Max’s Story

Max's first day

It was not the “welcome to the world” we’d imagined. But after early contractions, three days of labour, and an emergency c-section, the moment had arrived: our first child was being born.

Like all new parents, we listened for the first cry of life. We listened… but all we heard was a tiny squeak. Then… nothing at all.

We watched in fear as the medical team rushed to resuscitate our baby. Our hearts were pounding as we waited for 15 long minutes until finally, he began to breathe.

When we look back on that June day four years ago, that was the first of many times we learned to have faith in the staff at St-Boniface Hospital. For the longest time, they were our extended family; genuine, caring, and always there to support us through the ups and downs – and there were many. They are extremely good at what they do, which we now know is because of donors like you who give them the support they need to save lives, every day.

We needed that support – yours, and theirs – for the next six months. Our son Max was born three months premature and his difficult start was only the beginning of many obstacles our newly formed family would have to face together.

With the help of a ventilator, Max was able to breathe…but now his heart was in trouble. A blood vessel that normally closes soon after birth had remained open, putting a strain on Max’s heart and increasing blood pressure in his lungs.

But what worried us the most was that Max wasn’t responding to any medication. We were told he was going to need emergency surgery.

Before he went into the operating room, the nurses allowed us to hold Max for the very first time to help calm our nerves. Weighing just one and a half pounds, he was more tubes and wires than baby. But underneath it all, he was our perfect little boy with a beautiful button nose.

We told him how much we loved him and how proud we were of his fighting spirit. We only hoped he had enough fight in him to make it through heart surgery.

For the first few hours after his operation, all of Max’s vital signs were where they should be. His chest x-ray already showed an improvement in his lungs. We were so happy for our little trooper and so thankful for the St-Boniface Hospital staff.

The next day, his condition suddenly took another turn for the worst.

The doctors told us Max was in a “critical post-operative” situation. The surgery had gone well but Max wasn’t adjusting to his improved heart. His blood pressure wasn’t stabilizing despite medication and he hadn’t urinated. They were worried he could go into acute kidney failure.

Watching the nurses hover over Max’s bed, we desperately wished we could do more to protect him, but knew he was in the best of hands to help win this fight. They were trying everything to save our little boy.

Every two hours throughout the night, we heard from a nurse who updated us on Max’s condition. The staff worked around the clock until finally they found a medical treatment his body accepted. A week later, Max was in the clear.

Still, there were more hurdles as weeks turned to months: hernia surgery, pneumonia, and narrow airways meant Max still needed a ventilator to breathe. As the first snowfall arrived, we wondered if our spring baby would make it home for Christmas.

After months of treatments, Max’s lungs finally strengthened enough so he could breathe on his own. On December 6, our little fighter came home for the holidays. When he did, we were touched to receive a farewell card signed by all the staff we had formed such close bonds with during our time at the Hospital.

Max (right) with his baby brother Percy

Max with his new baby brother Percy last Christmas

As we get together with friends and family during the holidays, we now think about our “St-Boniface Hospital family”. They’ll never truly know how it felt to finally bring Max home. Because of their compassion and confident ability to do their job, we were able to bring home the best Christmas gift: a beautiful, healthy baby boy who is now a talkative, energetic four-year-old!

We’re telling our story so you can share in our joy and know that your support helped make our family what it is today: happy, healthy, and thankful for the many Christmases we can share together.

We hope you will help give this joy to other families by making a gift to St-Boniface Hospital Foundation today.



Brienne & Rafael Santos

The Santos Family, September 2014

The Santos Family, September 2014