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Meredith John (right) and her twin sister Courtney were born at McMaster Children’s hospital almost 10 weeks prematurely. Meredith stayed in the NICU for five months, and was featured in the 2006 MacKids calendar. Today, she’s a staff member at the hospital and both sisters are starting university in the fall.
Meredith John (right) and her twin sister Courtney John were born at our McMaster Children’s Hospital almost 10 weeks prematurely. Meredith stayed in the NICU for five months, even being featured in the 2006 MacKids Calendar. Today, she’s on staff at the hospital part-time, and both sisters are entering university in the fall.
July 5, 2023

Coming full circle: from preemie to employee

Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) environmental aide Meredith John is one of our newest staff members, having joined the team at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) in June as a part-time employee.  But the Hamilton teen is no stranger to MCH.

A young woman wearing hospital scrubs holds a staff ID badge.

When Meredith John received her staff ID badge for McMaster Children’s Hospital, it felt like a full-circle moment.

In fact, the first five months of her life were spent in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Meredith and her twin sister Courtney, 18, were born at MCH in 2005. Arriving almost 10 weeks early, Meredith weighed four pounds while Courtney weighed just one pound, 12 ounces.

“They defied the odds at every turn.” — Angela John, parent

But despite Meredith being the more robust of the two, she ended up spending significantly more time in the NICU due to serious, life-threatening health challenges.

Double whammy

 The pregnancy was rife with complications that continued once the twins were born, says their mother Angela John, a Hamilton social worker.

Twins Meredith and Courtney John stand outside the McMaster Children’s Hospital NICU where they were born 18 years ago.

“Courtney was able to come home after nine weeks in the NICU, while Meredith spent five months there,” says Angela.

Yet in spite of a very rough start, the twins graduated from Grade 12 this June and both received entrance scholarships to university. “They defied the odds at every turn,” says Angela.

Meredith is attending McMaster University in the fall, where she’s enrolled in the honours health and society program with the goal of becoming a social worker like her mom. Courtney is heading to Brock University, where she’s studying to become a teacher. They’re sharing their story to give hope to other families with premature babies.

Lightweight division

Meredith and Courtney were little fighters as infants, says Angela. Courtney was so tiny that she wasn’t expected to survive the delivery room, yet it was Meredith at more than twice her sister’s size who faced life-threatening complications.

Courtney was the smaller of the twins, weighing just one pound, 12 ounces. The gold band on her arm is her dad’s wedding ring.

Both babies developed necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious gastrointestinal problem that mostly affects premature babies. Courtney recovered quickly, but Meredith needed several surgeries and developed a potentially deadly infection that led to multiple complications.

Meredith also developed several eye conditions, and was monitored by MCH’s ophthalmology department until the age of 14. Courtney continues to have asthma and allergies, attributed to her premature birth. But beyond those ongoing issues, they developed into healthy young adults.

Bright futures

After such a rocky start, and years of hospital visits, it would be understandable if Meredith chose anywhere but a hospital to work. But she applied to the hospital where she was born.

“I knew in high school that I wanted to work in health care,” says Meredith. “I wasn’t drawn to math and science so I thought of social work.”

The sisters graduated from high school in June, and both received university entrance scholarships.

In her first semester of Grade 12, Meredith took part in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board’s co-op program for health care support services, with placements at HHS. Over the course of the semester, she job shadowed and assisted environmental aides, who are responsible for cleaning rooms, and porters, who move patients, at MCH and HHS Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre.

Full-circle moment

The experience led to her new part-time job at MCH and cemented her decision to pursue a health-care career.

“When I went to McMaster Children’s Hospital to pick up my ID badge, it felt like I had come full circle,” says Meredith. “This is a job I can keep while studying at McMaster, and also gives me valuable work experience in a hospital setting which I think will really help me down the road when I’m eventually looking for work in the health-care field.”