Labrador family receiving financial help for infant’s surgery
© Derek Montague
Kristina Chubbs (left) holds her eight-month-old daughter Charlie, while her husband Spencer Chubbs holds three-year-old Lily. The Chubbs’ will soon be bringing Charlie out to St. John’s for surgery.
Having a young child with a serious medical condition is stressful on any parent, regardless of where they live. But, in places like Labrador, there is often added financial pressures on those who seek treatment.
Much of the time, especially for surgical procedures, Labradorians must travel to St. John’s or elsewhere to see a specialist. When that happens, the costs of travel, food, accommodations, and lost wages, can pile up.
For Spencer and Kristina Chubbs, a young couple living in North West River, that pressure has been heavy since early April, when their eight-month-old daughter, Charlie, was diagnosed with craniosynostosis.
Craniosynostosis is a condition where spaces in an infant’s skull, called sutures, prematurely fuse and close. This often leads to the infant having an elongated head.
“Charlie’s soft spots have fused together. The skull can’t grow, so the brain got no room to go,” explained Spencer.
“Before it gets too bad, they’re going to catch it where there’s not so much pressure on her brain.”
Charlie is expected to undergo surgery at the Janeway Hospital in early May to help correct the condition. But getting to this point has been a long, hard road for the Chubbs’.
Spencer and Kristina noticed the odd shape on the back of Charlie’s head very early in the infant’s life. But, according to the couple, it took visits to several medical professionals to get a diagnosis.
“It’s just by chance that we caught it. We brought her to two or three different doctors and they said there was nothing wrong,” said Spencer.
“The forceps was used on her; they said that’s what caused the bump, and it would go back. But it just never ever got smaller. It really started to worry us.”
Finally, after seeing two pediatricians, Charlie was diagnosed with craniosynostosis, which occurs in one out every 2,500 live births.
The diagnostic battle may have been over, but the financial one was just starting. Charlie will have to be at the hospital for 21 days, before, during, and after surgery. Both parents plan to fly out with their daughter, which means Spencer will have to take time off work from his two jobs in Sheshatshiu.
On top of last wages, there’s travel, food, and accommodations that will be costing the couple money. Luckily, Kristina is a Nunatsiavut beneficiary, so some costs will be offset for her. Nonetheless, the Chubbs’ estimate that they will need $6,000-$7,000 for their time in St. John’s. That figure doesn’t take into account Spencer’s lost wages.
“When you’re of work for almost a month, the bills can pile up,” said Spencer.
On top of the financial concerns, the couple also have to tie up lose ends in North West River before leaving. They must make sure the house they’re renting will be OK for 21 days. Most important is lining up a babysitter for their other daughter, three-year-old Lily.
“We’re going to be in the hospital most of the time, so Lily would be very restless if we took her,” said Kristina.
The Chubbs’ had no way of knowing the amount of support that would come pouring out of the Big Land. But the actions taken by many to help fundraise have left Spencer and Kristina overwhelmed.
On April 27, a friend of the couple, Cara Talbot, started a gofundme.com site called “Baby Charlie” to try and help the Chubbs’ raise money. In less than four days, the site raised $2,685 and counting. The surprised Chubbs’ had no idea Talbot was planning anything like this.
“She told us she started it and hoped that we wouldn’t get mad at her,” said Spencer. “There’s no possible way we could get mad at her.”
“We didn’t start it ourselves because we didn’t think people would just donate,” added Kristina.
Seeing so much money raised in just a few short days has left Spencer emotional with gratitude.
“It’s a lot of weight off our shoulders. I looked at the site a lot the last couple of days. There’s been times when I couldn’t do nothing but weep and cry over it,” said Spencer.
Spencer and Kristina have been doing their own fundraising as well, which has garnered a lot of local support. Spencer has been selling some of the partridges he has hunted and bread that he has baked.
One kind lady from North West River, Emily Powell, bought 40 loaves off Spencer. And one company, Goose Bay Wholesalers, donated 50 pounds of flour for him to bake his bread.
By the end of April, the partridge and bread sales have totalled $400.
“There’s actually a lot of good people out there,” said Spencer
“When people started donating, it warms your heart, really.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Chubbs family can do so at: http://www.gofundme.com/8oeyao