Calgary Health Foundation

Heroes out of Heartache

Heroes out of HeartacheIn May of 2001, Shannon Bowen-Smed and Peter Smed were excited to become parents. However, this happy time ended in heartbreak when, in the seventh month of pregnancy, their baby Scott arrived stillborn. Not only did Shannon have to deliver him early, but there were no private rooms available where they could grieve together as a family, away from the excitement and joy of healthy babies on the maternity ward.

While the nurses did their best to shelter them, it was still an incredibly heart wrenching experience for anyone to go through. When they left the hospital, the couple were given a teddy bear in memory of their son. They later found out it was the last teddy bear available through the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Program at the hospital.

But the Smeds took a traumatic experience and paved the way for other families to have more comfort during such a difficult time. In the weeks after their loss they bought teddy bears so other families would not go home empty handed. They then created a golf tournament in honour of Scott.

Through raising funds, the couple turned their tragedy around, building delivery rooms for women and families who experience this type of loss. "In many ways Lucy Pascal (the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Program Manager at the Rockyview General Hospital at the time) deserves a lot of credit for this - she had the vision of this space," said Shannon Bowen-Smed. The rooms were designed to provide continuous support, comforting surroundings and a more positive experience for parents coping with their loss.

"It is an honour to see these rooms and know that we have made a difference to the families who we will never know," she said.

Since 2002, the Smeds have committed more than $477,000 to Calgary Health Trust for those families who will unfortunately face the same loss as they did. These funds have been used to create a Scott Smed Room at each of the four hospitals in Calgary. Anadditional four triage rooms for early gestational loss have also been designated at South Health Campus (SHC)

These rooms are an integral part of the patient and family centred care that the facility strives to provide. Early in the planning of SHC staff worked with the Obstetrics and Gynecology department to develop a concept to get these women and their families out of the emergency department as soon as possible and give them the privacy they need.

To do this the staff created an early gestational assessment process. Now, if a woman experiencing a miscarriage comes into SHC, she will only spend a few minutes in the emergency department before being sent upstairs to a much quieter, private and supportive environment.

"We are the only hospital in Calgary, and maybe the only one in Alberta, who has this space. From what we have heard from patients is that they really do appreciate it," said Dr. Colin DelCastilho, Medical Facility Director at South Health Campus.

The Smed family remains committed to continuing to support the program. They are grateful for everything that staff at each of the hospitals do and have done for people who, like them, have experienced the heartbreak of pregnancy and infant loss.

"It's been 13 years to process his loss," said Peter Smed, "It's been therapeutic for us and a real gift for us to have our son's life be so meaningful. This experience is no longer filled with sadness, just pride and gratitude for the opportunity. It feels like we have come full circle."

There are more than 200 stillbirths and neonatal deaths, and over 1800 documented miscarriages in the Calgary area every year. The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Program provides grief support, teaching, and treatment for women, who have had an early  pregnancy loss. The Scott Smed Invitational will take place on September 15, 2014 at the Cottonwood Golf & Country Club or you can donate directly to the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Program.