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Malachy’s Story, as told by his mom, Kerry O’Reilly Wilks

They healed my son, and my heart.

No one expects to end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with their newborn baby.

It was January 2014. I was 33 weeks pregnant with my second child. Looking for pain relief advice for back pain, I went to the hospital one evening. What I had thought would be an in-and-out visit quickly escalated, as I moved into uncharted territory.

I was told I was dying, and that my only choice was to deliver the baby that night or risk both of our lives. I had very quickly (and quietly) developed a life-threatening condition related to my pregnancy, and had only minutes to absorb what I was being told.

At first, it felt scientific. I was numb and it seemed surreal. But it was when I realized that my son was being treated in a NICU that the walls came crashing down.

I remember thinking that if I just unhooked him and brought him home, he would likely die. I was racked by despair. Feelings of failure as a mom overwhelmed me.

Everything felt out of control. Thankfully, St. Michael’s NICU was in control. My newborn son, Malachy, was in the hands of their very skilled and caring doctors and nurses.

It wasn’t just the acute medical care that comforted me. I would find the nurses whispering to Malachy that he was strong; that he was brave; that he was a big boy. They would tell him how handsome he looked in his new pajamas.

One night, I arrived to a nurse carrying Malachy to the other nurses, showing off his new sleeper and calling him Mr. Handsome. I realized then that I didn’t need to worry that Malachy was alone in the NICU, or without an advocate. He was always with family – the nurses and doctors that had become his family.

They also became my family. The NICU team at St. Michael’s did not just care for Malachy. They cared for me. They helped me see the sunshine through the darkness. They healed my son, and my heart.

I am delighted to tell you that, despite being born at a very tiny 3.3 lbs, Malachy is now a rambunctious young boy and the life of the party, leaving a path of destruction behind him (mostly in his sister’s bedroom).

I knew when I walked out the doors of the St. Michael’s NICU, finally ready to bring my baby home, that something had to be done. I needed to ignite change. I needed to help and support these tiny, fragile babies, and their struggling parents.

In 2015, Malachy’s Soiree was launched. It has quickly become a key social event of Toronto’s fall season. Driven by a powerhouse steering committee of the city’s top women leaders, Malachy’s Soiree is raising funds to support the building of the Transitional Care Unit within St. Michael’s highly-anticipated, state-of-the-art NICU.

Please help us bring healthy babies home sooner.

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