We could have died - Moms recall having their 'Gilbert babies'

September 12, 2018
Valerie Lee
Sandra Francis
Tanisha Rainford

Two women in different parts of Kingston have one thing in common: they delivered their daughters during Hurricane Gilbert that devastated Jamaica on Monday, September 12, 1988.

It left 95 per cent of all health facilities damaged and without water and electricity. 

For Tanisha Rainford's mother, Valerie Lee, Gilbert was "a rollercoaster of emotions".

"I could have died and/or my daughter could have died throughout the ordeal," Lee said. "It was surreal. All I can remember is asking for my baby when I became conscious because I had not seen her. It took three days before I had the chance to look at her in the intensive care unit and two days after that I was able to hold her."




She was actually due to give birth in October, but due to pre-eclampsia, she went into early labour while at home in Seaview Gardens when the storm had already started.

Lee said her water never broke, and she's not sure when exactly it did as she passed out and began foaming at the mouth.

Lee does not remember the entire ordeal, so most of it was reported by her sister Gwendolyn Hardy.

"My aunt Gwenny told me they almost had to settle for a handcart as transport because no vehicles were around to take Mommy to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI)," said Rainford.

The UHWI was not only full with people but the hallways were filled with water, where Lee was reportedly placed on a stretcher to stay for a period of time because of the lack of beds.

"The doctors saw the seriousness of it all and, according to my aunt, they asked her if the worst should come, who would she like to be saved. She begged them to try their best to make sure both of us lived," Rainford said.

Meanwhile, Sandra Francis' family insisted that she should go to the hospital before the hurricane made landfall.



Despite her declarations that no hurricane would affect the island, she was taken to a clinic in Tivoli Gardens as a precaution on the Sunday evening.

It ended up being the right decision.

Francis said, "Persons were screaming, running around and panicking there because we could see what was happening on the outside through the windows. We watched a house nearby get destroyed by a light post or some tree that was uprooted, then light went and there was no water I think after Tuesday."

She started feeling labour pains after noon on Monday and gave birth to a girl, Paulee-Ann Peart, at about 4 p.m.

The family has always called Peart 'Gilbert pickney' because she cried like the rain in the storm constantly.

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