Weeks after Dylan Benson's pregnant wife, Robyn, complained of a headache and suddenly collapsed, she lies brain-dead in the intensive care unit of a Vancouver Island hospital, their unborn son 27 weeks in the womb.
But their story is as much about hope as it is about grief: Doctors say the fetus has more than an 80-per-cent chance of survival, and that improves every day. Mr. Benson and the doctors are hoping to keep Ms. Benson on life support for a few more weeks and then deliver the baby, already named Iver Cohen Benson, via a cesarean section.
Those circumstances have put Mr. Benson, 32, in the unimaginable position of anticipating both the birth of his child and the death of his wife. The Victoria man's ordeal comes on the heels of a controversial case in the United States, in which Marlise Munoz, a pregnant, brain-dead Texas woman was taken off a ventilator after a long legal battle, sparking a national debate about abortion and end-of-life decisions.
Mr. Benson, whose story is garnering national attention in Canada, has written candidly about the experience on both a blog and a fundraising site intended to help him cover expenses and provide for his son. His leave from work means he will receive just over half of his salary, he says, and donations will go toward bills, baby supplies and other costs.
"On one hand, I can't wait to meet my son and try and give him the best life possible and try my hardest to be a great dad for him," Mr. Benson, an information technology worker, wrote in a Jan. 28 blog post. "On the other hand I know that the day or the day after he is born will be the day that I have to say goodbye to Robyn."
The Vancouver Island Health Authority has confirmed it has a patient by the name of Robyn Benson in the intensive care unit of Victoria General Hospital but could not provide more information due to privacy laws.
According to friends, the Bensons were high school sweethearts who just married this past summer. Their current ordeal began on Dec. 28, when Ms. Benson, also 32, complained of a headache and asked her husband to go to the store for some painkillers, Mr. Benson wrote. When he returned, she was unconscious on the bathroom floor.
"At the hospital they discovered that my wife had a fluke random type of blood leak into the centre of her brain and that there was so much blood and damage that it is not reversible," he said in a blog post dated Dec. 29. "My wife is now essentially legally brain dead."
Baby Iver is now 27 weeks in the womb; Mr. Benson and the doctors are hoping to deliver him around the 34-week mark. Ms. Benson's body is "holding up incredibly well," functioning without assistance apart from breathing and fluid intake and medication through an IV, wrote Mr. Benson, who visits his wife daily.
"It is so tough to see her every day. She still looks so beautiful, and for the most part she looks like she's sleeping. I miss her so much. I'm so proud of her for how strong she is holding up for Iver."
Rod Phillips met Mr. Benson a couple of years ago when he sent out a tweet saying he wanted to have coffee with a stranger and Mr. Benson replied. The two found they had much in common and became fast friends.
Mr. Phillips, director of buying at the Liquor Plus stores on Vancouver Island, said he contacted his friend to ask whether it would be all right to launch an in-store fundraiser to help cover expenses, to which his friend consented. A separate fundraising campaign launched by Mr. Benson – which had a target goal of $36,000, or roughly one year of his wife's wages – had amassed more than $50,000 by Monday afternoon.
"There are the tangibles – raising money to help him out over the next year or two – but also the intangibles that come from the incredible outpouring of thoughts and prayers around the world so far," Mr. Phillips said. "He is overwhelmed and extremely grateful for anything and everything people are doing."
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