Janice Boley and Roy Johnson figure they’ve probably spent more time at Jeneece Place in Victoria than any other family.
Boley’s three-year-old daughter, Eve-Lynne Linden, was born with an omphalocele — a defect that means her abdominal organs (stomach, intestines and liver) are located in a sac outside her body. Eve-Lynne was born by c-section in November 2011, and after 402 days in BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, she was discharged and brought home to Ladysmith. The curly-haired girl has had to spend a lot of time in the hospital since then.
The omphalocele, or “O” as Boley calls it, causes Eve-Lynne’s lungs to grow long and thin, and her heart is not in the right place. She also has a tracheostomy and ventilator, and she continues to have health challenges.
All these issues mean Eve-Lynne has to spend a lot of time at Victoria General Hospital. And when she’s there, Boley and Johnson stay at Jeneece Place.
Owned and operated by the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, the 10,500-square-foot home is located on the grounds of Victoria General Hospital, and it contains 10 bedrooms, a large communal kitchen, dining room and games, media, activity and laundry rooms, as well as outdoor play and recreation areas.
“It’s a pretty awesome place,” said Johnson. “There is not one thing I would say that needs improvement.”
“We’d be lost without it,” added Boley. “Jeneece Place makes it a lot less stressful because when you go there, it’s like being home. You walk in, and they know your name. My first time at Jeneece Place, I thought ‘wow, I could be home.’”
Boley and Johnson describe Jeneece Place as very welcoming, and they say staying there helps alleviate a lot of stress around hospital visits because it only takes about five minutes to get from the house into the hospital, and they’re able to save money by being so close and being in a residence where they can cook their own meals.
Boley and Johnson say there’s a real family feel at Jeneece Place.
Boley, Johnson and Eve-Lynne were at Jeneece Place at Christmas time, and they received Christmas gifts from the staff and volunteers, and there was a Christmas dinner for everyone in the house. They’ve also had Thanksgiving dinners at Jeneece Place, and at Easter last year, the staff organized a special Easter egg hunt for Eve-Lynne, who needs a buggy to get around.
Boley and Johnson expect to spend even more time in Victoria in the coming years, as Eve-Lynne will need surgeries to fix her omphalocele.
Boley says Jeneece Place is incredibly accommodating. They often don’t know when they’ll have to go to the hospital next, and Jeneece Place can always find a way to get them in.
“They’re very good about if we’re booked in for a week and something happens with Eve-Lynne, they don’t have to boot you out; they figure out how to keep you,” added Boley.
Johnson says they even try to put you in the same room each time so it feels consistent and feels more like home, and they get to know the staff really well.
“It’s hard to leave sometimes because it’s just like home,” said Johnson.
Eve-Lynne has been connected with Jeneece Place basically since it opened. To give back to Jeneece Place, Johnson will often do handyman chores around the home and fix things for them, and he and Boley contribute to fundraisers. Also, Boley’s mother makes hats and slippers for the families staying there.
“They’ve been a godsend,” said Boley. “We would be completely lost without Jeneece Place. It’s sad when we leave. We’re happy to be going home, but we are sad to leave because they make us so comfortable. I definitely think Jeneece Place is about family.”
Jeneece Place celebrated its second anniversary Jan. 20, on the same day that Jeneece Edroff, the visionary behind the house, celebrated her 20th birthday.
Since Jeneece Place opened its doors Jan. 23, 2012, 749 families have stayed at the house. Ninety-six per cent of those families are from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and 190 families are from the Central Island, which includes Ladysmith.
Linda Hughes, president and CEO of the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, feels Jeneece Place has become “a real blessing to the entire Island.”
Hughes feels there are a lot of things that contribute to the “home away from home” feeling families have when they stay at Jeneece Place, including the building itself.
“There are all these spaces for families to be together,” said Hughes. “It’s this perfect combination of private space and shared space that’s so welcoming.”
Another major contributing factor is the staff members and volunteers who work so hard to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable, noted Hughes.
“As soon as a family comes in, they make it their job to get to know that family and ask them what they need,” she said. “We have great volunteers.”
Hughes wants to emphasize that Jeneece Place may be located in Victoria, but it really is a resource for the whole Island.
For more information about Jeneece Place, click here.