Earlier this month we watched in disbelief as the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta was devastated by an out of control wildfire. Hundreds of homes, businesses and other buildings were destroyed as residents grabbed what they could and made a desperate attempt to leave their community. Close to 90,000 people were evacuated and by miracle or chance, no one was injured or killed.
Fort McMurray is home to a lot of young families, new babies, and pregnant mamas. For the last decade, the city has grown in leaps and bounds as the promise of good jobs and high wages pulled people from around the world to live and work in the community. Over the last year, the city had fallen on really rough economic times with thousands of people losing their jobs and homes. Stress levels were already high. Mental health issues were on the rise. And then wildfire came and ripped the city apart.
In spite of it all, stories of incredible courage emerged from unlikely places. Nine NICU babies and their mamas were evacuated by bus and air transport from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre to Edmonton, Alberta. A stay in the NICU is already difficult, with families facing stress, fear and anxiety over the health and future of their babies. Imagine adding an emergency evacuation and the uncertainty of losing your home and community on top of it.
Other women found themselves in labor, stuck in cars in long lines of traffic while trying to flee from the flames. Still more delivered babies in evacuation centers set up in school gyms, hockey arenas and community centers across the province. Unsure of their future or even where they might be sleeping each night, mamas and their families have faced the unthinkable.
It’s times like these where the love and support of a close-knit community becomes all the more important. Despite the distance that separates most of us from Fort McMurray, the Warrior Mom community is here to hold these mamas close while they start to recover. Each of us is waiting to open our hearts, to listen to their stories and provide a refuge from the storm.
Though we can’t pretend to understand the shock, fear, and grief so many are experiencing, we are here to let each Fort McMurray mama know that they’re not alone. Together, stronger for Fort McMurray.
If you’d like to help residents of Fort McMurray please donate to the Canadian Red Cross, where the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada will be matching donations, dollar for dollar until the end of May.
If you’re a Fort McMurray resident in need of prenatal or postpartum health care for you and your baby, please call HealthLink at 811. If you’re in need of mental health support, please call HealthLink at 811 or Alberta’s Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642. Visit Alberta Health Services’ website for more health information for evacuees.