Montreal hospital bridges cancer and birth centres to unite family through father's treatment
Newborn babies are not often seen in an adult oncology ward. However, it's been a regular occurrence for the last three weeks at the MUHC, where a baby is living at the hospital with her parents while her father fights a rare and aggressive cancer.
The young child’s name is Nika, and she's been lovingly nicknamed “the D-10 baby” after the adult oncology floor where she has lived all 22 days of her life.
Her mother, Samaneh Poursaman, hasn't left the hospital since her husband, Sooran Noroozi, was admitted more than 130 days ago.
“The most important thing for us has been to be together to have this,” said Poursaman. “You know, it is not home here, but in that sense, it is where we are together all the time.”
“We can see each other every day and it has helped me to be more positive,” said Noroozi.
Both chemical engineers, the couple came to Canada from Iran eight years ago. But a life filled with hockey games and travel was interrupted soon after.
Sooran was diagnosed with sarcoma last summer – a painful disease affecting bones, muscles, and cartilage.
By December, it had progressed – just as the couple were expecting their first child.
“We were in such happy times in our lives,” said Poursaman. “He had finished his Ph.D … we had our baby on the way. Everything seemed to be planned out. Everything seemed to be happy and going forward.”
Their wish for the hospital was that they could all be together to ensure Noroozi wouldn't miss a moment of fatherhood. It's a first for the hospital, but staff made it happen.
“Mentally, I think it's important,” said oncologist Dr. Ramy Saleh.
“It's much less stressful for the patient knowing his family is there, and that he's able to be the father that he wanted to be, but at the same time to focus on his treatment.”
Nurse Sophia Kapellas helped coordinate teams from the birthing centre, pediatrics and oncology to unit the family.
“They were pretty clear on what they wanted,” said Kapellas. “They said ‘listen, we've been together for 10 years, we've never been apart, we don't want to be apart.’”
The teams made sure Sooran could be there for Nika's birth. Dad even cut the umbilical cord.
“The moment he came into the room, I burst into tears that it was possible for him,” said Poursaman.
“She held the baby, and he held the baby, and then we all went into our offices to cry because it was really an intensely emotional moment for all of us,” said Kapellas.
The hospital also helped to get temporary visas for both grandmothers, who helped to make their experience feel as normal as possible.
“(Nika) is so loved by us, grandmas, staff here, aunts and uncles overseas,” said Poursaman.
Sooran says he’s grateful for every moment with Nika.
“I feel lucky to have such a beautiful daughter,” he said.