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Military pilot battles harsh winds to rescue pregnant woman

January 21, 2014  By Post Media News

Jan. 21, 2014, Edmonton - When her contractions started, the wind at Holly Moyah’s home on the Frog Lake First Nation sounded like a train rumbling over her roof.

The 36-year-old woman’s due date was two months away and
she had a history of quick, early deliveries — she had lost a baby boy
last year after he was born at 23 weeks gestation. She knew she needed
medical attention quickly.

The story of how Moyah was transported
from her small community, about an hour north of Lloydminster, Alta., to
a women’s hospital in Edmonton through some of the windiest conditions
in Alberta history is one that links quick-thinking medical
professionals and military pilots in a race against a baby seemingly
determined to be born Jan. 15, 2014.

“It’s a blessing,” said
Moyah, sitting in the Lois Hole Hospital for Women on Friday. She has
not yet given birth. “I was one of those ladies who needed immediate
care. In my story, I hope you find that against all odds, that anything
is possible.”


After a slow trek to the hospital in Bonnyville,
Alta., via ground ambulance, a doctor assessed Moyah and determined she
needed to go to Edmonton.

But transportation options were limited:
an icy runway combined with strong crosswinds had grounded fixed-wing
aircraft at the Bonnyville airport; STARS air ambulance was also
grounded; ground ambulances were fighting against extreme winds and icy

Around noon, a team of medical and patient transportation
personnel held a conference call on Moyah’s case. In the flurry of
conversation, someone tossed out the idea of calling in the military.

Marini, manager with Alberta Air Ambulance in inter-facility transfer
strategy, called 4 Wing Cold Lake to make the request.

“In our
mind, the best and most appropriate care for mom and babe was to get
them here and if (the air force) was able to do it, we were going to use
that resource.”

The Griffon helicopter arrived in Bonnyville
staffed by three military personnel. The aircraft is typically used for
search-and-rescue missions and training exercises to support air force
fighter jets.

Taking off in 100 kilometre-per-hour winds can be
challenging for a helicopter pilot. When the blades are getting up to
speed, they can flex so much they might hit the helicopter, said Capt.
Rob Campbell, a pilot with 417 Combat Support Squadron based in Cold

“It was a little bit turbulent but not as bad as one might
have thought it would be. It was just very slow … at altitude, it was
almost 100 kilometre an hour wind,” said Campbell.

With a
paramedic, a transporting doctor, and Moyah on the stretcher, there
wasn’t room for family to come along. Moyah heard a loud roar when the
helicopter started and she could hear the crew chattering through their

“When you were in that plane, the military pilots are so
experienced in those conditions that it felt like we were just gliding
on a slide,” Moyah said.

The helicopter landed at the Royal
Alexandra Hospital around 3 p.m. Doctors assessed Moyah, gave her a
steroid shot to help stop the labour, conducted more tests, and put her
on strict bed rest. So far, the treatment has worked and the baby — a
girl — has not yet been born. Moyah has five other children at home.

very blessed and very honoured … It doesn’t matter if you’re
aboriginal, white, black, or Chinese, or any ethnic group, somebody is
going to help you … I’ll get to see my baby, and this time I’ll get to
take the baby home.”


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