By Judy Bird

Ashley Whitequill was driving between Regina and Calgary when her phone rang, it was her husband, telling her their 15-month old baby girl needed an emergency operation.

“Blade called to say they’re taking her in, she’s going in for emergency surgery. And I wasn’t even there,” said Ashley, her voice cracking and holding back tears.

Aubrey Lily 2

Baby Aubrey and her big sister Lily. Photo courtesy Blade and Ashley Whitequill.

Aubrey has been airlifted to Calgary three times, and each time, only one parent could accompany their daughter, this time leaving Ashley to make the long drive to Calgary with the couple’s other daughter, Lily.

Aubrey was born with gastroschisis, a rare condition where the abdominal wall doesn’t fully close in early development, leaving intestines and sometimes other organs to fall outside of the body. When she was born, Aubrey was not able to eat or have a bowel movement.

This young girl has only been in the world for 15 months, but already, the tenacious toddler has endured 13 surgeries, seven of them major, and has been on the brink of losing her young life.

She has spent about half of her life in hospitals, in Regina and lengthy stays at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. Since being born, the family has spent roughly a combined total of eight months on and off, at the hospital in Calgary.

It’s not only taken a toll on them emotionally, but financially as well. They have a home in Regina to maintain, costs for medical supplies, living expenses when in Calgary, and on top of it all, they have been hit with huge bills for air ambulance service. After each airlift, they received an invoice for about $1300.

Last April, Ashley’s sister, Alicia Roberts, organized a steak night to raise money for the family. She’s organized another in Regina, taking place tonight, January 22 at Bocado’s Restaurant. There are two seatings: 4:30 – 6:30 and 6:30 – 8:30. Tickets are $25 (cash only) and can be purchased at the door by asking for Alicia.

People can also donate through GoFundMe campaign, Help for baby Aubrey’s Parents, at gofundme.com

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Aubrey connected to numerous machines and monitors in the hospital. Photo courtesy Blade and Ashley Whitequill.

Aubrey’s medical problem was discovered when mom Ashley was 18 weeks pregnant. She still had a full term pregnancy and natural birth. As soon as she was born, Aubrey was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Aubrey had an ostomy operation, giving the chance for the large intestine to develop, and had an operation to reconnect her large and small intestines. The intestines did not grow at the same rate, however, and there were complications. Reconnection was not successful. She wasn’t eating. She couldn’t keep any food down.

“Her tummy blew up (like) a huge basketball. For four months her stomach was like that,” said Blade.

The family was sent to Calgary to see the specialists who discovered an obstruction and did an emergency surgery. Over the past year, Aubrey had more ostomy and reconnection surgeries but the procedures haven’t resulted in complete success yet.

Their last trip home was at Christmas. Then Aubrey became sick again.

“We knew what it was. She had another blockage,” Ashley said.

Blade and Ashley took her to the hospital in Regina. “Finally after a couple of days, they airlifted her here and good thing they did send her when they did because she was rushed in for emergency surgery. They said that she had an infection in there too, she was severely septic, and her body was shutting down,” said Ashley.

“She’s recovered from the surgery now, and the septic shock, but it’s such a process,” said Ashley.

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The Whitequill family. Photo courtesy Blade and Ashley Whitequill.

Aubrey

Aubrey. Photo courtesy Blade and Ashley Whitequill.

“It’s two steps forward, one step back,” added Blade.

While in Calgary, they stay at Ronald McDonald House, which is just across the street from the hospital. Staying there has allowed them to keep their family together at a reasonable cost of $12 a day, and to have a place to stay on a moment’s notice.

“Coming back and forth, just getting settled at home, thinking everything’s okay and then all of a sudden, and it’s always so sudden, we have to just up and leave home like that,” said Ashley.

Blade and Ashley are humbled to receive help. “We have to pay to keep our home, pay to be here, all without being able to work,” said Ashley.

“It’s a blessing to have everyone help. We wouldn’t know what to do if we didn’t have family and friends to help out,” said Blade.

“They help us keep going,” added Ashley. “Words can’t even explain how grateful we are and how much it means to us. I wouldn’t know what to do.”

 

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