The past month has been an emotional blur for Lori and Paul Price, but the Paradise couple say ensuring the safe delivery and special care their newborn would need has always been their top priority.
Lori is among the 14 expectant mothers Eastern Health has transferred to health-care facilities outside the province since July 31. The measure was taken in response to an unusually high number of babies in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) requiring ventilators.
As of Sept. 9, four mothers who have yet to deliver have returned, as have three newborns.
With one-month-old Jackson sleeping in his swing, Lori and Paul talk about the events that unfolded over the past few weeks.
Lori was 33 weeks into the pregnancy when a biophysical indicated that the baby likely had a condition called esophageal atresia/tracheo-esophageal fistula (EA/TEF).
The condition causes an abnormal join between the trachea (where the air goes in) and the esophagus (where food passes to the stomach).
Not only was Jackson’s esophagus joined to his trachea, but it was also in two parts that should have been joined, his mother says.
Lori and Paul were told their baby would likely need surgery to correct the problem as soon as he was born.
“Right after this, my blood pressure started to increase and I ended up in the Health Science (Centre) for two weeks,” Lori recalls.
While waiting in hospital to be induced, Lori was told by her obstetrician, Dr. Heidi Kravitz, that all the ventilators in the NICU were in use.
She could either go outside the province to have the baby, or wait until she delivered and have the baby transferred to another health facility at that time.
The couple felt it was safer for Jackson to fly while still in the uterus.
“About an hour-and-a-half later, she (Kravitz) came in again with the nurse manager on the floor. They’d done a lot of work very quickly. They had to find an (obstetrician) for me and a surgeon for Jackson. And they told me we were going to Montreal and that we had to leave today.”
While overwhelmed by the news, Paul says both he and Lori kept thinking positively.
Jackson was born at the Royal Victoria Hospital on Aug. 11, five days after the couple’s arrival in Montreal. Within hours of his birth he was transferred to Montreal Children’s Hospital for surgery to remove the fistula and repair his esophagus.
“It was hard with him being in one hospital and me being in another, but my dad (Wilf Curran) came up and that helped a lot,” Lori says.
Other relatives and a friend changed plans so that they could drop by as well, she says.
“And we had all kinds of phone calls and e-mails. We felt the love and support and prayers while we were up there. And we believe all that support helped Jackson and it helped us, too,” she says.
When Jackson was well enough to travel at two weeks of age, Eastern Health sent a nurse from its NICU to Montreal Children’s Hospital to help transport him to the Janeway.
After spending two weeks in the Janeway’s NICU, Jackson’s finally came home on Tuesday.
The care he received during his time in Montreal and the Janeway was exceptional, his parents say.
“When we were in Montreal, there were conference calls every day between the hospitals. The surgeon in Montreal talked with Dr. (David) Price at the Janeway about his progress.”
Jackson is doing well and will be followed by Price and a team of specialists at the Janeway until he’s 18 years old.
Lori and Paul have a word of advice to other expectant parents who may find themselves in a similar situation: try to stay positive and take one day at a time.
“Yes it was overwhelming; it was scary. But it’s amazing how your instincts kick in and you know you have to do what you have to do,” Paul says.
“We had a positive experience and we are just really glad that Eastern Health recognized that there was an issue and they got us out of here as fast as they could. They did what was best for our baby and that’s really all that mattered to us,” Lori adds.