Grand Manan woman gave birth in ambulance, waited 6 hours to get to mainland

Emma Boynton, Nigel Brown and baby Lucas had a harrowing night but made it to the Saint John Regional eight hours after calling 911. (Submitted by Nigel Brown - image credit)
Emma Boynton, Nigel Brown and baby Lucas had a harrowing night but made it to the Saint John Regional eight hours after calling 911. (Submitted by Nigel Brown - image credit)

Three months after Grand Manan medevac services were lost, two residents say they experienced a worst-case scenario.

Emma Boynton had to give birth in an ambulance on the side of the road, said her partner, Nigel Brown.

The baby had to be resuscitated by paramedics, and the couple were told there was no air ambulance transport to the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Instead, the ambulance went to Grand Manan Hospital, where it waited three hours until the ferry was running, Brown said.

Paramedics then took the mother and child to Saint John, a journey that involved a 1½-hour ferry ride, then another hour by road.

Mother lost consciousness

Six hours had passed from when the couple arrived at the local hospital until they arrived at the Saint John hospital, said  Brown, and eight hours since he called 911.

He said Boynton, who asked him to speak for both of them, remembers little about the birth because she lost consciousness, but he remembers it all.

"Every single moment of it," he said. "It was very, very scary."

Submitted by Nigel Brown
Submitted by Nigel Brown

On Friday, Ambulance New Brunswick spokesperson Christianna Williston said an air ambulance was available, but those types of planes do not transport neonatal patients. The province relies on Nova Scotia EHS LifeFlight for the transport of neonatal patients, she said.

"In this case, EHS LifeFlight was requested but unable to complete the transfer request due to weather," she said. "Because of this, based on patient condition, the patient was transferred off the island with appropriate health care professionals at the earliest opportunity."

ANB and Atlantic Charters, the local medevac company, have been in contract negotiations because of changes in federal regulation. They have not been able to agree on a new agreement.

ANB has said residents will still be served by air ambulance. But when the weather is bad, or it's foggy, it is much harder to dispatch a helicopter from the mainland to the island than it is to take off from the island directly.

Because of this, several residents have had to be transported by military planes, which are able to handle bad weather better.

It is not clear if the mother and child would have been able to get to Saint John sooner if Atlantic Charters was still running. Neither ANB nor Atlantic Charters answered the question by deadline.

Mayor Bonnie Morse said the longer the island is without a local medevac plane, the more likely it is for things to go wrong.

She said residents are anxious, and she is still waiting for an update from the New Brunswick government on its efforts to get Grand Manan a remote-location designation that would exempt it from new federal rules.

In an emailed statement, the Department of Health said discussions are continuing.

'This is really bad'

Boynton and Brown were expecting their son next week, but he came early, and upside down. The couple were aware that their baby was breech, and had a C-section scheduled.

Then early Wednesday morning, Boynton went into labour.

On the way to the local hospital, paramedics had to pull over and help with the delivery.

Submitted by Nigel Brown
Submitted by Nigel Brown

Brown saidi the baby was stuck at first, and when he was born, he wasn't breathing. After an unknown period of time, the paramedic was able to revive him.

"I wasn't really counting the time. I just thought to myself, this is really bad," Brown said.

Luckily, he said, the family was back home by Friday, and baby Lucas is healthy and safe.

"He's all bright-eyed and everything, and he's moving around, and he's nice and healthy and same thing with Mama," he said.