Unvaccinated B.C. mother with COVID-19 the 1st in Canada to deliver baby on ECMO life support machine

Two weeks after first being admitted to hospital for COVID-19, a woman from northern B.C. has given birth while in a medically-induced coma.

The baby, named Skyler Katie Barbara Binette, was delivered on Saturday at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., while mother Krystal St. Pierre remained unconscious in critical condition on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) breathing machine.

“She weighed three pounds and a half an ounce. So she’s just a tiny little thing, but she’s my miracle baby,” said father Dwayne Binette. “She is breathing on her own, and last night they tried feeding her for the first time, and that went well.”

Doctors chose to deliver the baby girl by C-section nearly three months early, because they were worried her mom’s condition could endanger Skyler.

“The baby’s life support is always the mom. So if mom suddenly becomes unwell, which is a very high risk if someone is as sick as they are on ECMO, then the idea is to intervene early,” said Dr. Christina Nowik, an obstetrician with a sub-speciality in maternal/fetal medicine at Royal Columbian.

Skyler was the first baby in Canada to be delivered to a mother who was on an ECMO life support machine, which does the work of the lungs and is a last resort for critically ill COVID-19 patients. St Pierre’s condition has not changed since giving birth.

“They say with ECMO machine life support and how damaged her lungs are from COVID, usually if there is a turn around, it’s not for a few weeks,” said Binette.

Both Binette and St Pierre were unvaccinated when they contracted COVID-19 in early October.

“I do have regrets, it weighs on me still,” said Binette. He’s sharing their story hoping it will convince others not to make the same mistake.

While he’s gotten online hate from anti-vaxxers he used to agree with, Binette has also gotten plenty of positive feedback from his community in northern B.C. and across Canada.

“People saying that they were on the fence about it and they definitely want to go and get vaccinated now that this has opened their eyes,” said Binette.

Nowik said the team at Royal Columbian Hospital supports him too.

“I can’t imagine what they are going through, and to be able to translate this experience into something productive to help others, I think it shows so much character, so much humility. I have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for Dwayne,” said Nowik.

For Binette, the respect and admiration and respect is mutual.

“I want to say thank you to the doctors and the nurses that are helping Krystal and looking after my baby, you guys are just amazing people,” he said.

Baby Skylar will remain in Royal Columbian Hospital for around eight weeks. Her father hopes to bring the couple’s other two children to visit, once they all clear COVID-19 quarantine protocols in Fort St. John, and he gets vaccinated.

“We want to get down there to see my daughter. And my kids, they’re pretty excited as well about their new baby sister,” he said.

It’s hoped with the baby now delivered and healthy, St. Pierre will be strong enough to recover from COVID-19.

“There is a long road ahead,” said Nowik. “But there is a beautiful outcome with Skylar, and we can just hope for the best.”