There were likely many birthdays being celebrated this past week in Kelowna, but I don’t think any were quite as special, or unique, as the one for Sheila Geis and her three kids.
Geis and her husband Ken Geis, a Kelowna dentist who passed away last November, were the proud parents 50 years ago of triplets, the first newborn trio ever to be born in Kelowna.
On Thursday, a surprise birthday party was held for one of the three, Brenda Huber, a nursing instructor at UBC Okanagan. Her two triplet brothers Colin, who lives in Vancouver, and Alistair, who lives in Thailand, were unable to make it.
You might remember hearing about Alistair last summer, when his sister led a fundraising effort to help pay for his health care costs after he was hit by a subway train in Bangkok while standing on a loading platform.
His injuries from that accident were severe, but Geis says her son today is still undergoing recovery treatment in Bangkok and is on the mend.
Geis, a retired nurse, said she and her husband were more than a little surprised to hear she was pregnant with three babies.
“We already had our daughter, Denise, and I always wanted to have two or four kids. And my husband said I always used to get my way,” she laughed.
The birth of the triplets was a big deal at the time. Signs of congratulations were up all over town, and Heinz stepped up with a donation of powdered baby food.
Brenda came home with mom, Alistair was released from KGH two weeks later and Colin, the smallest of the three at 4.4 lbs., stayed in a hospital incubator for a month before being sent home. But when the excitement of their births passed, Geis was faced with the unimaginable task of caring for three newborns.
“It was very hard back then. The men went to work, and the women stayed home to look after the kids,” she recalled.
“I think I had about three hours of sleep a night for the first seven months. Constant diaper changes, sterilizing about 45 bottles a day and back then the milk was in a powder form, not like it is pre-made in cans today, so you had to mix it. I was a wreck but I made it. You just have to hang in there and you get through it.”
As someone who is going through the baby stage, I have no idea how Geis survived her ordeal, but as she says, in the end you just do what you have to do.
For Geis, a grandmother of five kids today, she can look back on that time fondly, noting that it all goes so fast, the hectic pace that fuels those first few years of a child’s life. Before you know it, the kids are in school and you find yourself with a sudden influx of free time.
But with her oldest grandchild now 23 years-old, she has enjoyed being a grandmother and is already excited about the prospect of becoming a great-grandmother.