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Phil Jenkins

How I got here

Stories on how people found your way to the Gatineau Hills written by Chelsea writer Phil Jenkins.

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the June 06, 2018 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Strong soul finally makes her way home

By Phil Jenkins

Arden Frances Welburn-Jay got here on Feb. 26 of this year. Arie, as her family calls her, is the third child of Allysun and Paul, and she lives with them and her two sisters in a house near the covered bridge. Although she is a very endearing and heroic recent addition to the community, Arie has only recently arrived among us in the Hills. The first several weeks of her life were spent in hospitals, as were her mother's.

Arden Frances Welburn-Jay
Wakefield's Arden Frances Welburn-Jay was cheered on by the doctor to come into this world. Photo courtesy Allysun Welburn.

Arie's presence in the womb came as a surprise to her parents. At the doctor's for another health matter, Allysun was told that she was 20 weeks pregnant. Her denial was overruled by the strong heartbeat on an ultrasound. Then, when she did arrive, Arie was immediate considerable cause for concern: she was born with the rare Pierre Robin syndrome (Robin was a French dental surgeon.) Allysun recalled hearing a doctor repeatedly saying, "Come on, baby, come on!" Simply put, the architecture of Arie's jaw at birth - small lower jaw, cleft palate, tongue set back and blocking the throat - made swallowing impossible and breathing difficult. But days later, when the immediate danger was assuaged and Allysun finally got to have her baby alongside her, she knew that Arie was a strong soul.

Arie proved her toughness over the next couple of months, impressing the nurses at CHEO, which has a neonatal care unit with some experience of Pierre Robin babies, with her determination, having gotten here, to remain. Through multiple intubations, collapsed lungs, painkiller addiction and gradual weaning, the light at tunnel's end grew brighter.

"The nurses were stars," Allysun said. "They should be paid the same as hockey players."

At Molo's of a weekend morning, Allysun had finished feeding Arie. Mum's own breast milk in a bag is machine-pumped into her via a tube entering her nostril and ending in her stomach. Smiles and grumps alternate over the course of the hour, but there are no tears, no hissy fits. In another two hours, it will all start again.

Several women at the café offer Arie greetings, and there is, for the umpteenth time, patient explanation of her story so far, plus admiration for Arie's moccasins - a gift. "The community has been spectacular, and nourished us even as Arie was gaining health," Allysun said. "While I was in Ottawa all those tense, fraught weeks, there were meals in a cooler on our porch every night. I mentioned on social media that our dog needed a temporary home; the next day, the dog was rehoused." As the community virtually followed the daily progress of its newest villager, Arie became, as Allysun puts it, "everybody's baby." Arden Frances Welburn-Jay got here with difficulty, but she is here to stay.


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