Jesse Batke (top right) with his wife Erika Stavinga and two children, Abigail and Jamie.

Everything is happening so fast, thought Jesse Batke as he threw some personal belongings into a bag, trying to ignore the growing anxiety in the pit of his stomach. Jesse and his wife, Erica Stavinga, would normally be planning a hike or a fishing trip with their two kids for the weekend in their hometown of Creston, BC. Instead, Erica was on an emergency flight to Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) and Jesse was frantically making arrangements so that he could follow.

In the days prior, Erica had been suffering from uncharacteristically severe migraines, culminating in the alarming loss of her vision. An MRI performed at Creston Community Hospital was sent to Dr. Michael Tso, a neurosurgeon at KGH, the region’s advanced neurology referral hospital. Dr. Tso’s response was swift. Erica was experiencing a serious brain bleed inside her optic nerve and needed to be flown to KGH for an emergency craniotomy.

As Jesse made the five hour drive to Kelowna to join his wife, the last thing on his mind was where he was going to stay. His sister-in-law suggested he reach out to JoeAnna’s House. All he could think about though was whether his wife would be OK.

Jesse arrived late in the evening and spent the night at KGH with Erica, who had been admitted and scheduled for surgery the following day.

“Being away from home and in such a precarious situation was incredibly difficult and unnerving,” explains Jesse. “After that first night, I didn’t know where I was going to sleep, where I would get food, and how I was going to afford a hotel room for a week or more.”

Jesse called JoeAnna’s House. As is increasingly the case, the home-away-from-home just steps from KGH built to accommodate the families of patients who’ve had to travel for advanced care, was full.

And then, miraculously, a room opened up.

“Walking into JoeAnna’s House was like walking into one of the most inviting homes I’d ever been in,” says Jesse. “The staff made me feel like I belonged. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

JoeAnna’s House, and the people who work and volunteer there, have that effect on guests.

“I get emotional talking about it,” shares Jesse. “It was such a departure from the traumatic feelings I was going through at the time—I had an overwhelming desire to just hug everybody.” Thankfully, Erica’s surgery was a success. Dr. Tso and his team were able to remove the bleed from Erica’s optic nerve and are hopeful that her vision will improve with time.

“Erica received the finest care from Dr. Mike Tso, Dr. Daniel Yavin, their team, and all of the nurses and staff at KGH,” says Jesse gratefully.

And for Jesse, he says the care that he received at JoeAnna’s House was second to none. “We are so grateful for every person—whether they donate, volunteer, or work at JoeAnna’s House,” he says. “The love and support we received during such a scary and uncertain time gave me the strength to cope and better support Erica.”

“From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.”