October 18, 2017

Baby Hope arrives after deadly California fires

Two Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa nurses lost their home to wildfire, then welcomed a new baby and an unexpected gift

When the devastating Tubbs Fire first erupted, Benjamin Huggins, RN, looked out the window of the Intensive Care Unit of Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa Medical Center and worried about his wife, who was home nearby, nine months pregnant with their first child.

The orange flames lit up the dark sky before dawn on Oct. 9. And they were getting brighter, closer and bigger.

At Benjamin’s urging, his wife Macy Huggins, RN, a Kaiser Permanente pediatric nurse, left their house an hour before it burned down and evacuated to a friend’s home in Petaluma. Benjamin, meanwhile, continued to care for his critically ill patient until the man was safely placed into an ambulance and transferred to another hospital out of harm’s way.

It was time to refocus their energy on the baby, who was already overdue by two days.

Hope is born

“The next day it kind of hit us,” Macy said. “Now we have nothing, and we’re bringing this baby into the world, and we had all this stuff that was going to be so perfect, and these ideas and perceptions about how it was going to be with her.”

With the Santa Rosa Medical Center closed due to fires burning in the area, the couple searched for a new Kaiser Permanente hospital for Macy to deliver their baby.

They chose the Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Center because the air quality in the Sacramento Valley was more favorable than in the Bay Area. photo of newborn baby girl

And that’s where the baby, aptly named Hope, was born on Saturday, Oct. 14, weighing a healthy 8 lbs., 4 oz. and measuring 21.5 inches long.

What happened next was nothing short of amazing.

A generous gift

A couple of hours after Hope entered the world, another mother was giving birth a few rooms away. This mother had been certain her baby would be a girl — so the family had prepared an entire nursery for a daughter.

But the mom delivered a boy.

The mom laughed about her situation and asked two nurses, Carrie Jarvis, RN, and Stephanie Harriot, RN, if they had any idea what to do with so much girl clothing that their boy would never wear.

That’s when Assistant Nurse Manager Elana Brennan, RN, made the connection between the moms.

The next day, the family down the hall donated its entire collection of baby-girl clothes and toys to the Santa Rosa family that had lost everything in the fire.

“It was very touching and generous and overwhelming,” Macy said, while sitting on the hospital bed with Benjamin and Hope a day after giving birth.

Benjamin and Macy, who are saddened that co-workers also lost their homes and that dozens of people have died in several Northern California fires, don’t yet know where in the Santa Rosa area they will live.

For now, they’re staying with friends and dedicating their time to Hope.

“In the face of this tragedy, we’re now able to welcome this little baby into the world,” Benjamin said. “And that’s really all that matters to us now.”