December 7, 2019

From Near or Far, Calgary’s World-Class Health Care Supports Our Tiniest Patients

When Kristine Russell gave birth to her daughter Ellie after an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, she and her husband Steven had no idea that the Southern Alberta Neonatal Transport Services (SANTS) team would have such a huge impact on their lives. Ellie was born full term on the evening of July 17, 2014, but suddenly became critically ill after her birth. She was sent to the NICU, but overnight her condition deteriorated and Kristine began to fall ill as well.

The next afternoon, Kristine and Steven were told that Ellie’s condition was life-threatening and she would need care that only Foothills Medical Centre’s Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) could provide, as this was the only level 3 NICU in Southern Alberta. It was decided that both Ellie and Kristine would need to be airlifted from the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital to Foothills Medical Centre to receive the care that would save both Kristine and Ellie’s lives.

Kristine recalls how a joyous day turned very scary: “Ellie was born full-term on the evening of July 17, 2014, after an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. Shortly after birth, she became critically ill. She was sent to the NICU, but overnight her condition deteriorated. Overnight I began to fall ill also.

The next afternoon we found out that Ellie’s condition was life-threatening and that she would need to be picked up by the NICU transport team of nurses from the Foothills Hospital. She would need to be treated on their level 3 NICU as our hospital was only a level 2 NICU. My condition was worsening and it was speculated that whatever Ellie had, I too had. It was decided that I also needed to be airlifted to the Foothills.”

The SANTS team gave Kristine and Steven the chance to say a last goodbye to Ellie, as it was uncertain whether Ellie would survive the flight. Fortunately, thanks to the diligent work of SANTS, Ellie arrived safely at Foothills Medical Centre where she spent 7 days in the NICU. Once Kristine and Steven found out that Ellie would recover, the SANTS team was there again so that Ellie could return to Medicine Hat.

“We will be forever indebted to those who have donated to the Calgary Health Foundation which provides the funding for the Southern Alberta Neonatal Transport Services. If it wasn’t for this service and the ability to have Ellie transferred to a hospital better equipped to treat her illness, she would not have survived.”

Did you know?

Southern Alberta Neonatal Transport Services stabilizes and moves premature or critically ill newborns as quickly and safely as possible to the necessary Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where they will receive the most appropriate level of care. To find out more about supporting neonatal intensive care through our Newborns Need campaign, visit

Ellie grown up
Ellie with her mom

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