If anyone knows their way around Southlake Regional Health Centre, it’s Aurora’s Dean and Kelly Iwai, parents to seven children between the ages of 12 and 24. This is a family that is VERY appreciative of the excellent care, close to home, that Southlake provides. Having grown up in the area but never requiring the hospital’s care as a youngster, Kelly never would have guessed that, as an adult, she would give birth to seven children at Southlake. Add to that the fact that each of those athletic kids would have two or three visits for sports-related fractures, sprains and surgeries, and Southlake became somewhat of a second home to this busy family.
Like all of us, the Iwai family is living life a bit differently right now. When you have seven children, some working, most still in school and all living at home, the various stages of the COVID-19 lockdown take on new meaning. Like many of us though, they really enjoyed the ability to share more family time.
Since the pandemic began, there have been lots of birthdays, graduations, proms, and annual events celebrated in different ways. “We did our own graduation ceremonies on the dock at the cottage, made the best of every celebration, including Canada’s recent birthday, and are simply enjoying spending time together,” says Kelly.
It is certainly a slower pace than this family is used to. With all seven kids being avid hockey players, the Iwai’s were known to frequent hockey rinks more than 100 times a month – with trips to Southlake sprinkled in! “Now, during the pandemic we are playing more card games and hitting the golf links instead,” says Dean.
The Iwai’s have been fortunate no one has required a trip to Southlake during COVID-19. Kelly and Dean both feel tremendous empathy for the families who gave birth during the pandemic. The restrictions required to keep everyone safe meant those new parents had a much different experience than they did. For the Iwai’s, after each birth the other children were able to visit and meet their new sibling. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to not be able to share the experience with our whole family,” says Kelly.
Amazingly, the Iwai’s also shared all seven births with the same obstetrician, Dr. David Rouselle. “He was my doctor and I was lucky he just happened to be there for the first four deliveries,” says Kelly. “After that, he said he wanted to deliver them all, and he did!”
Dean and Kelly have been in the Maternal Child Unit so many times, they often received care from the same nurses and clinical experts. “We want to give a shout-out to the birthing unit,” adds Dean. “We had contact with so many great people and were so fortunate and thankful for Southlake over the years. We have always experienced excellent care and are truly lucky to have this hospital in our community.”
The Iwai’s were the first at Southlake to have umbilical cord stem cells cryogenically saved for all of their children. The idea came as a result of a tragic experience. Dean’s sister, Dana Brown lost her life to leukemia, leaving behind her daughter Kaitlin and husband Dave. The entire family, including Dean and Kelly, Dean’s brother Darryl and his wife Jan, and Dean’s parents Ken (now deceased) and Elaine grieved. Today, knowing all seven or their children have those stem cells stored gives Dean and Kelly peace of mind looking to the future.
For now, the Iwai crew will continue to stay busy enjoying their family and appreciating Southlake from a safe distance! As restrictions begin to loosen and life returns to whatever the new normal will look like, they will look back on the COVID-19 pandemic with gratitude that their family was able to remain safe and grow even closer while doing so.
If you would like to make a contribution to the Maternal Child Unit at Southlake, click here.