“She was delighted by everything. She had these massive brown eyes that, if something excited her, you could literally see them grow in size. I just think about that all the time. I call it her delight. She was delighted by the world around her.”
Seated in an oversized chair in the Great Room of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, mother Lisa Lalsingh reflects on her daughter Mila’s bright personality. Lisa’s eldest child, Mila, was born on her due date with a congenital heart disease. While Lisa and her husband were informed of Mila’s heart condition at the 20-week ultra-sound, nothing could prepare the new parents for what was to come.
At two days old, Mila had emergency heart surgery. The first month of the new baby’s life was spent at the BC Children’s Hospital. Mila’s care was complex and caring for a new baby was overwhelming. At six months old, Mila had her second heart surgery. After 4 days in the hospital, Mila went home. Life took off for the better.
“She started thriving and growing and we became less scared. We started to live our lives the way we’d always hoped we would, with our baby.”
Life became about swimming lessons and play dates. The family traveled with their delighted little girl, experiencing everything the world had to offer. When Mila turned three, Lisa welcomed a second little girl into their family.
At age four, Mila underwent her third heart surgery. 16 hours later, Mila suffered a massive cardiac arrest. The family left the hospital without their first-born daughter.
“The trauma was just coursing through my body. I was terrified. It felt like I was just holding on. I knew I needed help. I knew my family needed help. I didn’t know how to move forward after something like that.”
A week later, Lisa walked up the driveway of Canuck Place. While she was unsure what Canuck Place had to offer her, it was something to hold on to. Within the walls of the hospice, Lisa found solace.
“You can say anything, there is nothing too scary. The people at Canuck Place did that for us. They sat with us in those moments of deep grief. They embraced all of us, together. It was like a lifeline at times. It gave me something to grasp onto.”
In the years since Mila’s passing, Lisa says she continues to be embraced by Canuck Place. Whether it is for counselling for herself or her children, or being included in events that honour the children who have passed, Canuck Place continues to be a strong presence in Lisa’s family life.
They’ve never let us go. I’m extremely grateful for that.