July 1st, 2006 13:05 EST
Despite stormy start, 'Katrina baby' thrives by Susan Griggs
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- No, her name is not Katrina.
Sage Madison Post's dramatic birth at Keesler Medical Center during a cesarean section by flashlight as Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore was an inspirational story in the tumultuous days after the storm.
However, without the family's consent, federal regulations to protect the privacy of personal health information kept many details of the birth from being released.
A handwritten note and photos slipped under the door of the 81st Training Wing's public affairs office almost 10 months later filled in the blanks of the family's story.
"I started carrying around a copy of Sage's birth certificate because people acted like they didn't believe me when I told them about her delivery during Katrina," said Stephenie Post, the wife of Senior Airman Aaron Post of the 81st Transportation Squadron.
The Posts and their then-2-year-old daughter, Austin, joined other expectant parents who were sheltered at the Keesler Medical Center. Mrs. Post was 39 weeks pregnant and scheduled for a cesarean section Aug. 30, the day after the hurricane pounded Keesler.
"We watched the trees in the wind through little windows as the storm blew in," she said. "Before the power went out, we were watching TV and playing XBox to keep from getting bored."
When the storm surge flooded the medical center's basement, the generators became inoperable and left the facility without power. Families had to drag their belongings upstairs in the dark to safety.
Mrs. Post carried Austin while her husband carried a portable crib and their hurricane supplies. Mrs. Post tripped with the toddler in her arms and her water broke, triggering labor.
The Posts and the medical team had decisions to make. There was no way to evacuate Mrs. Post by air because of the high winds. She could have proceeded with a normal delivery, but she had been advised to have a repeat C-section. There are certain risks involved with any surgical procedure, even under optimal circumstances.
When Mrs. Post opted for the C-section, a team of about 50 medics and support people prepared the makeshift delivery room in the intensive care unit, performed the surgery and ensured the health and safety of the mother and child.
The ICU had windows where the afternoon sun provided some illumination.
Equipment had to be pushed about 500 feet down the dark hallways from the delivery room to the ICU. After furniture and equipment were rearranged, the floor was scrubbed and the walls were cleaned with antiseptic wipes to sanitize the area as much as possible. Sheets were taped up over the unit's windows to provide some sense of privacy.
"I wasn't really scared about the delivery. I was confident that these people knew what they were doing," Mrs. Post said, "but I was in a lot of pain, and I was ready for it to be over with."
The tiny room was packed with medics for the delivery, some holding industrial flashlights to provide as much illumination as possible.
For the second time, Airman Post couldn't be present for his child's birth. When Austin was born, he was stationed in Korea. The make-shift delivery room was too crowded this time, so he waited down the hall with Austin.
"Considering what we were going through, the medical team was great," Mrs. Post said. "One lady was talking to me, putting me at ease and telling me everything that was going on."
The darkness, heat, humidity and lack of ventilation presented challenges during the delivery, but the medics did what they could to keep Mrs. Post comfortable.
The 8-pound, 9-ounce baby girl arrived at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 29. Not long after the storm had passed, the Posts and other medical patients were transported via a C-130 Hercules to Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for follow-up care.
"We weren't allowed to return to our home to see what the storm had done or to get any of our things before we left," Mrs. Post said. "After we were given the OK, we went to Oregon to stay with our families until things settled down."
The family's home in military family housing was flooded by Katrina's storm surge. They were able to salvage their bedroom furniture and some of their clothing that was upstairs, but everything on the first floor was ruined.
"And we had moved a lot of things downstairs so that I wouldn't have to keep running up and down the stairs late in my pregnancy," Mrs. Post said.
The Post family moved into a vacant home that was not affected by the hurricane and began to put their lives back together. Their insurance covered the depreciated value of their possessions, not the replacement cost, but proceeds from a lawsuit that had been pending for several years finally came through and enabled them to replace their household belongings.
The baby's unusual name, Sage Madison, was chosen because Mrs. Post "wanted something original that wasn't hard to spell or pronounce. I let Aaron pick Austin's name because he was overseas when she was born."
Sage has her mom's dark hair and her dad's eyes and chubby cheeks. In spite of the stormy circumstances surrounding her birth, she has a sweet, sunny disposition.
"We wanted everyone to know that with all of the horrible things that Katrina did to Keesler, something really good came out of it -- our daughter," Mrs. Post said. "She's a very happy, healthy baby, and her sister loves having a playmate. Trying to recover what we lost has been hard work and has kept us very busy, but we want to thank everyone who's helped our family."