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Why Medical Families?

This is me…well, the me of 4 years ago.

Medical mom Kristy Wolfe with her children. Photo by Gin Quist Photography
Photo credit: Gin Quist Photography

This is also me…a more recent version of me.

Heart mom Kristy Wolfe standing over her son's bedside at the Stollery Children's Hospital. Photo by Slice of Love Photography
Photo Credit: Slice of Love Photography

I am a medical mom. I am an advocate. I am a storytelling photographer.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Respiratory Therapist wearing a fight like a preemie shirt.

I share the story of our lives.
Partly, so our family can see us.
Partly, so other families can see themselves.
But mostly for me, because photographing, writing, and talking about our family’s medical journey helps me to heal.

Self portrait of Kristy Wolfe with her heart warrior two weeks after open heart surgery.
Self Portrait with My Heart Warrior. Two weeks after his first heart surgery.

When I was pregnant with my older son, Kane, I honestly had no idea what parenting actually involved. A little background: I have 3 younger siblings and had been a teacher for years! I knew the basics, and I knew life was going to change, but I had no idea just how much. If you’re a medical parent, you likely remember this feeling, too.

Even when we learned that Kane had something going on with his heart, I still didn’t realize how much our lives would change. We started having more ultrasounds and fetal echocardiograms.  And I was concerned, but in a more “wait and see” kind of way. 

Even when my water broke and Kane showed up at 32 weeks, I didn’t realize just how much our lives would change. He was a pretty solid 4 lbs 1 oz. Clearly things weren’t quite “normal”, but Kane didn’t need to be transported for heart surgery immediately, so that was a win. We ended up spending 54 days in the NICU and I began photographing our hospital story. Most of those images are not portfolio worthy, but they are priceless to me. Particularly the ones where I can see myself. The new mom. The preemie mom. The heart mom. 

Kane wearing his zipper club member shirt and showing off his Treasure Life beads at a cardiology appointment.
One of our many appointment “dates”

We figured it out, just as you do. We adapted to what life threw at us. We found strategies and self-care practices to support ourselves. You likely have your own, and for me this included photography, both for my family, but also for other families on their own medical journeys.

Thinking back to what I thought BK (before kids), life was so much different than I expected. All parents can likely relate to that! Through the years, I have continued to photograph and write about our medical story; the medical appointments, the x-rays and echocardiograms and MRIs, the different therapies we have tried, the back braces, the surgeries… Sometimes our appointments include a relatively quick check in. Other times the news we get is unexpected.

Pediatric Congenital Heart Disease patient waiting for his echocardiogram.
My Heart Warrior

Some of the time I am even able to get myself in the story. The heart mom. The scoliosis mom. The medical mom. Because I was there, too.

Kristy Wolfe's self portrait of a medical mom during an echocardiogram.
I Was There, Too

And life continued. I continued to photograph and talk about our medical story. I continued to connect and photograph other medical families and tell their stories.

Then I met Raz. She was sitting behind me at a photography conference and when I saw her “zipper” I asked about her story. Raz is also a heart warrior. She had her heart surgery at the age of 2. It turned out Raz’s personal photography project was to follow a family during heart surgery to get a clearer understanding of what her own family would have faced.

In September 2019, Raz came to photograph our family. She documented our story of Kane’s second heart surgery. I will never have the words to adequately thank Raz for capturing images of me. The medical mom. The caregiver. The photographer. The heart warrior. Because I was there, too.

Kristy Wolfe comforting her son prior to his heart surgery at the Stollery Children's Hospital. Photo credit Slice of Love Photography
Photo credit: Slice of Love Photography

This is what I do for families.
I photograph their story.
I document their lives, both in and out of hospital.
Because I’ve been there, too.
And it is important.
Each and every detail.

My goal is to find a way to make documentary family photography accessible to all medical and palliative families.

Please join me in making this a reality by gifting a session to a family.

I would love if you connected with me on Instagram and Facebook.

Published by Kristy Wolfe Stories

Kristy is an engaging, open, and honest Common Language DST trained digital storytelling facilitator. She has been speaking and teaching workshops on both photography & digital storytelling for 5 years. With a background in the education, healthcare, and non-profit sectors, she works with diverse audiences, prioritizing ethics in storytelling and storyteller wellbeing.

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