A mother of a premature baby who had her wallet stolen from her hospital room while she was tending to her newborn says she's been overwhelmed by community support since news of the theft went public.
"I've had all sorts of donations flooding in," said Ecko Aleck, 22. "It's amazing how the community is coming together."
Aleck said the generosity of strangers will make it easier to get by after $300 in much-needed cash was stolen from her room in the maternity ward of Lions Gate Hospital over the weekend.
Since then, Aleck has received donations from the Squamish, Sechelt and Lytton First Nations. Members of the Squamish band also presented her with a blanket and sang a song in her honour at the band office. North Vancouver RCMP members also donated money to help the new mom.
But Aleck said the kindness of strangers has also been an incredible surprise.
On Thursday, a woman Aleck has never met before stopped in to the hospital give her a donation of $500, telling her, "Just know there are so many people out there to support you."
Aleck, who lives in Sechelt, said she was taken by surprise March 27 when her baby Luka made a surprise - and dramatically quick - entrance into the world, six and a half weeks early. Soon after, Ecko and Luka were flown down to Lions Gate Hospital so Luka could receive care at the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
Aleck said Luka is expected to stay in the hospital for about three weeks before she and her boyfriend can take him home.
But on Monday, April 1, someone who RCMP described as a "heartless thief" stole Aleck's wallet when she left her hospital room to tend to her baby in the middle of the day.
Aleck said the wallet contained $300 that her boyfriend had just given her in cash - all the money the couple had after paying their bills.
Aleck said she was nervous about leaving anything in sight, so tried to hide her wallet behind some medical supplies in a cupboard next to her hospital bed.
But when she got back, "All that stuff was on the floor," she said.
"I didn't want to believe that had just happened," she said, so she carefully went through her belongings again. Eventually "I realized someone had just been in my room."
Staff were called and promptly found the wallet in a garbage can down the hall - minus the cash.
Wendy Hansson, chief operating officer for Lions Gate Hospital, described the theft this week as "truly a heartless crime, made all the more disturbing because it targets a new mom caring for her child."
Aleck said she had a difficult pregnancy and had been off work for medical reasons for about two months before Luka's birth. While her boyfriend has been doing "a really good job" of providing for the family, she said money has definitely been tight while she waits for her maternity benefits to come in.
She said the approximately $1,500 she's received since the theft will definitely help.
"I'm overwhelmed with gratitude right now."
Luka - who was born five pounds seven ounces, despite being almost a month early - is also doing really well, she said.
Cpl. Richard De Jong, spokesman for the North Vancouver RCMP, said police are following up tips received from the public since they released a photo (see nsnews.com) of a man taken by hospital security cameras in the hallway of the maternity ward.
Aleck said since the incident she's been staying with a relative at night.
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