Tele-health connects twins Bailey and Byron and their parents Darlene Quqshuun and Warren Rudolph in Edmonton to family back home in Gjoa Haven. They were born in Edmonton on Dec. 2, but won't be able to return home for Christmas. - photo courtesy of Grey Nuns Community Hospital
Darlene Quqshuun, 24, and Warren Rudolph, 22, are extremely excited, and just a little nervous, about the prospect of parenting their twin boys, Bailey and Byron, who arrived two minutes apart on Dec. 2.
Complications developed in Quqshuun's pregnancy so she was sent to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton on Sept. 15. Warren arrived two days later to be with her.
Now, four months later, it's December, the twins are doing well, it's achingly close to Christmas and they miss their family and just want to be home.
But until Bailey and Byron are a little bigger, they must stay put in Edmonton.
"The babies have to be a certain weight," said Liz Kingan, program services co-ordinator for the Northern Health Services Network, explaining why the family has to stay in the city. "They must be feeding well, their breathing must be good. So far the boys are right on track."
Quqshuun and Rudolph are living at Larga House and praying they will soon get the OK from doctors to take their boys home to the North. The babies were transferred to the Gray Nuns Hospital where staff continues to monitor their progress.
With their boys well taken care of and doing fine, it is mainly the family back home that Quqshuun and Rudolph are wondering about now.
"We're doing alright. We're homesick, though," Quashuun said last week.
Because they can't actually go home yet, Kingan and the Grey Nuns hospital staff arranged the next best thing: a tele-health meeting so Quqshuun, Rudolph and their boys could visit with family back home last Wednesday.
Tele-health provides a unique opportunity to talk nearly face to face with people in other communities, using cameras, TVs and other audiovisual equipment.
"I took the babies down for the first 15 minutes," Rudolph said. "We were taking pictures and showing them to our family."
It was the first time the family in Gjoa Haven had seen the two boys and there was joy on both sides of the tele-health screen, said Quqshuun.
Quqshuun has a large family. They were all there for the tele-health visit, including her seven-year-old daughter Shinowa.
Rudolph has a brother and sister living in Gjoa Haven. He originates from New Glasgow, N.S., and has lived in the North for two and a half years.
Rudolph was introduced to Quqshuun two years ago at the community hall in Gjoa Haven and says it was love at first sight.
The identical twins are the couple's first children together. The notion of twins really took Rudolph by surprise.
"It was hard to believe at first. Even after they were born it was still hard to believe."
The new dad held his boys up to the screen at one point, delighting the family members back home, who can't wait for the chance to hug them for real.
"They said they look like me," Rudolph said. "They are just really small and really cute."
The babies have dark hair and are still quite tiny. Bailey is four pounds, five ounces. Byron weighs five pounds, seven ounces.
The tele-health visit lasted an hour.
"We were just saying hi to everybody, asking how they're doing," said Rudolph.
This is the second tele-health visit the couple has enjoyed since they have been in Edmonton. Each time, they say they miss Gjoa Haven terribly when the visit is over.
"It's good to see everybody," Rudolph said. "But it makes us want to go up there."
Need to connect
Bailey and Byron have so far delighted the staff at both hospitals.
"They're good looking," Kingan said. "Dad assures me they are. But he's a bit biased."
Kingan has worked for Northerners who come south for about 14 years now, after working in the NWT in the 1980s. She is thrilled that Quqshuun and Rudolph, and other Northerners, can now enjoy tele-health visits with family back home.
For Northerners, keeping in touch with family is especially critical, she said, and tele-health is an effective tool.
She has seen children come up and kiss the camera during emotional visits.
Couple tired of Edmonton
Although they know it's important for the babies to stay where they are for now, living in Edmonton for four months is starting wear on the couple.
"It's good, but it's getting boring," said Warren. "They're hoping we can go home before Christmas, as long as everything goes good."
Being away from home four months is a long time for anyone, Kingan agreed.
"They're lonely," she said. "They miss their family. But at least there are two of them. They're together."
And in the meantime, family and friends enjoy visits via tele-health and imagine for a moment they are home and all together.