Shaiyena Currie of Bella Coola spent two weeks living in a tent and then moved to a motel before giving birth at Cariboo Memorial Hospital on Sunday, Aug. 25. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Bella Coola woman stays in tent waiting to deliver baby in Williams Lake

Costs for maternity patients to travel and stay outside the valley are not covered

In this day and age it is difficult to imagine a woman staying in a tent waiting to deliver a baby at the hospital.

That was the case for a Bella Coola woman who delivered her baby Sunday in Williams Lake.

Shaiyena Currie, along with her toddler son Tristan and her sister Chelsea began staying at the Stampede Campground on Aug. 6.

Last weekend they scraped together enough money to move to the Stampeder Motel because it was so busy with a rodeo going on.

“I delivered three days early,” Currie said Monday as she held her newborn baby.

“Octavia was born on Sunday at 6 p.m. weighing five pounds and 15 ounces. My experience here at the hospital was positive.”

Currie, 24, said her doctor had expected her to go to Williams Lake a month in advance of her due date, but that was going to be difficult in her situation.

“That was not possible because I was laid off at five months pregnant with a back injury and I am a single mom. I saved up just enough money to stay here for the three weeks.”

Chelsea had to take time off work to come and support her and help look after Tristan when she went into labour.

“It was very stressful, running out of money and not having a place to stay,” Currie said.

Read more: Baby makes surprise arrival on Sheep Creek Hill

When asked if she needed anything, she shook her head “no,” and said a lot of people in Bella Coola gave her support.

Currie said her maternity care in Bella Coola was good, but she did have to travel to a bigger centre at five months pregnant for an ultrasound, and the costs of travel were not covered either.

Currie’s mom, Shannon Dickson, who drove up from Bella Coola Monday said women have travelled out of the Bella Coola Valley to deliver babies for about 12 years.

She delivered her two younger children in Williams Lake, and her oldest granddaughter and grandson, Tristan, were both born at Cariboo Memorial Hospital as well.

“We stayed a month in a 14-foot travel trailer with my daughter, myself, my husband and our children,” she said. “After that experience my daughter said she did not want to have more children and go through that again.”

If delivery services are not being provided in the Bella Coola Valley then maternity patients travelling to Williams Lake should be provided with some support, Dickson added.

“Moms that come out here are isolated from family and friends — something’s lost. My daughter was alone in the delivery room yesterday and had something gone wrong, there would have been no one here to advocate for her.”

Currie said she would be staying at the Stampeder Motel Monday and planned to return home to Bella Coola on Tuesday.

In a previous article with Coast Mountain News about the fact maternity services are not available in the Bella Coola Valley, a spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health said there is a Travel Assistance Program — a corporate partnership between the Ministry of Health and private transportation carriers.

The program is limited, however, to carriers who have agreed to sign on. It does not cover meals, accommodation, mileage, fuel and local transportation expenses: these are the responsibility of the patient.

Read more: No delivery services hard on Bella Coola Valley families



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Octavia Lucinda Currie was born in Williams Lake on Sunday, Aug. 25. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

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