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CHEO staff honoured by Ottawa Fire Services for courageous efforts during Ottawa Hospital fire

CHEO staff recognized Ottawa firefighters with teddy bears, as firefighters recognized them with challenge coins, after last month's dramatic efforts to move 17 NICU babies during a fire. (Katelyn Wilson/CTV News Ottawa) CHEO staff recognized Ottawa firefighters with teddy bears, as firefighters recognized them with challenge coins, after last month's dramatic efforts to move 17 NICU babies during a fire. (Katelyn Wilson/CTV News Ottawa)
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Ottawa Fire Services are recognizing hospital staff after a fire broke out at the Ottawa Hospital General Campus last month.

As a precaution, firefighters, with help from hospital workers, carried 17 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) down eight flights of stairs to bring them to CHEO on Oct. 27.

"We carried suction kits and recess kits and oxygen down with the understanding that we might have to stop on the third floor and resuscitate a baby," said Ottawa Fire Services Acting Captain Matt Mountain.

On Wednesday, staff at CHEO were recognized for their courageous efforts and presented with challenge coins, which are typically given to firefighters in recognition for their tremendous efforts.

"The dedication they showed was second-to-none and we thought that was just way to say thank you," said Mountain.

An Ottawa Fire Service challenge coin. Ottawa Hospital staff were given these coins to recognize their efforts helping to move NICU babies during a fire at the General Campus on Oct. 27, 2023. (Katelyn Wilson/CTV News Ottawa)

It was a precarious, life-threatening situation for the babies, but all of it went incredibly smoothly.

Ashley Groot-Lipman, whose baby Marietje was the first one to be moved that night, also took the opportunity to say thank you.

"When you get a phone call that late at night, immediately your heart drops and you think this is the phone call I've been dreading," said Groot-Lipman. "Words can't express the gratitude I feel towards everybody for coming together, making a plan and seamlessly getting all those babies to safety."

Staff thanked firefighters with teddy bears.

"Teams that night were really impressive in the way that they were able to pivot so quickly, innovate on the fly and work out the logistics of how that would occur," said Dr. Erika Bariciak, who was the doctor on call that night.

And it wasn't just keeping all 17 babies healthy for the move, it was making room for them at CHEO as well.

"Admitting 17 is not in the plan, so what's spectacular about this event is that our team made a plan and figured it out as they went," said Adam Lamoureux, critical care director at CHEO.

Earlier this month, the NICU babies also received recognition from the firefighters who cared for them, getting a special challenge coin with a symbolic stork.

Correction

An editing error resulted in a previous version of this story mistakenly saying Ottawa Hospital staff were recognized Wednesday. It was CHEO staff. 

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