'Million dollar baby' of Alberta couple got province's support

A Saskatchewan couple facing significant medical bills after their daughter was born prematurely in an American hospital aren't the first Canadians to deal with the problem.

Calgary couple with premature baby born in U.S. in 1997 got help from the province and public

A Calgary couple were able to pay their medical bills at a U.S. hospital after the public and provincial government donated money. (CBC)

A Saskatchewan couple facing significant medical bills after their daughter was born prematurely in an American hospital aren't the first Canadians to deal with the problem. 

Seventeen years ago, Calgarians Laurie Wolfe and her husband were travelling in the United States. 

Wolfe was 26 weeks pregnant and had clearance from her doctor to travel when she unexpectedly went into labour. 

It wasn't long before the couple realized the mounting medical costs they would be paying for their stay in a Nebraska hospital wouldn't be covered by their travel insurance.  

Wolfe said the province eventually helped pick up their bill, partly because of the public pressure put on Ralph Klein's provincial government. (CBC)

Not surprisingly, Wolfe sympathizes with Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, who was handed huge medical bills after she travelled to Hawaii and went into early labour. 

"It brought me back immediately to the circumstances we faced when our son Grayson was born 14 weeks early," said Wolfe, recalling her experience in 1997.

She said it was horrifying to have a critically ill baby staying at a hospital that was constantly asking for money.

The Wolfes were in the Nebraska hospital for about two months, with bills totalling close to $1 million. 

The story appeared in the press, including CBC News in Calgary. Like the story of baby Reese Huculak-Kimmel, it drew international headlines. 

"So much attention was brought to our story that at the time, [then Alberta premier] Ralph Klein was put under tremendous pressure," said Wolfe. 

In 1997, Calgarians and the Alberta government rallied for a family facing high medical costs in the U.S. after their baby was born early. (CBC)

The Alberta government, with the help of some generous Calgarians, paid the bills and saved the Wolfes from financial ruin. 

"For us, the government stepped in and used [an] emergency health fund," she said. 

Wolfe intends to reach out soon to Huculak-Kimmel to offer advice and support

"The most important thing is to focus on their daughter, and enjoy every single developmental milestone that she makes. You have to embrace the miracle of that little girl," Wolfe said. 

Calgary media and the public pressured the government to help pay the bills of the Alberta couple. (Laurie Wolfe)

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