'It's a very special place': family gives thanks to Valour Place
'When you're dealing with something like this, you're paralyzed with fear'
Steve Beck was anxiously watching the headlights on the highway when his heart stopped.
His wife had gone into labour at just 24 weeks and was sent to Edmonton on a medevac flight.
Beck was making the long 12-hour drive from Hay River to be at her bedside when the heart palpitations began.
The stress and lack of sleep had forced his magnesium levels to plummet dangerously low, bringing the thud, thud, thud of his pounding heartbeat to a sudden stop.
"I was told things were not good," Beck said during an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.
"We were told that we were going to be having a baby very soon, it was not a good thing, and that if the baby stood any chance of survival he needed to head out to Edmonton."
The following weeks were a blur as the couple cared for their fragile new son.
Without Valour Place Military Family Support House in Edmonton to provide them a safe haven, Beck — an RCMP special constable — said the following weeks and months would have been a horrible ordeal for the young family.
Now the Becks are giving back, helping to promote Valour Place by sharing their story at the organization's annual fundraising walk Sunday.
'It was terrifying'
Their ordeal began as Ashley Beck was driving back to Hay River from Yellowknife with her two sons, Daxton, 3 and Devon, 15.
That's when the bleeding started, and she knew her baby was in danger.
"It was terrifying," she said.
"You have a million thoughts rushing through your mind. You're in the middle of nowhere. You're helpless and I had my two kids so I can't get upset, I can't show signs of stress. I had to hold it together."
Later that evening, doctors at the hospital in Hay River confirmed she had started pre-term labour.
So the Becks had to make a choice – stay and deliver in a hospital not equipped to deal with a 24-week pre-term baby, or medevac to Edmonton.
The choice was clear. Ashley Beck was flown to Edmonton, but there there was no room for her husband on the flight.
A difficult arrival
Distraught, Beck asked his boss to drive him south. After he was admitted to an Edmonton emergency room for heart palpitations, he was finally reunited with his wife at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Ashley Beck would be bedridden for weeks, as doctors did their best to delay her labour, and it would be months before little Blayne — born May 23 at just one-pound, 12-ounces — would be well enough to leave the hospital.
But with the city clogged with thousands of Fort McMurray evacuees, there was nowhere for the family to stay.
Daxton and Devon would have to stay with relatives.
Steve Beck spent the first few nights sleeping in a van in the hospital parking lot until he found Valour Place, just a few blocks away.
The organization, which opened in 2012, provides military members, veterans, and RCMP a place to stay while undergoing medical treatment.
"You have to understand, when you're dealing with something like this, you're paralyzed with fear. Your whole life is about this child," Steve Beck said.
"Things were going to happen very fast. There wasn't going to be a long period of labour. Either the baby was going to survive or it was going to be over in the first ten minutes. So being an hour or two away from the hospital was not an option."
A home away from home
Knowing that her family was only blocks away from her hospital room was a big relief for Ashley, who feared what the days and weeks ahead would mean for her three-year-old.
"We knew that if Blayne survived we would be in the hospital until his due date. We were going to be in Edmonton, spending 24 hours a day at the hospital," she said.
"Finding Valour Place meant that he wasn't cooped up in a hotel room. It meant he had what he now very fondly calls his 'Edmonton home.' "
Blayne is now a healthy seven pounds and the entire family has returned to Hay River, but the Becks are happy to return to Edmonton to give thanks to Valour Place.
"It's a very special place with very special people," Ashley Beck said.
With files from Ken Dawson