Blake Cann, Melissa Jones and Blake Jr. (bottom right) welcomed their newest family member, Paisley Sandra-Lynn Cann in the back of an ambulance on the side of Highway 19A after a harrowing drive down-Island from Port McNeill in the early hours of 2021. Photo courtesy Cann family

Blake Cann, Melissa Jones and Blake Jr. (bottom right) welcomed their newest family member, Paisley Sandra-Lynn Cann in the back of an ambulance on the side of Highway 19A after a harrowing drive down-Island from Port McNeill in the early hours of 2021. Photo courtesy Cann family

Expectant B.C. mom dodges branches, elk and an empty gas tank to deliver New Year’s baby

Harrowing ordeal for couple ends in joy on the side of highway north of Campbell River

Paisley Sandra-Lynn Cann was not the first baby born on Vancouver Island in 2021.

But she will probably have the most interesting birth story to tell of any B.C. baby born anywhere in 2021 once she’s old enough to do so.

Paisley Sandra-Lynn Cann was delivered at 3:37 a.m. on Jan. 1 on the side of the Highway 19 on the outskirts of Campbell River, in the back of an ambulance, after her parents raced down-Island from Port McNeill – about 200 km north – dodging herds of elk, branches and brush flying across the highway from the wind, and hoping they had enough fuel to make it all the way.

As it turned out, that was not the case, but they made it far enough to get a cell signal.

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Let’s back up a bit.

Paisley’s mom, Melissa Jones, was due on Jan. 24. She and husband, Blake Cann, were settling in for a low-key New Year’s Eve with their son Blake Jr., when Melissa’s contractions began.

But she’d been having contractions for a week already, and these ones felt no different.

When her water broke, however, “somewhere around midnight,” Blake says, they went to Port McNeill Hospital.

They were told the baby wasn’t yet on its way, however, and were sent home. They knew differently, somehow, so they got in the car and headed for Campbell River.

It wasn’t until they were approaching Woss – less than a third of the way to Campbell River – that Blake looked at his fuel gauge and saw the bad news.

“I knew Woss didn’t have a 24-hour gas station, so I was hoping we’d make it to Sayward,” he says. “It was raining; there were literally branches flying across the highway from the gusts of wind; there was water pooling all over the road – I’m surprised I wasn’t hydroplaning more – and there was elk everywhere. I guess you could say it was pretty stressful.”

His fuel light went on just outside of Sayward, “but they only have 24-hour diesel there for commercial trucks,” he says, “so we hit the highway again, praying we’d make it. At least the light wasn’t blinking yet.”

Sayward to Campbell River is a 77-kilometre trip, so Blake was pretty sure they weren’t going to make it.

“My car is only supposed to last 30 kilometres after the light comes on, but somehow it kept going,” he says. “We made it over 60 kilometres and about a kilometre back from where we made it to, we got cell service.”

So they called 9-11 for an ambulance. It arrived about seven minutes later.

“We got her into the ambulance and as they pulled out onto the road, the baby came and they had to pull back over. It was literally, like, 30 seconds after the door shut on the ambulance that my wife was giving birth.”

Paisley made her way into the world with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times.

“I don’t think she would have made it if we’d had her in the car,” Blake says. “It was definitely a miracle. I’m so happy that ambulance came when it did.”

The now-four-person family is now back at home in Port McNeill recovering from the ordeal and getting to know each other.

“We’re pretty tired,” Blake says. “But we’re happy, everyone’s healthy – she passed all her tests with flying colours – and I’m now going to make sure I always have a full tank of gas.”

Paisley Sandra-Lynn Cann weighed in at six pounds, three ounces.

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