Help us repay baby Frankie’s ICU debt
Franklin is our beautiful, curious and precious little boy. He was born in July 2019. Our birth story is a little different to most because of a health condition that meant we needed a surrogate to carry our baby into the world. Our surrogate got pregnant on the first try and we developed a strong friendship with her. When she was 33-weeks pregnant we flew to Vancouver to be with her. We had been in Canada for less than a week when one night our baby decided to arrive—six weeks early. We were thrilled to meet him, but he wasn't ready for the world yet. His lungs hadn't finished developing so immediately after his birth he needed help breathing. Our little boy, who we named Franklin (Frankie for short), spent a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver. It was unsettling to watch him get better then worse and then better again over the course of a few days. We felt so helpless but we stayed with him day and night. And then he turned a corner. After day 6 he no longer needed support breathing. We finally saw how beautiful he was without the mask obscuring half his face. Even though it was a stressful time our hearts were full of joy and love for our son. A love like no other we had ever felt. Unfortunately, Franklin’s medical expenses weren’t covered by our insurance and we left the hospital with a bill for over $100,000.
This is Franklin. You would never know he spent the first few minutes of his life fighting to breathe and the first week of his life in NICU. He is now 1 year old and growing fast. He loves dogs and ducks. He's a happy, healthy and energetic little toddler who keeps us on our toes.
Photo: Franklin eating his birthday cake
Frankie's mum, Ellice, received a life-saving double-lung transplant in 2012 because of cystic fibrosis which caused her lungs to fail. The transplant made it possible for us to envision a future with a child. But an episode of organ rejection in 2014 caused Ellice to loose 50% lung function, meaning it was too risky for her to carry a pregnancy.
Kendal, Frankie's surrogate, came into our lives in early 2018 and we formed a beautiful friendship. She is a birth photographer and doula living in Vancouver who we met through a friend. Incredibly, she agreed to carry our baby and she delivered our son to us just over a year after we first met.
A condition called ‘vasa previa with velamentous cord insertion’ was diagnosed early in Kendal’s pregnancy. This condition meant Franklin would need to be born via caesarean because a natural birth could cause him to lose a dangerous amount of blood and be without oxygen, and it also increased the likelihood of premature birth.
Franklin came out crying—which was a great sign—but it soon became obvious that something was wrong. A team of paediatricians and nurses examined him, their expressions hard to read. We saw Franklin at the centre of the action, struggling to draw breath. His cry had morphed into an abrasive grunting sound, and although we didn’t know what it meant, we knew instinctively that it wasn’t good.
We watched helplessly, touching his little feet and hands and trying to reassure him as he lay there under the heat lamp with noise and activity whirring all around. Our tears of joy turned to tears of despair. But we were reassured that this was common for a baby born at 34 weeks and that he would get through it.
Photo: Ellice with Frankie moments after his birth, taken by Morag Hastings
Photo: Ellice and Rhys comforting Frankie, taken by Morag Hastings
Photo: Ellice and Rhys looking on as Frankie gets an x-ray, taken by Morag Hastings
We spent the next week by Franklin’s side in the NICU, day and night, doing skin-to-skin and giving him long cuddles while the bulky continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask obscured half his tiny face. As part of his care team, we took his temperature, changed his nappy, fed him and bathed him. We learned to read the measurements that were displayed in real-time on the monitor above his cot, and watched them obsessively, looking for any sign of improvement. There was very little of that in the first few days, but as the week wore on Franklin started to turn a corner.
Photo: L-R Dave, Kendal, Ellice, Franklin and Rhys, taken by Morag Hastings
Photo: Franklin one week old, taken by Kendal Blacker
Why did we receive a $100k bill?
The NICU cost came close to $15,000 CAD per day, with doctors’ fees and extras billed on top of that. We incurred this as personal debt to the hospital because, although Franklin was entitled to Canadian citizenship, he wasn’t considered a resident. Our comprehensive travel insurance policy also didn’t cover any post-birth care for Franklin. We hadn’t insured him specifically because we were still looking at policies when ‘vasa previa with velamentous cord insertion’ was diagnosed which was classed as a pre-existing condition, and therefore would not have been covered. On top of all this, Australia doesn’t have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Canada. So ultimately, all of this meant that Franklin’s stay in hospital would be coming out of our pockets.
Paying our debt
Regardless of whether we raise money here or not, we will honour our debt to BC Children’s Hospital. We are truly grateful to the staff who worked so tirelessly to deliver our healthy, happy little boy to us. Any amount we’re fortunate enough to raise here will make a huge difference. Every dollar raised will go directly to the hospital.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story.
We are so grateful for your support! xx
Photo: Yoshi (dog), Rhys, Franklin (nearly 3 months old) and Ellice, taken by Jessamine Chen
Photo: Dave, Ellice, Kendal, Frankie (6 weeks old) and Rhys, taken by Judy Blacker