Looking out onto a bright blue, sparkling lake, Pickering mom Nisha Tharma holds her beautiful baby girl close to her heart. As the wind whispers and the waves crash, the pair are locked in, at ease and as close as ever.

A far cry to where this harrowing story began one year ago.

Twisted metal and shattered glass blanketed the intersection of Kennedy and Highway 401 as emergency services rushed to the scene on May 24, 2021. Nisha, eight months pregnant, had been involved in a serious car crash. While no fatalities had occurred, an expectant mother’s worst nightmare would soon unfold.

As the ambulance took Nisha to Scarborough Health Network’s (SHN) General Hospital to treat her injuries, she couldn’t help but notice something was missing. At this point in her pregnancy she had grown accustomed to the wriggles and kicks of her baby, but immediately following the accident, there was only stillness.

“She wasn’t moving,” says Nisha, “she usually moves around that time…and my stomach felt weird. I knew something was wrong.”

As her baby’s presence faded, Nisha’s concerns grew. Without hesitation, SHN’s  nurses and doctors leapt into action. But after a series of tests and examinations, Nisha’s worst fears had come true: her baby’s heartbeat had stopped. There was no time to waste. Before she knew it, Nisha, still recovering from her car crash injuries, was on the operating table preparing for an emergency caesarian section.

For Nisha, a delivery at General hospital proved to be not only life-changing, but life-saving. Thanks to the prompt response of Dr. Catherine Owen, Nisha’s obstetrician-gynecologist, and the birthing room nursing team, both Nisha and her newborn baby, Oviya, survived.

SHN is home to nationally recognized, advanced Family Birthing Centres that are  staffed with an interprofessional team of obstetricians, paediatricians, midwifes and nurses who are hugely skilled to deliver high quality and exceptional patient centered care.

At SHN, the NICU’s are level 2C, meaning staff are specialized with a unique set of skills to provide culturally sensitive care to families in Scarborough that maybe at risk for premature births. The neonatal intensive care units (NICU) can look after babies born as early as 30 weeks.

For a month, Nisha and Oviya recovered under the careful observation of the NICU nurses and paediatrician. Trained specifically to aid new mothers and their babies, these nurses helped balance the joy of motherhood with the challenges of hospitalization; a skillset even more valuable during a pandemic marked by isolation.

“I was always nervous to do little things,” says Nisha. “They were literally holding my hand for the first couple weeks. I didn’t even know how to bathe her, which was really hard. I was expecting my mother-in-law or someone to help me bathe her, but I was alone…and they showed me how to do everything.”

By the time Nisha and her baby were ready to leave, she had learned many fundamentals of newborn care. Dr.  Leah Tattum, a paediatrician, and the nurses taught her how to bathe, feed, and care for Oviya in a way that only healthcare professionals could.

“Being a new mom is a very different experience, but it’s the most beautiful experience. I can’t describe the feeling…it’s the best feeling ever. It’s just beautiful.

“I am really thankful for everyone that was involved in my care to make sure I had this experience: Dr. Owen, Dr. Tattum, nurse Corinna and the nurses. ”

Today, Nisha and Oviya are at home, both much stronger since their accident a year prior – counting blessings and celebrating their first Mother’s Day together. They still see Dr. Tattum for check-ups, and to ensure Oviya meets all her milestones. Forever changed by her experiences, Nisha continues to encourage other expectant mothers to make their way to SHN when the time comes.