the outside world; and the larger space and upgraded bathroom facilities allow gathering family and friends to be more comfortable for longer as they grieve. To enhance the space, Krishna and Radhe Gupta have even arranged for artwork from local Edmonton artist Giselle Denis to be donated to the bereavement room. The artwork is currently in progress.
“I’d love to go further,” says Program Manager Linda Brad, “it would be wonderful to add some additional homey touches, but this has made such a difference. There’s space, and light, and given that families are often in the space for several days, it’s nice they can be more comfortable.”
“This experience takes longer,” says Bouwsema, “and it’s not the short joy-filled stay that labour and delivery usually is. People have more to process and they want to be together with family to do it. To have this space now, it’s helping, together with the work the nurses do to attend to the patient. It’s emotionally very taxing, but at the same time you know, we feel very privileged we can do it. We feel privileged we can make even a little bit of difference.”