When five-year-old Kira Couroux smiles brightly, she lights up the whole room. Her twin sister Janelle thrives whenever she’s around.
Both girls have special needs and challenges. Kira was born with cerebral palsy, Janelle had some development delays related to premature birth at 31 weeks gestation. Janelle weighed only two pounds, Kira two pounds, 14 ounces.
The twins’ journey began March 18, 2002.Instead of a smooth delivery, the new parents endured stressful hours at Prince George Regional Hospital (PGRH) filled with anguish and worry over their babies until they at last came into the world by caesarean section.
It was a day their mother Jennifer Gowan described as everything going wrong that could go wrong.
“My water had broken, I was giving birth and there were no doctors available to help me. My doctor was in surgery. Kira was coming out feet first, a breech, and we [she and husband Shawn Couroux] had to wait for another surgeon to arrive and do my emergency c-section. The babies were born at 1:54 and 1:55.”
The parents knew something was terribly wrong, she said.
“We didn’t even know Janelle was alive. They whisked her away. Kira we got to hold. Both babies did quite well considering how small they were but it was Janelle who kept having problems. Her two valves outside her heart had to be surgically closed [mature babies valves close naturally) and Janelle had just been taken off oxygen when she finally came home from hospital. Yet, it was Kira who ended up having cerebral palsy.”
From the earliest days, the girls had help from the Child Development Centre, she said.
“They got therapy at PGRH before they came home and they were involved right away with the CDC. The therapist came to our house at first when the babies were small.”
Therapist Llaesa North has been wonderful with the girls and very innovative, she said.
“Llaesa has even custom fit equipment for us one of the most beneficial things about the CDC is their loan equipment service, so you can try things out and see what works best.”
North even designed her own devices.
“Kira had to be restrained for her own safety and she wanted to join her sisters who were drawing in chalk on the floor. So Llaesa cut some foam into a little seat so Kira could have support and still play,” said Gowan.
These days, the twins do everything other girls their age do, including taking jazz dance classes together.
“Janelle was taking jazz dance lessons and then Kira asked if she could go too so I took her along and said basically, we’ll see,’ Janelle was in class and looked like a lost child when we first got there. But when Kira arrived, she brightened right up. Janelle does rely on Kira in many ways,” Gowan said.
“When Kira smiles, she really does brighten up a room. The other day she was helping CDC volunteers paint red flowers at the centre and she got just covered in red acyrilic paint. She had such a great time.”
The daily pace for parents of special needs children can get hectic, admits Gowan.
“At first, when they were young, it was just go, go, go. It’s a lot better now that I’m not spending my days just running around,” she said, laughing. The couple’s older daughter Shonda also helps out.
“Shonda was just four years old when the twins were born. We took her to Vancouver with us when they were in hospital. She was very mature and understanding about it all. She’s what they call an old soul.”