For eight years I have been volunteering with YANA Comox Valley. I picked up the phone eight years ago to call YANA Comox Valley , “I think I can help you,” I said. I had a vision of putting a face behind the stories of the many people who benefit from their, and thus this communities, support. Two weeks after that phone call, my step-daughter Maggie was diagnosed with Leukaemia. Since then, the YANA apartments and office have grown to represents safety for me. They are there to catch you, and really, hug you when you sometimes don’t even know you need it.
While Maggie was in treatment I documented a day in her life, which was later presented at the Annual YANA auction. This has now grown to regularly photographing portraits of “YANA kids” and I have now documented stories for 9 auctions. Including stories of cancer, high risk pregnancies, and others. Most of these stories have been ones where there is a beginning and an end to their rollercoaster.
This year, we decided to tell a different story.
When Owen Crumpler, was born at 25 weeks, so early that there was a chance of no survival, his parents Karen and Mike were scared, confused and overwhelmed. But they were not alone, from the moment Owen entered that helicopter to Children’s Hospital, YANA was with them.
Seven years later they still are.
With Owen’s eventual diagnosis of spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy comes regular trips to Vancouver to see the movement therapist, developmental paediatrician, tone management team, vision team. neurosurgeon, neurologist, feeding tube specialist, orthopaedic surgeon and of course those ongoing non medical appointments like wheelchair fittings.
It is a lot. Add to it four year old Max keeping them busy and the fact that husband Mike, works in Alberta 85% of the time. But they do it. And they amaze me.
The apartment at 18th and Oak, in Vancouver has become their second home. Unit 109, a special place for many, and the wheelchair accessible apartment is what little brother Max calls, “my Vancouver hotel,” he knows the neighbours and has an excellent grasp on the options for neighbourhood parks.
One has to wonder where would this family be without that? What would the additional stress do to them? What would it mean for their marriage, their kids, their health? We don’t have the answer to this but I think we can all imagine what the extra stress could cause. What we do know is without YANA, this family could have not have stayed in the town they grew up in, they would have had to move away from the Comox Valley, from family and friends to a city where they didn’t’ know anyone YANA is not only keeping them together, but in their community as well.
YANA is doing so much more then helping families through crisis, it is gifting children a legacy of healthier family, opportunities and gratitude.
I have been photographing Owen since he was first home from the hospital and have watched this family grow, stretch and adapt. But spending a day with them really showed me how much they need to do on a daily basis to care for Owen. It is not just about getting to a medical appointment, it is about the extra work in every step this family takes.
I said to Karena this week, “do you ever think about how fortunate Owen is to have you.” Her response was, without missing a beat, ” Or is it the other way around?”
Here is the slideshow that we shared last Friday night, music courtesy of the wonderful Big Little Lions (who happen to have shows in the Comox Valley this week) and below, some highlighted images.