Spending his first Father’s Day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

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At just over two pounds, baby Lucas was not yet big or well enough to come out of his isolette – but that didn’t stop James Steel from being his dad.

Steel never expected to spend his first Father’s Day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). With his wife Christine, he spends virtually all day at his son’s side.

“I talk to him and I tell him, ‘Lucas, you’re going to get better and you’re going to get out of here,” James says.

When Lucas was born at just 25 weeks gestation at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre this past May, his father had to switch gears overnight. In his profession as a crane operator at CN, James has the sensitive job of safely moving giant shipping containers that weigh up to 80,000 pounds. In the NICU, he focused on every ounce that Lucas gains.

Problems with his heart, lungs and bowel made it imperative that Lucas be moved to the NICU at SickKids within days of birth. For James and Christine, spending each day at the NICU is a roller-coaster ride that is made bearable by the skill and support of the medical team, and by the encouragement of other parents who say “My baby survived, and Lucas will too.”

“James and Christine are doing exactly what they need to do to be a family right now,” says Rita Visconti, parent liaison in the NICU. “Every way that they are providing personal care and attention to Lucas is part of his medical plan too. That’s why family-centred care is now fully integrated into how the NICU operates.” (Visconti knows what they’re going through: she was a mom of triplets in the NICU six years ago.)

As James approached his first Father’s Day he wanted other dads and future dads to know that spending Father’s Day in the NICU is special. “It’s special because it will be another day that Lucas gets better, little by little.”

Lucas is still being cared for in the NICU at SickKids and is now four pounds two ounces. He is expected to stay at SickKids until the end of August, which was his expected due date.