Old Crow baby turns 14

Cody Lane Raymond Hurlburt of Whitehorse was not supposed to be born in Old Crow - but he was. Fourteen years ago. He arrived six weeks early, and he came close to arriving on a snowmachine.

Cody Lane Raymond Hurlburt of Whitehorse was not supposed to be born in Old Crow – but he was.

Fourteen years ago.

He arrived six weeks early, and he came close to arriving on a snowmachine.

Hurlburt was the first baby to have been born in Old Crow in 15 years.

With no hospital nor resident doctor in Old Crow, babies are not usually born there. Expectant mothers routinely plan to spend the last month of their pregnancy in Whitehorse.

And with no roads into the village, flying is the only quick way out.

Cody’s mother, Louise Hurlburt, had planned to fly to Whitehorse the second week in November. Her baby was due in mid-December.

Instead, she had her baby at the clinic in Old Crow on October 28, 1995.

It was eight o’clock at night. Dev Hurlburt, Louise’s husband and the baby’s father, was visiting across the village.

Louise had baked bread that day and was feeling fine – until her water broke. The young mother did not know what to think, but she knew she had to get to the health centre, commonly called the nursing station.

There was neither 911 nor ambulance.

Newly arrived in Old Crow, Louise did not know the name of the man her husband was visiting. She thought his name was John.

She phoned Derek Hurlburt, the baby’s uncle, a teacher at the school; he arrived in less than 10 minutes on his double-track snowmachine.

(Other vehicles were almost non-existent in Old Crow.)

Derek found the expectant mother rolling around on the floor trying to deal with contractions; her two-year-old daughter, Shelby Hurlburt, was running around naked, trying to get herself into bed.

Derek bundled Shelby and her mother into snowsuits and boots. The three of them, on one snowmachine, sped off to the health centre across the village.

The temperature was -25 Celsius.

At the centre, nurse Terry Coffey and her assistant, Rosemary Graham, administered a hurried assessment. The baby was coming – fast.

Coffey immediately called Inuvik, closer than Dawson or Whitehorse. (The family’s first child had been a cesarean section birth.)

Meanwhile, Derek had found Dev by phone from the centre.

“Get to the clinic quick. She’s close, she’s close,” Derek said over the phone.

Dev dropped the phone and ran to his Ski-Doo.

“I heard the Ski-Doo coming before I had a chance to hang up the phone,” says Derek.

“I had not thought about the baby being born – that was six weeks away,” Dev says. “I thought that either Louise or Shelby was dying.”

Forty-five minutes later, baby Cody was born. He weighed 2.3 kilograms.

“People in the waiting room kept Shelby entertained,” Louise says, and laughs. “They had seen the lights on while walking by, and came for the action.”

The medevac plane from Inuvik brought a doctor, medics, incubator, and equipment to perform a cesarean section. It did not arrive in time.

Coffey and Graham had already delivered the healthy baby boy with no complications.

“It’s always a little tense, but I have delivered about 40 babies in other centres,” said Coffey later.

Louise remained calm, too.

“I’m not sure how I felt,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting the baby for six more weeks. And it happened so fast, I didn’t have time to worry.”

Once mother and baby were stabilized, medics bundled them into Arctic mummy bags and transported them to the Old Crow Airport in the box of the RCMP four-by-four truck.

“I was lying on my back and had a good view of the stars,” Louise says.

Medics ensured mother, baby, and equipment were well insulated against the Arctic night.

They placed the baby alongside his mother, in an incubator with its own generator.

“The incubator looked like a pizza box,” says Louise.

The plane transported Dev, Louise, and Baby Cody to Inuvik Hospital where they waited for the baby to gain sufficient weight.

By the time they reached Inuvik, his weight had dropped to less than two kilograms.

The three Hurlburts spent most of two weeks in Inuvik; RCMP Tim Bane and his wife, Jan, babysat Shelby.

“All I remember about the whole episode, is going into Bane’s house,” says Shelby. “But I got to know them later when we all moved to Whitehorse.”

At the time of this event, Dev Hurlburt worked in Old Crow as housing manager for Vuntut Gwichin. Derek taught at the school. Louise baked for the Northern Store.

Old Crow Health Centre was first established in 1960 and upgraded in 1985. It is staffed with registered nurses, an administration assistant, and a custodian.

Doctors visit 15 times a year, but women still usually go elsewhere to deliver their babies.

However, at least two babies have been born in Old Crow since 1995, when the Hurlburt baby was born there.

Cody Hurlburt exhibits a passion for snowmachining. When asked if he thinks that passion stems from his unusual pre-birth ride, he answers, “probably,” and grins.

He will celebrate his birthday by going snowmachining -“If there is any snow,” he says.

Writer Elaine Hurlburt lives

in Haines Junction.