When Sarah Coopsie and Mike Christians were at Victoria General Hospital with their daughter Violet, they spent a lot of time peering out of windows. Violet was born with several congenital heart defects, and could not spend much time outside. It was summertime, and they frequently saw butterflies through the glass.
“You’d look out the window and one would flutter by or you’d be driving and one would flutter by again, and they were just, everybody saw them…They kind of made us feel like she was present,” said Coopsie.
The significance is not lost on Violet’s three-year old cousin, Ayla, who was running around her home in Saanichton on a Saturday morning, undeterred by a cold.
“Ayla sees them as well, even now, she’ll see one and say, ‘baby Bats is here.’” Her mother, Angela Thorneloe, explained that Ayla could not say “Violet” earlier this year, so that’s what she calls her.
Violet died on July 1, 2017, and when trying to help Ayla process this loss, Thorneloe decided it was a good opportunity to raise money for a new rocking chair so families at Victoria General Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) would have a better place to sit. A card featuring a butterfly painting by Ayla is being sold on Etsy to raise $3,000 for a special, hospital-grade chair — in purple, naturally.
They have already sold 100 cards, and after they sell the next batch of 150, they should have the money they need.
“She’s only three-and-a-half now,” said Thorneloe, “but one day it will meaningful to her that she took part in leaving a legacy at the hospital in her cousin’s name, so we decided to make the cards.”
“It’s just something that we’re very proud of Ange and Ayla for doing … for having a charitable mind, making sure it’s there for those long-term stays,” said Christians.
The couple were informed about Violet’s heart defect before she was born, so they spent the last weeks of pregnancy at Ronald McDonald House to be closer to B.C. Children’s Hospital. After her birth, doctors found several heart defects and an interstitial lung disease which interfered with oxygen exchange. Just after three months, doctors diagnosed Violet with Kabuki syndrome, which explained the combination of problems that Violet had.
The family flew between BC Children’s Hospital and Victoria General Hospital “quite a bit,” said Coopsie.
“I guess you could characterize it as hard,“ said Christians, “but at the same time, easy, because it’s our kid.”
“I’d say we were in survival mode,” said Coopsie, “but we just did it because that’s what needed to be done. There was no questions asked. We just loved her to pieces; that’s what you did.”
The couple would spend all day at the hospital, other family members would relieve them in the evening and nurses would take over in the wee hours. All this time made Thorneloe notice that the chairs in the PICU were not very comfortable, so the idea of the rocking chair came to be.
Although Violet had a short life, her parents are thankful that they got to spend every waking moment with their daughter, who said she was an “old soul” with big, beautiful eyes who always wanted to be held.
They praised the staff at the PICU, who they called “basically family.”
“I remember in the beginning when we started spending time there, we were pretty hesitant to leave Violet alone there at night; we always wanted to be around. And we came to realize that they basically loved her as much as we did. That’s how it sort of felt,” said Christians.
And so, after asking nurses and the Victoria Hospital Foundation, they agreed that a new chair would be a welcome addition to the space.
“We’ll know always that the purple chair is the one that’s for Violet,” said Thorneloe.
To buy a card, visit etsy.com/ca/listing/556215926/cards-for-vgh-picu