As of Friday night, Lieut. James wasn't so sure
it would work. But Saturday morning, the images
on the screen were as clear as watching
"Seeing them made it so much
easier for me, and knowing my wife was OK and
smiling made me relax over here. The next best
thing was seeing Kaia for the first time and
seeing how Sean, my stepson, was so caring and
careful with her," he said.
"I was on Cloud 9 and wanted to just sit and
watch (wife) Lisa and Kaia and Sean."
The Ontario Telemedicine Network is usually used
to connect patients in remote or rural areas
with doctors in larger centres. Mrs. James, who
was expecting the baby in late May, approached
the hospital communications department and
Kathleen Nunn, director of the childbirth unit,
in February to ask if the system could be used
to connect her to her husband, who had left for
Afghanistan earlier that month.
"It was just something I thought might be
possible," Mrs. James said Monday. "So I gave
the hospital a call. They were great."
What resulted was a three-way collaboration
between the Department of National Defence,
which has a videoconferencing "bridge" in
Ottawa, the Queensway Carleton Hospital and the
Ontario Telemedicine Network.
One of the challenges was that babies don't
always arrive on schedule. Another is the time
difference of 81/2 hours.
Mrs. James went to the hospital on Friday for
an induced labour. All the players were alerted
and put on standby.
Kaia Rita-Marie arrived a minute before 6
a.m. Ottawa time on Saturday, weighing in at
seven pounds, 9.5 ounces. Kaia's parents were
linked via cellphone shortly after. At 9 a.m.,
the family was talking.
Mrs. James was exhausted but happy. Sean, 8,
was thrilled and sat in a chair holding his baby
sister for part of the time. Mrs. James brought
Kaia as close as possible to the camera for her
father to see. The videoconference lasted an
"I wasn't going to miss this opportunity for
Des to see his new baby girl," said Mrs. James.
"I don't remember what we talked about. I was
really, really sleepy. It was just
Lieut. James does remember what was said.
"The first thing I wanted to say was Are you
all right?' and then How is the baby?'" he said.
"I think my third question was Does she look
like a Kaia?' To which my wife responded Yes.'"
Paula Archambault, regional program manager
at the Ontario Telemedicine Network, said the
system has been in operation in Eastern Ontario
for about six years. Using the system, a patient
in Barry's Bay could, for example, "see" a
cardiologist at the University of Ottawa Heart
"It's just like coming into the office, only
you don't have to drive two hours," said Ms.
The videoconferencing system is also used so
that CHEO patients from Baffin Island can
"visit" with friends and family back home. But
this went beyond even that, said Ms. Archambault.
"For us to reach out to Afghanistan was unusual.
So it was exciting for us."
George Regan, videoconference co-ordinator
for National Defence, does a few thousand
videoconferences a year, including those between
soldiers in Afghanistan and families in Canada.
On the day before Mother's Day, he connected
soldiers in Afghanistan with their mothers in
"It's hard to say no. It's for a good cause."
Once he found that the telemedicine system
could work with the National Defence system, it
wasn't difficult linking the hospital to
"I work with this technology on a daily
basis, and you tend to take it for granted," he
said. "It still has a wow' effect for people."
Lieut. James is thankful to staff at all
three organizations who volunteered to come to
work on Saturday to make it happen. Mr. Regan
skipped his nephew's birthday in Toronto, said
"Nothing can replace being there in person,
but this was as close as possible and worked out
© Ottawa Citizen 2007