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Allies rally for mom in premature labour

February 18, 2014

AHS, Canadian Forces team up for emergency flight

Story by Steve Rennick

Having once lost a baby to premature labour, Holly Moyah feared the worst when she went into labour at only 30 weeks gestation at her home on Frog Lake First Nation last month.

“I just kept saying, ‘Please, please, please don’t let me have my baby yet,’ ” says Moyah. Her last baby — a boy born at 23 weeks — died 11 hours after delivery.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) dispatched an ambulance to her home, about 250 km northeast of Edmonton, and transported her to doctors in Bonnyville, who determined she needed an immediate airlift to the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

Holly Moyah smiles after her emergency flight to Edmonton, where doctors were able to bring her premature labour under controlMoyah will never forget that day, either, as hurricane-force winds tore through the region and grounded the air ambulances of AHS. The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) could not respond under such perilous conditions.

Yet Moyah’s doctors and EMS professionals — including AHS Air Ambulance Operations Manager Sandra Marini — refused to accept the situation. They put their heads together to come up with a plan to get this young woman and her baby the care they needed.

“AHS looks at every resource we have available,” says Marini. “When a fixed-wing aircraft and STARS were ruled out, we looked at using a charter jet, but that was ruled out as well.

“It was then that somebody suggested: Have we thought about asking the military?” adds Marini. “In our mind, the best and most appropriate care for mom and babe was to get them to Edmonton — and if the military could do it — we were going to use that resource.”

Marini called 4 Wing Cold Lake, Canada’s busiest air base.

“It immediately became a matter of not if they were going to help, but how.

“The medical director for the Canadian Armed Forces joined us on the call to discuss options,” says Marini. “A decision was quickly made to dispatch a Griffin helicopter to Bonnyville to airlift Holly to Edmonton.”

The CH-146 Griffin — a versatile military chopper with a pair of powerful Pratt & Whitney 900-shaft-horsepower engines that flies up to 260 km/h and has seen duty in Haiti, the Balkans and Afghanistan — quickly took to the air for this medical mission.

After her safe arrival in Edmonton, doctors were able to stabilize Moyah and help her labour to subside, thus allowing her to continue her pregnancy.

“We cannot thank the military enough,” says Marini. “Without them, this story could have had a very different ending.”

Moyah is elated with how her scary, blustery day turned out.

“It meant a lot to me, because of my loss before,” she says. “I knew how hard everyone was working to get me to where I needed to be. I will be forever grateful for that. Because of what they did, this time I’ll be able to take my baby home.”