June 21, 2016
The only place Melissa Taylor wanted to give birth to her second child was in her home community of Fort McMurray.
And the fact that the city is only just recovering from a devastating wildfire wasn’t going to stop her.
So, in the early hours of June 17, six weeks after the fire swept into Fort McMurray, Taylor gave birth to little Eli Danny Roy Mercer – the first baby to be born at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre since the wildfire and subsequent evacuation of the city.
“I wasn’t very comfortable having my baby anywhere else because I’d been here for so long,” says Melissa, 32.
“It was the deciding factor to come home – for me to know that the maternity/child unit (at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre) was back up and running.
“I was very, very pleased with the care that we received. It just made it so easy to come home. “
Melissa, husband Steven Mercer, and 20-month-old Abagail left the city along with the thousands of other Fort McMurray residents on May 3, when fire surrounded the community.
The family escaped as the fire neared their home in Gregoire Lake Estates, and spent a month living in a fifth-wheel trailer on a friend’s property outside Lac La Biche.
They returned in mid-June, following the lifting of the Mandatory Evacuation Order. Melissa works as a med-lab technician at NLRHC, and was anxious for her family to return.
Her husband, Steven, returned home earlier to check on their house, which was not damaged. Melissa joined him the week of June 13, after maternity and other services reopened at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.
The fact that Eli was getting close to making his entrance into the world only increased their desire to get back to the community they have called home for more than 12 years.
The arrival of Eli – 6lbs 7 ounces – was almost as exciting for NLRHC physicians and staff as it was for the family.
“We are all so excited to mark this special birth, and we are so thrilled to see the NLRHC returning to normal service,” says David Matear, Senior Operating Director, NLRHC and the Fort McMurray area for Alberta Health Services (AHS).
“All our staff along with contracted personnel have been working incredibly hard to return the NLRHC and all of our other AHS facilities to full service. We are here to make sure that the residents of Fort McMurray are taken care of as they return home and start to rebuild following this natural disaster.”
For Juanita Pilgrim, manager of the maternity/child unit at the NLRHC, this is a return to normal for her and her staff and she’s happy to see that.
“We’re all caregivers, it’s what we do. We’re so glad to be back doing our jobs and able to support moms in labour and help bring babies into the world. Fort McMurray is our home too,” Pilgrim says.
On June 21 the NLRHC returned to providing full comprehensive health care services, seven weeks after patients and continuing care residents were safely and successfully evacuated from the hospital.
This includes Ambulatory Care services such as endoscopy and exercise stress testing. Dialysis services will resume on Wednesday, June 22, and the first five long term care patients evacuated from the hospital on May 3 will return on Thursday, June 23.
A full timeline for when the Cancer Care clinic will reopen is not yet known. More information will be shared as it becomes available, however we anticipate that service will resume in early July.
Because of that, AHS continues to recommend that individuals receiving cancer treatments delay their return to Fort McMurray. In the meantime, please call the Alberta Cancer Line at 1-888-432-8865.
For the most up-to-date information about healthcare services including pharmacies, lab, diagnostic imaging, family physician clinics and emergency medical services in Fort McMurray please visit www.ahs.ca/wildfire.