Living in a rural and remote community like Prince of Wales Island, medical care is often limited. For many higher-skilled services, going off-island is a requirement. Giving birth is one of those situations. But sometimes a baby is just a bit too eager to come into this world.
That was the case for baby Solana. On September 30, at just 34 weeks pregnant, Jill May contacted PeaceHealth Prince of Wales clinic complaining of labor pains. When she arrived at the clinic, it was apparent Jill was in active labor and that baby Solana was going to be born that day, in Craig.
In a situation like this, most pregnant mothers would be transported to a facility with a labor and delivery department. Jill had arranged to leave Prince of Wales closer to her due date, but baby Solana wasn’t going to wait.
Births on Prince of Wales Island are incredibly rare. So, as soon as the caregivers at PeaceHealth clinic knew a birth was eminent, every available resource was engaged. All PeaceHealth nursing staff jumped into action. An EMS doctor happened to be on the island doing training. She had significant experience delivering babies in remote settings. Guardian was on site. Nursing staff from SEARHC were supporting while the SEARHC doctor was available and on standby. Ketchikan labor and delivery nurses were available for phone support. And the NICU AirLift NW team were activated and making their way to Prince of Wales to transport the new family to higher care after they were stabilized.
There are a number of things that can go wrong when delivering a premature baby. The PeaceHealth clinic in Craig is fortunate to have nursing staff with experience in critical care and neonatal intensive care and primary care providers, J. Yates Sealander, MD, and Kimberly Barnes, NP, with significant and ongoing training and decades of experience between them. Preparations also went in to having appropriate neonatal equipment on hand in the event a birth did take place on the island. Appropriate medicine was on hand for both mother and baby, and a baby warmer was procured only a few years prior in preparation for the rare precipitous delivery.
Speaking about the day, a caregiver shared that the birthing process was a team effort in every respect. Jill, despite being in active labor in a situation far outside her birthing plan, was a superhero. She was calm and level-headed. Her family was by her side and incredibly supportive.
A caregiver in the room also shared, “It was so wonderful to hear the baby cry. I cannot tell you the relief we all felt when we heard those first wails. She was just so pink and perfect…I just can’t believe a baby was born in Craig, Alaska.”
A lot of prayers were said that day, and prayers were answered. We were thrilled to have recently welcomed baby Solana and mother Jill back home and are grateful to report both mother and baby are healthy and well.
Our deepest gratitude and thanks are extended to all the support Jill and Solana received that day. The medical community on Prince of Wales united to bring the blessing of new life to our remote island.