Five Years and Counting
By Melissa McKenzie
It’s been five years since JW House on the campus of Kaiser Santa Clara opened its doors. During that time, hundreds of families have utilized the home for day or overnight use, and that number continues to grow. To celebrate its fifth year, JW House held an anniversary party on Sept. 20 for friends, family and former guests.
“For first time [visitors of the house], welcome home, our door is always open to you,” said House Manager April Bignell. “For the rest of you, welcome back home. To our families, welcome, welcome, welcome. We’ve miss you. We love you. We’re glad you’re here. Each and every day our volunteers welcome our guests at the front door with a smile and they say, 'what can we do for you?’ Guests are overwhelmed sometimes, but that’s OK because it’s a safe place to be overwhelmed. We love each and every one of you for what you have brought to us and we hope that you will continue to come back.”
Mayor Jamie Matthews presented the house with a proclamation from the City. Guests dined on hors d’oeuvres, participated in a raffle, watched entertainment by Happy Birds, and heard the story of Sara and Alex Guaing, whose daughter, Sophie, was born prematurely.
“You wouldn’t know it by looking at Sophie now, but she was born at 28 weeks, that is three months premature,” said Sara Guaing. “On June 2, 2013, our baby decided that she was in a big hurry to enter the world...After hours of intense emotional breakdown and excruciating pain, our baby was born at 3:03 a.m. on June 3, 2013, weighing two pounds, 12 ounces...As we sat next to our tiny, tiny baby, hooked up to machines and monitors, and listened to doctors trying to explain what was going on, all were heard were words like 'brain bleeds,’ 'possible brain surgery,’ 'developmental delays,’ 'heart murmer,’ and 'possible heart surgery.’ In amongst all of these really scary words...all of Sophie’s nurses kept saying the words 'JW House.’ We had no idea what this JW House was, but we thought we might check it out.
“We stood on the porch of JW exhausted and emotionally drained. We rang the doorbell and a lady with a big smile came to answer the door...She said, 'Hi, my name is April, but you can call me any month of the year and I’ll answer.” That made us smile for the first time in days. She said, 'Welcome to the JW House. Let’s take you in for a tour of the house.’...She led us into the kitchen and said, 'Would you like to open your fridge?’ As we opened 'our fridge,’ I cried as I realized someone had provided this food for us, to help us during this difficult time. This was our first up moment in what was to be a 14-week roller coaster ride. We will never forget these up moments...We fell in love with the JW House...because it was a sanctuary away from the loud beeps and bright lights. It provided a place where we could actually speak to other NICU parents instead of just politely nodding to each other...[At dinnertime] we would laugh, pray, cry and share stories...On behalf of all the NICU families, we would like to thank you for all the support you have given us.”
Visit www.jwhouse.org for more information.