Memorable birthday milestone after dramatic blizzard arrival

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Scott Anderson
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Nurse Margaret Patrick, Margaret Legere, plus Paul and Norma Rousseaux recently met around the kitchen table for coffee and a chance to remember the details from the blizzard on March 13-14, 1974 which has linked them forever.

Margaret Legere (formerly Rousseaux) has an unforgettable birth date of March 14, 1974.

Forty years ago a real life drama was playing out in the midst of a blizzard which storm stayed residents across the Southwest, but the storm was not enough to stop the stork from finding its way during an emergency birth.

During the late evening hours of March 13, 1974, Norma and Paul Rousseaux dropped their two older child off with relatives and began the trip from Vanguard to the Swift Current Union Hospital when Norma began to go into labour. However, they soon found themselves in the midst of a blinding blizzard and struggling to inch ahead along Highway #4 towards Swift Current.

The couple luckily found the farm home of Ben and Mary Wiebe, where the RCMP and ambulance personnel were called. In addition, Dr. Brian Jones and Union Hospital Supervising nurse Margaret Patrick braved the storm to provide medical assistance.

There was a small convoy of vehicles attempting to return back to Swift Current during this memorable spring storm, with an RCMP patrol car in the lead, followed by the ambulance and the four wheel drive Scout driven by Dr. Jones.

A newspaper report from 1974 gave this unbelievable account of their ill advised attempt to make it to the Hospital.

"They soon realized they were fighting a losing battle with the elements. The patrol car vanished in the storm. The Ambulance became hopelessly stuck and the Scout, with its four wheel drive, was to prove their salvation. By leaving the tail gate open they managed to move Mrs. Rousseaux on the stretcher to Dr. Jones vehicle and fought their way back to the Wiebe Farm."

It was under these unique conditions that Margaret Rousseaux (now Legere), was born 40 years ago.

Norma Rousseaux also vividly remembers these anxious moments before the ultimately settled on the farm house as the spot for the birth.

"When they came they put Paul and I in the back seat and then the one officer got out so he could direct him onto the highway. But what he did, he directed him right across the road into the ditch on the other side. He couldn't even where the highway was.

Nurse Patrick, Norma and Paul Rousseaux, and Margaret Legere recently met for a leisurely coffee afternoon at the Rousseaux family home where they relived the events of those memorable two days in 1974.

"We got to around Neville and it started snowing, and by the time we got to the end of Highway #43 it was a full out blizzard. Terrible," recalled Paul of the weather conditions which made it impossible to complete a less than 50 kilometres trip. "But we wouldn't have even left if the weather was blowing, we would have went to the Vanguard Hospital because it was there."

Despite having two previous children, the Rousseaux's were not overly concerned about the impending birth, but the white knuckle trip provided more than a few anxious moments.

"On the road was where I was worried. During the time we got from the #4 and #43 intersection to that little farm house, I didn't know what was going to happen then. Once I was in the house I was OK," Norma admitted.

Recalling that they simply saw a farm light in the midst of the storm, turning into the Wiebe farm ended up being an ideal location as this drama unfolded. The Wiebe's had a special needs child and had a variety of useful equipment for this surprise delivery.

The ambulance drivers, Jake Wiebe and Al Siemens from Al's Ambulance, along with two RCMP constables (with media reports of the day only listing them as Constables Jacobs and Jordan) found their way to the farmhouse in the blizzard, but the Hospital was also sending help. During the early morning hours of March 14, Dr. Jones received a call from the RCMP and he sought the help of Nurse Patrick who headed out in the storm to attend to the emergency situation.

"You were lucky to have found the farm!" Patrick commented, recalling their own difficulties in travelling on the highway that night.

"It was good that somebody was there," Patrick added, as the baby had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck during the delivery, and was coming face up in a posterior position birth. "It wasn't tight. If the cord had been really tight she wouldn't have made it."

Patrick quickly admitted the birth stands out as the most memorable from her years as a nurse.

"That was the ultimate! There was a storm raging outside," the nurse said of the challenging experience. "Plus, things could have been fatal, but they weren't."

Patrick was a district midwife in Wales and had experience in home deliveries, which was an advantage during this particular home birth. However, she recalls it was not common to be called out to an emergency delivery while working at the Swift Current Union Hospital, as it only happened twice over the years she worked there.

Margaret Legere laughs that she arrived with such a fuss.

"I've heard it a few times. It's just fun. It's just something interesting to tell people, especially when I say my birth certificate has a land location number," she said.

She pointed out that she had met many people who remember this event from four decades ago.

"I have three children of my own, I can not imagine that situation. That's scary."

Legere also has a daily reminder of the nurse who helped deliver her.

"Actually because Margaret Patrick and Brian Jones were attending there, I'm Margaret and my younger brother is Brian." Legere pointed out.

Norma Rousseaux added "I told the doctor 'If a have a son, I will call him Brian.' And two years later I had Brian."

Over the past four decades March 14 has had a few snowy days, but nothing compared to that major blizzard. All those directly involved in the birth will certainly be watching the weather on March 14 and seeing how it compares to that memorable day in 1974.

Organizations: RCMP, Swift Current Union Hospital

Geographic location: Swift Current

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