Precious Gemma celebrates birthday

Charlie Bostik with Gemma. The little girl has overcome many obstacles to celebrate her first birthday. -
Charlie Bostik with Gemma. The little girl has overcome many obstacles to celebrate her first birthday.
— image credit:

An incredibly special birthday was celebrated among family, friends and unfamiliar faces who gathered inside Amanda and Charlie Bostik’s home last weekend.

Gemma Violet Neselle came into the world on Feb. 18, 2010, and for the past year has touched the lives of everybody she’s met.

Born with a terminal neuromuscular disorder, Gemma’s muscles aren’t strong enough to allow her to do most of the things other babies do.

Yet somehow, with a sparkle in her eyes and a smile, she conveys love and warmth that’s beyond mere words.

On Saturday, some 30 people came to Gemma’s side to mark her special day.

It was a year ago this week that Amanda was rushed into an emergency Caesarian section two months before her due date, and delivered Gemma, who needed to be resuscitated following delivery.

Doctors told the first-time parents that Gemma had a disorder that was not “compatible with life.”

The shocking news was followed by countless questions with few answers.

To that point, Amanda’s planned pregnancy had been completely healthy and to this day Gemma’s precise condition remains undiagnosed.

But the why’s have long been supplanted by thank-you’s, as Amanda and Charlie’s journey with Gemma has been marked with a profound appreciation for every day she remains in their lives.

The everyday business of life has been boiled down to its most meaningful components, and opened the Bostiks’ eyes to what’s truly important and taught them to take nothing for granted.

“We just see things differently, live differently, now that she’s here.”

Spending most of their time in hospital at Gemma’s side has been stressful and exhausting, and has tested the Bostiks relationship, their emotions, morals and values.

A lot of people asked them how they are managing. But for them, it’s simply something that you do for your child, for your family, she said.

Gemma may not be long for this world, but her parents are determined to give her a lifetime of love, and to hold her hand all the way through her journey.

“Gemma overcame so many obstacles. We were told many things that she wouldn’t be able to do that she (did) do. There were a lot of opinions but we decided that our daughter would determine her path and we would support her in her journey,” Amanda said. “Children like Gemma teach and inspire us more than most can in a lifetime.”

After 10 long months in the neonatal intensive care unit at B.C. Women’s Hospital, the Bostiks received an early present when they were allowed to bring Gemma home just a couple of days prior to Christmas.

Then last weekend out came the balloons and birthday cake as family, friends and hospital staff from B.C. Women’s helped the Bostiks ring in the occasion they didn’t think they’d ever see: Gemma’s first birthday.

By sharing their story, Amanda hopes to raise awareness that the neonatal intensive care unit, where premature and critically ill babies are cared for, isn’t part of B.C. Children’s Hospital, and as a result receives a lot less funding.

“We would like to bring awareness so that people will consider donating towards BC Women’s Hospital to help babies like Gemma in the NICU,” Amanda said. “Gemma wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the NICU.”

When Gemma came into the world prematurely, the Bostiks were unprepared and she remained nameless for a few days. But then they landed on the name Gemma, because she was so small.

“To us, she is so precious. Our precious Gem.”

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