Calgary Health Trust

Three Times the Joy: The Coates Family NICU Story

Grace Fullerton | March 14th, 2019

Kendra and Mark Coates were ecstatic to learn that Kendra was pregnant.  At their 9-week ultrasound on their 4th wedding anniversary, they received the shocking news that they were expecting not one, not two, but three babies!  From that moment on, they knew it would be a high risk pregnancy not only because they were expecting triplets, but also because Kendra has Type 1 Diabetes.   Due to the complexity of the pregnancy, Kendra and Mark knew their children would be born prematurely, and would likely spend time at one of the Neonatal Intensive Care Units in Calgary.

One afternoon at work, Mark answered his phone to a doctor’s voice on the other line, “Don’t break any laws, but come to the Foothills Medical Centre as soon as possible.  Kendra is here, and following the scans we took this morning, we will need to deliver your babies as soon as you arrive.”  Mark and Kendra had a planned Caesarean section scheduled at 35 weeks, but Clara, Amelia, and Jack were born at 32 weeks, 6 days because Jack was suffering from a maternal-fetal hemorrhage and was in severe distress.

When Mark arrived at the hospital, he only had a few moments to speak with Kendra, before they were rushed to the delivery room. Four teams, totaling 24 experts in neonatal and maternal care, were waiting for them – one team for Kendra, and one team assigned to each of the babies.


The triplets were born at one minute intervals. Clara was the first to enter the world, and Mark described her as the epitome of a new baby you see born on TV: she was healthy pinky-purple in colour, making lots of noise, and proudly let out a jubilant scream to announce her arrival in the world. Clara was immediately handed off to her six person team, attended to, and placed in her own mobile isolette.

Amelia came next, as energetic and healthy as her sister born a moment prior. She too, was handed off to her expert neonatal team. Mark recalls that the tone in the delivery room shifted and became more somber as their third baby, Jack, was delivered.  Unlike his sisters, he was slightly grey in colour, and was not moving.  This set off immediate red flags for Mark, but Jack’s neonatal team moved quickly, and connected Jack to his life saving equipment.

All three children were now connected to their monitors in their own mobile isolettes, and along with their Dad, they formed a parade and travelled from the delivery room to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Kendra stayed behind, as she had experienced complications from delivery and required further care from her obstetrical team.

Mark recalls the initial moments in the NICU as intense after an already intense day, “I had never been in a NICU before, let alone a delivery room or in a hospital with a newborn baby.” The neonatal team constantly updated Mark on what was happening, explaining the different monitors, discussing decisions that had to be made, and what everything meant.

 “This was an overwhelming, crazy, hyper-stimulating experience, so it was incredibly reassuring to have someone calmly explain everything you want to and need to know about the health and state of your new babies.”

Mark and Kendra rave about the care their children received, sharing that “The NICU has the most talented, caring, and generous staff, and that’s exactly who you want to care for the babies who will be the face of the future generation”.

Clara, Amelia, and Jack spent a total of 6 weeks in the NICU; the Coates’ initially called the Foothills NICU home, before being transferred to the South Health Campus NICU, which was closer to their home in the south.

Throughout their NICU stay, because Jack had required special attention and care that his sisters did not need, the siblings were housed in different sections of the unit. Kendra recalls one special night in South Health Campus when the NICU team gathered the

three children in one room along with the new parents, “For me, this was a huge, defining moment in our journey.  The kids were a couple of weeks old at this point, had spent seven months together inside me, had been separated for the first few weeks of their life; but then we had this one, shining moment where we were all together again.”

Kendra and Mark fondly remember this night as the moment, a few weeks after their babies were born, where they became a family of five.

Mark and Kendra remember the days Clara, Amelia and Jack came home as a mix of joy, relief, happiness, as well as an understandable amount of intimidation.  Kendra fondly recalled their last walk down the NICU hallway, with the two Grandfathers and her husband Mark each holding a baby in a bucket seat, evoking every single emotion in the new parents.

“We were so happy to go home, but we also felt like we were cutting the cord with the NICU, and there’s no turning back - it was the end of one journey, but the beginning of another.”

 Leaving the specialized care of the NICU was scary, but also a source of relief; their children were healthy, stable, and ready to go home.

The Coates are the first to admit that prior to this journey, they were clueless about the incredible work that happens in Calgary’s NICUs. “The NICU became our entire universe. We owe everything that’s important in our lives to the NICU, and we can never adequately express our gratitude”.

Clara, Amelia, and Jack are now happy, hilarious, LOUD, healthy children who have just turned four and are enjoying preschool.  Mark and Kendra are incredibly proud of them, and laugh as they describe each child’s unique personality. The Coates believe that their kids were set up for success from the very start, because of the care they received in the NICU.

 “Once you become a parent, it becomes clear that your kids are the future. Our kids are thriving, inquisitive, and happy children, because of the NICU, who now have the opportunity to grow and thrive for the years to come”. The family gives back to the NICU for personal reasons, but they have indicated that their reason for giving goes beyond their personal experience and hope others will too.

One in eight newborns in Alberta need the specialized care, technology, and research of the NICUs.  By donating to Calgary Health Trust you are supporting the future generation. You are giving them the best start possible and making a difference for the families who are undergoing such a stressful time in their lives.

The Coates family participates every year in the Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk, & Ride. “We participate with full hearts and open arms, because of the miracles that happen there.  Thank you, NICU”!

Join us, and celebrate Mom this year at the Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk & Ride on Mother’s Day – May 12th. Proceeds from this year’s run support the redevelopment of the Foothills Medical Centre NICU. This new space will put leading-edge research into action, combine the very best in expert neonatal teams, space and technology, and ensure that every newborn has access to the specialized care and attention only world-class NICU’s can provide.

 Clara, Amelia, and Jack - today!