The Current

When a premature baby and his family were stranded in B.C. flooding, local moms rushed to help

Kaytlin Toews was bringing her son home after more than a month in the neonatal intensive care unit, when they were stranded by the floods in B.C.

Community pitched in with diapers, wipes, formula and clothing — even a playmat

Kaytlin Toews's son Jackson was born prematurely at 31 weeks and two days. (Submitted by Kaytlin Toews)

Read Story Transcript

After spending over a month in a Surrey, B.C., neonatal intensive care unit, Kaytlin Toews was set to bring her son Jackson home to Chilliwack last week.

But extensive flooding in the province blocked their route home, leaving them stranded with limited baby supplies.

Expecting they would be home in time for the next change and feeding, they "didn't have a single thing except his diaper bag, which had one diaper in it, and a pack of wipes that had two wipes left in it," Toews told The Current.

Toews and her partner Benjamin sat in stalled traffic on Nov. 14 on Highway 1 before police arrived to turn cars back to Abbotsford. By the time they reached the town, hotels were fully booked.

"That was so stressful — being in Abbotsford, then having no hotels, already being stranded for over two hours, [the] little man getting cranky and having nothing for him," Toews said.

WATCH | Kaytlin Toews on being stranded by B.C. floods

New mother recounts becoming stranded, without baby supplies, by B.C. flooding

1 year ago
Duration 2:02
After two months in the neonatal unit, Kaytlin Toews was told her son could finally go home, just as floodwaters cut off the route to Chilliwack B.C.

Record-breaking rainfall hit southern B.C. last week, cutting off major highways and submerging entire communities. At least four people died in a mudslide on a mountain road.

But amid the chaos, helpers have stepped up for the stranded, and their communities.

Toews went to a resource centre in Abbotsford, where workers were able to find her a hotel room in Langley, a half-hour away. Leaving the centre, she ran into Cashtyn Groeneveld, who had come down to donate some supplies to stranded people.

Groeneveld is also a first-time mom, with a six-month-old daughter, and was moved to hear of Toews's plight. 

"She told me she didn't have anything and basically that her little four-pound baby was going to have to sleep in a dresser drawer that night," Groeneveld told The Current.

"I just thought, 'Oh, you know, for a baby that small, we can't have that.'"

Groeneveld with her husband Silas Groeneveld, and their daughter. (Submitted by Cashtyn Groeneveld)

Groeneveld put up some posts online, asking other families in the area if they could donate some supplies. 

"I had probably 40 women message me in the first hour and a half of that post being up, offering everything from diapers to car seats," she said.

"One woman even reached out and said, 'You know, I might have a chartered flight home for her.'"

'Meant to run into each other'

By the time they became stranded by the flooding, Toews had spent almost five weeks in the NICU, watching as Jackson, born prematurely at 31 weeks and two days, was hooked up to feeding tubes and machines to help him breathe.

"Seeing how small he really was … it was hard, for sure," she said.

Toews says Jackson has taken the long trip home in his stride, and hasn't cried once. (Submitted by Kaytlin Toews)

Groeneveld has seen that difficulty firsthand: her nephew was also born prematurely.

"It felt very personal and very much like we were meant to run into each other in that way and I was supposed to help her," Groeneveld said.

"I didn't really do much else other than co-ordinate a couple of donations and dropped them off to her."

The supplies she brought included diapers, wipes, formula and clothing — even a playmat. 

"Absolutely everything I could have thought I needed, plus more, she made sure we had in the hotel room," Toews said.

WATCH | Couple describe house being swept away by floodwaters

'The river just took it under' says B.C. couple who lost entire farm to floodwaters

1 year ago
Duration 8:35
Paul and Pam Velt describe watching their home in Merritt, B.C., get swept away by the flooding on Monday afternoon.

Toews spent a week in the hotel in Langley, but has now got her family home safe in Chilliwack. Speaking on The Current, she told Groeneveld how grateful she was for the help and donations.

"You made being in the hotel feel like home, with everything you brought," she said.

"I cannot wait until the highway does open up, so we can let our little ones meet and go for coffee and just, yeah, reconnect again — not through just the chaos."

Jackson is now 42 days old, and Toews said he hasn't cried once, and is a "happy little camper."

Their ordeal is "going to be a story for Jackson when he's old enough to understand."

Written by Padraig Moran. With files and produced by Arianne Robinson. 

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