Mother and baby thriving after emergency delivery at Pincher Creek hospital

A Pincher Creek mother is praising the town’s hospital after its surgical team delivered her baby by an emergency C-section.

Stacy Benson, manager at Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce, said the team pulled together soon after her baby’s heartbeat shot up at the Pincher Creek Health Centre late Jan. 17.

“Within 20 minutes, there was a team in place,” she said. “We knew that it was going to happen right away and that it was going to happen in Pincher Creek.”

Benson and her husband, Jason, had planned to welcome their daughter at the health centre at 1222 Bev McLachlin Dr., where the only obstetric surgeon says he can’t support scheduled labours and routine C-sections after May 31 due to an acute lack of provincial resources. “We live two minutes away from the hospital. We’ve got dogs and a support system at home,” Benson said.

The last thing Benson wanted to do was to put in a one-hour drive, in mid-January, to the nearest equipped hospital in Lethbridge. That’s why she’d waited eight months to start seeing an obstetrician in Pincher Creek.

“I didn’t want to be driving on snowy highways while I was extremely pregnant — not for prenatal care and not for post-natal care, either,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze on Monday.

She was scheduled to go into labour in Pincher Creek on Jan. 16, but it was increasingly likely that she’d have to give birth in Lethbridge the longer her baby held out. Doctors induced labour, but still, the baby would not come.

By the next night, Benson was exhausted and dreading the ambulance ride to Lethbridge.

Things got dicey at around 9 p.m., when her unborn baby’s heartbeat started to climb dangerously.

“It was for her health that we had to go with a C-section,” Benson explained.

The health centre scrambled an on-call surgeon who brought baby Halen Ray into the world.

“It was bing! bang! boom!” Benson said.

“I couldn’t have asked for better care from the doctors and nurses at the health centre.”

The Bensons had come to live in Pincher Creek because it was close to everything they love — their families, their friends and the Rockies. Donning her chamber of commerce hat, Benson said shoring up rural maternal care isn’t just about protecting women and their babies.

“We have so many women entrepreneurs here. I think not having (reliable maternal care at the health centre) could definitely impact a woman’s decision to live here or to stay.”

The health centre handled 74 deliveries in 2021, according to Alberta Health. AH's preliminary statistics for 2022 show 64 deliveries through the end of November, with 18 C-sections performed at the health centre in each of those years.

There were no "urgent deliveries" among the nearly 150 C-sections performed at the health centre between 2015 and 2022, AH reported on Jan. 25. Thirteen regular deliveries at the health centre were classified as "urgent" over the same period, representing roughly 2.5 per cent of just over 500 natural births.

Halen Ray Benson was born at a healthy seven pounds 3.5 ounces.

She and her mom are resting at their Pincher Creek home, where mom said she’s already had a visit from a public health nurse.

Laurie Tritschler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze