A Saskatchewan woman's trip to the hospital with abdomen pain turned into the discovery of an unknown pregnancy and shockingly quick birth.
Raelynn Qualie had been at work at the grocery store at Spalding, Sask., the morning of June 9 when she found herself doubled over in pain from cramps that had been nagging her for a few days.
Her husband Glenn Qualie says he knew his wife wouldn't call him home from work if it wasn't for something serious, so he rushed to get her, thinking they would get to the bottom of the problem and be home by nightfall.
The doctor they went to in Humboldt told them Raelynn was pregnant, and because they found a heartbeat they knew Raelynn was already three months along.
"I remember looking at my wife and saying, 'oh, my God, how did we go 12 weeks and we didn't know?' I was like, 'that's crazy.' And we kind of laughed about it," Glen recalls.
A series of surprises
Raelynn says that aside from the cramping, she didn't have a single symptom of pregnancy in the preceding eight months. She and Glen have a five-year-old-daughter named Ava.
They couldn't point to any specific symptoms but in hindsight, Glen noted that his wife is a "trooper" and life with Ava's busy roster of baseball and dance can make them push off their aches and pains instead of heading to the doctor.
Because she had high blood pressure, Raelynn was sent to Saskatoon by ambulance.
They were in for a big surprise when the ultrasound revealed Raelynn was 34 weeks pregnant.
"Finding out that I was almost to full term was really shocking and really overwhelming," she says.
Glen thought the next logical step was to grab his wife's purse so he could head home to grab clothes and necessities for them.
"I came back up five minutes later and I walked into the room and they handed me the gown and they said 'we're having the baby right now,'" Glen says.
The baby's heartbeat hadn't been strong so the medical team decided to do an emergency c-section.
Within 30 minutes — around six hours after they made their trip to the first hospital — Raelynn and Glen became parents to their second daughter.
Fighting for life
Their baby had health complications right away. Neither Raelynn nor Glen were able to hold her as she was treated for an enlarged heart, fluid in her lungs and kidneys that weren't working.
Several days after birth, their baby had a brain bleed that is being treated now, but likely means she will have cerebral palsy, Raelynn says.
"It was the toughest thing of my life, especially having no complications the first daughter and then seeing like a dozen machines hooked to your other kid," Glen says.
The couple named their newborn Alyza Linda Qualie.
Couple watched baby on video monitor
Living 140 km away from the Jim Pattison's Children's Hospital where she was being treated was difficult. Raelynn and Glen had occasional hotel stays but mostly drove back and forth, relying on a video monitor of their little girl when they were away.
Raelynn says she had tears in her eyes when she was able to hold Alyza sixteen days after she was born.
"When she was able to get the breathing tube out and breathe on her own and I was able to hold her and cuddle her, I knew that she was going to be our little survivor," Raelynn says.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, their daughter Ava has not yet gotten to meet her little sister, but is excited for the day they get to bring her home, Raelynn says.
Earlier this month, they were able to secure a place to stay just a few minutes from the hospital at Ronald McDonald House. Those lodgings — along with a GoFundMe that's raised more than $10,000 and offers of baby clothes and babysitting — have helped them get through the tough moments.
Looking at his wife, Glen says he has new admiration for Raelynn.
"We've been through crazy times together, and this is by far, by far the wildest ride I've ever been on in my life. And I was happy that you were with me," he told her.