Danielle and Russ were heartborken to have say goodbye to their tiny infant son Roark – their little lion cub – at just 23 days. Roark was born at just 26 weeks and was in the NICU at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Like many preemies as tiny as him, Roark was suffering from a life-threatening condition called necrotizing enterocolitis – or NEC. NEC makes the tissues of the intestine become inflamed and at risk for low blood flow, which can cause part of the intestine to die. To survive, Roark would need a surgery to remove the diseased potion of bowel. Unfortunately, Roark was just too little – and he wouldn’t survive surgery. Danielle and Russ had to make the impossible and heartbreaking decision to withdraw care. Roark passed away peacefully in the NICU, in the arms of his dad. It was the most life-changing moment of the couples’ life.
Weeks and months passed in a fog. Danielle recognized they needed support. They tried counselling but no one seemed to be a fit. One day, Danielle responded to a message from Megan at Rotarty Flames House inviting them to a grief counselling session. They attended the first one – along with 9 or 10 other bereaved couples – and the while the session was difficult, it was the beginning of their healing.
The couple has created strong bonds and lasting friendships with the other families in their group and it’s incredible to have other people in their lives who truly understand what they’ve been through. She says that they believe in keeping Roark’s spirit alive in meaningful ways and that there little lions all over their house. Danielle has made it her mission to live joyfully, despite the pain the life – and death – brings…that in tragedy there’s beauty and in grief there’s growth.
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