Stranded Nunavut mom in Iqaluit, but heading back to Montreal
“It left a really bad taste, coming home"
The Nunavut mother who felt stranded in Quebec after giving birth to a premature baby is back home in Iqaluit, but is making plans to return to Montreal where she feels her newborn daughter will get the care she needs.
Annie Kilabuk, 26, gave birth when she was just under seven months pregnant and on a trip to Montreal to visit her partner, the father of her children.
She had been given the okay from her doctor to fly and her pregnancy had been routine up until that point.
After giving birth, doctors at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital where her premature baby was delivered arranged for a medevac to take Kilabuk, her toddler and her newborn directly to Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit.
But Kilabuk said the Government of Nunavut’s health department refused to pay for the medevac, and that decision has caused her to doubt whether her newborn will get the care she needs.
“It left a really bad taste coming home, and I still have a really, really bad taste,” Kilabuk told Nunatsiaq News Aug. 15.
Kilabuk said that the high pediatrician turnover in Iqaluit is another reason she feels her high-needs newborn would be better off in Montreal.
“I just want to stick with one family pediatrician, where they know what’s going on with my daughter, instead of re-explaining my story and being second-guessed,” Kilabuk said.
Her baby has a number of health concerns which need daily monitoring, Kilabuk said.
After initial media reports on Kilabuk’s story, the GN’s medical travel department offered to fly Kilabuk home.
But the new mom said the offer didn’t solve her problems because she was concerned about taking a commercial flight with her premature infant and because a Canadian aviation rules require an escort for her toddler. Adults traveling are only allowed to be responsible for one child under two years old.
In the end, Kilabuk said former co-workers raised the money to fly her and her baby home. Her toddler is still in Quebec with the child’s grandparents.
“It is the biggest torture I’ve ever felt being away from my oldest one. I’ve never been away from her,” Kilabuk said.
Now Kilabuk is selling most of her possessions in Iqaluit to raise enough money to fly back to Quebec.
“I’m going down there until she’s A-OK, which might take up to two years,” Kilabuk said.
She does hope to return north eventually.
“Home is different now. I wish I could’ve looked at it the way I always did, but I don’t,” Kilabuk said.
Kilabuk has contacted the GN’s department of Health about covering the flight to Quebec. She said she expects to hear back from them soon.
She added that she hopes others can learn from her experience so they don’t end up dealing with the same situation.
“I want people to know this could happen to them,” she said. “To know what works with their health plan and what the risk of not being able to come back home is. To be smart about their traveling, basically, not like me.”