May 13, 2016
Story and Photo by Shelly Willsey
EDMONTON — Just one week after being evacuated due to wildfires, Nancy and Richard Dulinen welcomed an unexpected ray of sunshine with the early birth of son Rhys Dwayne on May 10.
Nancy was just 26 weeks pregnant; Rhys wasn’t scheduled to make an appearance until August.
“I think it was the stress of the evacuation — the traveling, and sleeping in our car the first night,” says Nancy, 33. “I started to have pain the same day we left home.”
The couple evacuated north from Fort McMurray to Shell Albian Sands, arriving at midnight. When the road south hadn’t reopened the next day, the couple added their names to a list of those to be flown out.
Flying to Edmonton, Nancy continued to have pain in her stomach and her back. Once off the plane, a nurse on site listened to her concerns, and then drove her to the Grey Nuns Hospital to be assessed.
“The staff checked and tested everything and said I was all good and could go with my husband to stay at our friend’s house,” says Nancy.
Two nights later, Nancy started having pain every three minutes, and travelled to the Misericordia Hospital. The staff found her body was starting to show signs of labour and transferred her to the Lois Hole Hospital for Women in the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) where she was admitted to the high-risk pregnancy unit.
In the wee hours of May 10, Nancy’s water broke and needed an emergency cesarean section when the baby’s heart rate slowed.
At six a.m., Richard, 32, received a phone call telling him he was a father.
“I was shocked and nervous, and worried about Nancy,” says Richard. “I came to the hospital and they met me in the hallway and took me to see my son right away. I didn’t expect it.”
Rhys, weighing less than two pounds, will remain in the Stollery Children Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at RAH for several months while he grows and gains strength.
“The staff and even other patients have been so comforting. Everyone’s so sorry about what happened to Fort McMurray,” says Nancy. “There’s so much kindness. Even when someone just offers us a drink … it matters.”
The new parents, originally from the Philippines, have family and friends who are making them feel welcome. Nancy’s cousins even stood in line with copies of their identification to get them emergency cash cards.
The couple has been told their home is still standing, but they’re unsure about their workplaces. Richard and Nancy hope to find a temporary home in Edmonton until Rhys is well enough to be taken home to Fort McMurray.