Baby Christian comes home

Danette Dooley
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Ronald MacDonald House a “Godsend” for local family

Christian Chaulk spent the first eight months of his life in the Janeway Children’s Hospital. Now, as he nears the nine-month mark, his mother said it’s great to be finally home in Carmanville with her miracle baby.

Vanessa Coles said her pregnancy was moving along fine until she began having some vaginal spotting.

A trip to the hospital in Gander brought news that neither she nor her partner could ever had expected, particularly since the baby wasn’t due to arrive for almost four months.

“They told me I was already dilated nine centimetres. They airlifted me to the hospital in St. John’s,” Ms. Coles said.

Because of complications, Ms. Coles delivered the baby in the Intensive Care Unit of the Health Sciences Centre just days after the medivac.

Baby Christian was born on May 14, tipping the scales at one pound, 14 ounces. He was taken immediately to the Janeway’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), suffering from a chronic lung condition.

Though Ms. Coles got a glimpse of her newborn when he was born, it would be almost two weeks before she got to hold her tiny baby.

“When you go in the NICU unit to see him, you never know what to expect. But we could see he was steady growing.”

Ms. Coles said the nurses and doctors and other health professionals at the Janeway were great to her family.

One of the highlights of the stay in St. John’s was when her boyfriend Sheldon Chaulk proposed to her. The engagement, which came as a surprise to her, unfolded on Christmas morning.

“It happened in the hospital room with Christian… He’s our world now,” she said.

Ms. Coles and Mr. Chaulk brought their baby home to Carmanville on Jan. 17. He now weighs 16 pounds.

Christian has a tracheostomy – an opening through the neck into the trachea through which a tube is inserted to maintain an effective airway and help him breathe.

“We don’t seethe trach; we only see Christian. He still has his NG (Nasogastric)tubefeeds, but the other day was the first time he took a full bottle,” Ms. Coles said.


Ronald McDonald House a Godsend

Though Christian’s health battle has been a long one, Ms. Coles said it was made a little easier thanks to Ronald McDonald House.

For the majority of their stay in St. John’s, Ms. Coles and Mr. Chaulk lived at the facility — a stone’s throw from the hospital.

Their total stay there was 242 days, she said.

“Sheldon was working (in St. John’s) so I would just walk across the road (to the hospital). And he would come to Ronald McDonald House after work.”

It’s not just the short distance between Ronald McDonald House and the Janeway that made their stay that much easier, Ms. Coles said.

She made friends with many of the parents staying there, she said.

“Christian had a few setbacks like any premie. Sometimes, you’d have hard days and you just want to come home and have someone to talk to. You don’t have any family but the other parents know because they are going through the same thing,” Ms. Coles said.

Christine Morgan, manager of development and communications with Ronald McDonald House, said when a child is sick the world stops in an instant for the entire family, and all the focus is put into the child’s healing.

Getting medical care often means a family has to travel far from home, she said, and may be required to stay near the Janeway for days, weeks or even months.

During this time, she said, parents not only struggle to support their sick child, they have to care for their other children, maintain their jobs, pay bills, and manage the responsibilities of everyday life. 

This is where Ronald McDonald House can help, Ms. Morgan said.

“Once a family checks into Ronald McDonald House, they can continue to stay with us as long as they need to, until their child no longer needs medical attention in St. John’s and can return home.”

Ms. Morgan said more than 400 families have stayed at Ronald McDonald House since it opened.

The facility continues to reply on the support of individuals, businesses, foundations and annual fundraising activities to keep its doors open.

“Whether they have a two-pound newborn in the NICU a child in need of surgery, an injured teenager under pediatric care or a child undergoing treatment for cancer, Ronald McDonald House is there for them,” Ms. Morgan said.

Ms. Coles encourages anyone looking for a worthy cause to look no further than Ronald McDonald House.

“I honestly don’t know what I would have done without that place,” she said.

For more information on Ronald McDonald House, visit

Organizations: Ronald McDonald House, Ronald MacDonald House, Health Sciences Centre

Geographic location: Gander, Carmanville

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