There was an emotional reunion in Cochrane Saturday as four people whose lives were forever changed 40 years ago, met again.
Kristi Perrault works as a nurse at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. When she was born, she couldn’t wait to go to a hospital — literally.
Instead, she made her debut on a kitchen table inside Cochrane’s old fire hall.
In Sept. 1982, the fire chief, who is also a registered paramedic, got a call that a young woman was about to give birth. The chief and a local physician met the woman at the Cochrane fire hall.
“We knew that the EMS unit from Calgary wouldn’t be here in time, so we delivered a bouncing, baby girl,” said retired fire chief Brian Winter.
“I delivered about four babies — some at home, some in an ambulance, but (this was the) first time at a kitchen table at a fire hall,” Winter laughed.
The Cochrane ambulance service didn’t start until 1983, so often the Cochrane Fire Department would handle medical calls until EMS arrived from Calgary.
Ultimately, EMS arrived from Calgary to transport both infant and mom to the Foothills Medical Centre.
The mother was 20-years-old and visiting Alberta from Toronto.
“I was scared and emotional. ‘What am I going to do?’ I wanted my mom and dad,” Chris Garbus recalled of that day in September in 1982.
Garbus made the difficult decision to put her baby up for adoption.
“I didn’t know if I would be able to give her the life she deserved. I had to do what I had to do for her,” she said.
40 years later, the “baby” is working as a nurse at the Foothills hospital. A few weeks ago, Perrault recognized the name of one of her patients.
As it turned out, Perrault’s patient was the now-retired Cochrane doctor who helped bring her into the world in the fire hall, Dr. Dennis Fundytus.
“It is truly amazing. It’s hard to put into words. I’m so grateful to see the story unfold in terms of somebody we cradled in the fire hall and become a mom, become a career nurse, and be very good at it. Very personable at it,” Dr. Fundytus said.
“Kristi is an amazing person. She is very bubbly, very personable and very knowledgeable. I truly appreciate her, reaching out to me because I would not have recognized her,” Fundytus said.
Perrault was told the doctor’s name by her biological mom years ago.
“From being adopted and finding your biological mother to then have the pleasure of being the nurse to the doctor that made sure you were here safely — and if it wasn’t for him and Brian the story could’ve been much different,” Perrault said. “I don’t think (it) could be any better — the nurse, the baby… the patient now becomes the nurse to the doctor.”
After that coincidental connection, the all four — biological mom, fire chief, doctor and baby, now all grown up — decided to get together to celebrate their good fortune at a reunion in Cochrane at the site of the old fire hall.
“It brings back a lot of tough decisions and memories, but the biggest thing for me is that she (Kristi) has accepted me because my biggest fear was she was not going to like me,” Garbus said of her biological daughter, who she met for the first time (after birth) in 2005.
“With my parents, it was always seen as a gift, a blessing. She chose to give me something she couldn’t do when she knew that. I am eternally grateful,” Perrault said.
“It’s amazing that we are all standing here today. This couldn’t have turned out any better,” she said.
Garbus has also been welcomed welcomed by Perrault’s family.
“They thanked me for what I did and that makes it a little easier with my decision — that what I did was right,” Garbus said.
The reunion was also a chance to raise awareness for Hope’s Cradle Project, which is safe surrender site located at the Strathmore Fire Department. The initiative provides a safe location to surrender an infant as a last resort for parents who feel they have no other option.