May 12, 2016
Story and Photo by Sharman Hnatiuk
EDMONTON — Less than a week after evacuating her home in Fort McMurray, Crystal Percy found herself in an ambulance with her four-month-old daughter, Liliana, being transported here for emergency surgery at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
On the morning of May 3, 2016 — just hours before the order to evacuate the city — Liliana was discharged from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray after treatment for a bladder infection.
When the order came, Crystal quickly packed up her daughter and the family dog and headed north to meet her husband, Andrew, at the Suncor evacuee camp.
When the highway opened the next morning, the family had enough gas to get to Sherwood Park, where they moved in with friends.
Liliana was born with gastroschisis, a birth defect of the abdominal wall where her intestines grow outside of her body. She previously had surgery to repair the defect in Newfoundland, and had been doing well — but in the days following the evacuation her parents knew something was wrong when she couldn’t keep her milk down.
After x-rays at Strathcona Community Hospital, a physician identified a blockage in her bowel and transferred her to the Stollery for an operation.
“I guess the silver lining in all this is that if this was happening in Fort McMurray, we would need to come here anyways for her surgery,” says Andrew. “There is some comfort in being so close to the Stollery.”
The new parents, originally from Newfoundland, both say they are amazed by the generosity, kindness and compassion of strangers they have received since being forced to flee their home due to a raging forest fire.
While waiting in the Stollery Emergency Department (ED), one of the paramedics who transported them, and who had heard about their evacuation during the ride, asked if he could get them anything.
“We said we were fine, but he noticed our hesitation, and asked again how he could help,” says Crystal. “We asked for a coffee and water which he brought to the ED for us. It wasn’t until later when I found the Tim Hortons gift card he left in her car seat.”
The Percys believe that their home in Fort McMurray was spared by the fire, but they don’t know the extent of any damage.
For now, they’re focusing on Liliana’s health, and remain grateful for the little things — surprise coffee cards, generous shop discounts for Fort McMurray residents, and the pretty mobile that a Stollery staff member put in Liliana’s crib.