A birth story to remember

When Susan Harty went into labour on Tuesday, May 3, in Fort McMurray, she called 911.

To her surprise, she was told not to go to the hospital, but instead to evacuate from her home and head north out of Fort McMurray to the Noralta work camp. Medical personnel would be there to assist her.

As she and her fiancé Scott made their way to the camp, it was very dark and ominous, like a big storm was coming. They couldn’t see any flames but knew the wildfire that was threatening to engulf the city was near. Susan was afraid Scott was going to have to deliver their baby on the side of the road.

“The nurses at the camp were really professional and kept reassuring me that they could help me deliver the baby at the camp if necessary,” Susan says.

Due to the stage of her labour, the nurses decided to medevac her to Edmonton. Again, she was reassured all along the way that if the baby decided to arrive during the flight, the nurses could take care of both of them.

Initially, Susan was told they could only take her, but fortunately her mom was able to fly down with her. They had to leave Scott and his two little girls behind to make their way to Edmonton by vehicle.

“I don’t like flying at the best of times, and there was no way I was having my baby on a plane,” Susan says.

After arriving in Edmonton around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, Susan and her mom were taken to the Misericordia Community Hospital.

Scott had left the camp with his daughters and driven to Edmonton. He was fortunate to arrive at the Misericordia 45 minutes before his son was born. 

Fort McMurray resident Susan Harty wraps her newborn son Deegan in a blanket that her 85-year-old nana in Newfoundland made for him.

Gwen Bouwsema, Unit Manager, Labour and Delivery, helped deliver baby Deegan.

“They were both great. Susan’s a hero. She was determined for that baby to be born after being induced,” says Gwen. “I told her that, since it was her first baby, it might take a couple of hours. She showed me! Deegan was born 20 minutes later. That is quite amazing for a nine-pound baby.”

Nursing staff also pitched in to babysit the girls so Scott and Susan’s mom could be present for the birth.

The Fort McMurray fire will have a lasting impact on so many lives. “Right now what matters is family; we’re very lucky that we all got out,” says Susan. “This is a story for when he’s older.”

In the first 24 hours of the fire response, the Misericordia helped 10 pregnant moms and families from Fort McMurray.

“It’s impossible to put ourselves in their shoes. Our hearts are breaking for them," says Gwen. "We want them all to feel really welcome here and have a good experience. We are going above and beyond. We always do that, but we’re extra motivated to do that now.” 

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