CALGARY -- After doctors told her she would never be able to bear children, Nicole Banman received the gift of a lifetime. 

On her birthday in October 2019, she found out she was pregnant with a beautiful baby boy she named Brodie. 

“It is a kiss from an angel,” Banman said.

 “When he smiles and we kiss and hold each other, it’s just a blessing from God.”

Brodie was born June 13, 2020 but a rare condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome forced doctors to conduct open-heart surgery just two days into his life at the Stollery Hospital in Edmonton. 

Two more heart surgeries would follow, along with several other procedures. Medical teams also worked to repair Brodie’s diaphragm, which was impacting his ability to breath.

“It was just sad, and I couldn’t be a proper mom to my son,” Banman said.

“I couldn’t hold him or feed him, it was so hard, and no parent deserves to have a child in the hospital.”

Now eight-months-old, Brodie remains under the care of doctors in the cardiology unit at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Banman hopes her child can be released soon. 

"He's a fighter, oh my goodness and he just lights up," she said.  

Financial struggles

Banman was laid off from her job in December 2019, forcing the then soon-to-be-mother to apply for employment insurance from Service Canada. 

She was receiving collective EI until she had her baby in June, but now says her government benefits have run out entirely. Meanwhile, her common law partner was laid off amid the pandemic and he’s also collecting government benefits.

Banman says she’s now being denied benefits from both Alberta Works and Service Canada because her unemployed partner is already receiving funds. 

"We’re strapped beyond means and we’re trying to make it, but we are taking resources through the community for clothing and forced to go through the Calgary Food bank,” said Banman. 

“And unfortunately, I can’t work, because if I go to work and somebody tests positive for COVID, I can't be bringing that home to my baby who is on oxygen."