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Family Matters

Fires and Babies and Heroes, OH MY!

July 1st, 20161 Comment

By Wendy Mueller

Susan and Scott already had an exciting month of May planned. They were expecting their first child together early in the month and were to take possession of their new house May 20. Their little family, including Scott's young daughters, Halle and Leah, were ready for big change to come, but they did not expect how it would begin.

The early morning of May 3, Susan went into labour. The wildfires were threatening Fort McMurray for days, but it seemed to be under control when she called the hospital that morning. She was told to come in the afternoon when her contractions were closer together. After a long soak in the tub she had a look outside and everything was black and smoky. Things didn't look good and fear started creeping in that they would be evacuated while she was in labour.

Susan was about to have her first baby, and her world was on fire. Scott helped Susan stay calm as they quickly packed things for baby and the girls' first, then the pets, and finally a few things for themselves. When Scott returned with fuel, they hit the road from Timberlea, but weren't getting far quickly. It was gridlock and the fire was moving so quickly everyone just wanted to get out of town. Cell phones weren't working well due to network overload. People were running red lights and driving on the wrong side of the road. Her mom was trying to get to them but couldn't reach them with the traffic. And Susan was in labour.

They did reach 911 and were told not to go to the hospital as the highway was on fire. They should go north, to Noralta Lodge. There would be a medical team on the way and it was safer to go north. With his two little girls, their pets, and Susan in labour, Scott stayed calm, reassuring them along the way. The 911 operator called to check on them a few times on the long drive to Noralta. With her mom, dad and brothers heading the same direction, Susan was hopeful the baby would continue to be patient and wait until they reached safety.

When they arrived at the Noralta gate later that afternoon, they were told it was full! After explaining they were sent there by 911 and her situation they were quickly brought in, along with Susan's mom and dad. Although the camp was full, heroes started to present themselves to this family in need. People with their own rooms offered them up sleep in their trucks, but staff ended up giving them their own rooms. Someone offered to take care of their dog and two cats. After an hour or so, nurses arrived with patients from the hospital. Ruth came to check Susan and thankfully she was only two to three centimeters dilated. Ruth reassured her she had years of experience and could deliver this baby if need be. She gave Susan her number to call if anything changed and Susan stayed put so her labour didn't progress more quickly. Ruth was amazing and did all she could to help Susan, like a hero does.

Soon they were told they would be getting moved to Firebag where there was an airstrip and more medical support. So they packed up again and waited. During this wait they saw the first footage of the devastation of the fire on TV. Everyone watching was in shock, many were in tears. The power flickered off and you could feel the tensions rising again, but it came back quickly. Susan and her mom were sent in a convoy to Firebag of buses, vans and ambulances. With sirens going they cut through traffic just after midnight. Scott stayed back with the girls and the pets but promised her he would be with her soon. The pain of labour was increasing and Susan wasn't sure what to expect next but was told there was a medical unit ready to receive her and an obstetrician was on the way. When they arrived they found beds made up on the floor of a hangar. Susan did not want to have her baby here but was prepared to make the most of it. She was checked by the obstetrician and was now four centimeters dilated.

A young blonde nurse at Firebag attended to Susan; another hero. She doesn't remember her name but would love to find her to thank her. The pain of labour was worsening and Susan was terrified. Her nurse was wonderful, calming, so supportive and urged the doctor to get her on a plane immediately. She also convinced them to let Susan's mom go with her. After hugging and crying with her nurse, very quickly she was strapped on a stretcher in a small medi-vac plane. A medical crew from Peace River were onboard and a nurse timed contractions and talked them through it all. While flying over town they saw the horrific scenes out the window, including an explosion and burst of flames. They turned away from the view and concentrated on baby. While trying to get information on her mobile, Susan saw that the highway south was open again. She messaged Scott that they should try to get out, so he and the rest of the family headed to Edmonton in the early hours of May 4.

As Susan and her mom landed in Edmonton around 4:30 a.m. and were taken to the Misericordia Hospital, their family had made it through Fort McMurray and were on their way. They drove over eight hours while Susan laboured and was struggling. The baby was in distress and his heart rate was dropping with each contraction. The cord was likely around his neck and Susan was being prepped for a c-section when Scott arrived around 1:00 p.m. Thankfully, they were in a hospital with monitors and meds to help because she was now fully dilated and allowed to start pushing without needing the c-section.

Deegan Trevor (our cover baby) was born at 1:32 p.m. on May 4. He weighed 9 lbs and is perfect. His dad and grandma both were there for his arrival, because the nurses took over watching Scott's daughters, colouring and making them toast, so she could attend the birth (more heroes).

Susan can't imagine going through this in a hangar at Firebag and doesn't know how it would have worked out if that wonderful nurse didn't push for her transfer.

Considering the ordeal she endured during her first labour and delivery, Susan is just... grateful. There was trauma and there are emotional scars from the experience, but she has a healthy baby boy and her family is safe. If not for the heroes she came across during this experience, things could have been very different: the 911 operators calling to check on her and give direction, the selfless staff giving up their rooms, strangers taking care of their animals and Nurse Ruth at Noralta, the wonderful nurse at Firebag who got her and her mom on a plane, the medi-vac staff bringing her safely to Edmonton, the nurses and doctors supporting her family when Deegan arrived and her amazing husband for being her knight in shining armour when things seemed so bleak. Grateful is a good feeling to take away from all of this.

This is one of many stories of heroes during the Fort McMurray wildfire. They live among us. We are all grateful. Thank you, first-responders for helping Susan, and every other person in Fort McMurray to get to safety. You are our heroes.

Welcome to the world, Deegan Trevor! Your birth story is incredible, and so are your mom and dad. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Tags: Babies

Reader Comments (1)

Ellen Harty said on July 11, 2016

Thank God everything turn out safely for Susan and Scott. I am the proud great aunt of a beautiful healthy bundle of 'joy' Deegan Trevor. Things are looking up for Susan and Scott, Deegan is now 16 lbs. and they have now moved into their new home.

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