Doctors told Jody Littlewolf that her daughter was brain dead and should be taken off life support, but the mother couldn’t shake a strange feeling she had about the teenage girl lying in front of her.Littlewolf repeatedly refused to have the girl whose body had been badly battered in a car crash taken off the machines keeping her alive in a Calgary hospital.“I just knew something wasn’t right.”A two-hour drive south of the city, at a funeral home in Cardston, Alta., Judy Medicine Crane and several relatives had gathered to pick out a casket and flowers for her daughter, who had been in the same collision.Medicine Crane hadn’t been allowed to see the body — too much trauma, a medical examiner had told her.When a funeral home employee later handed her a velvet bag with her girl’s jewelry inside, she was perplexed. She had never seen the necklace, bracelet, silver tongue stud and pink nose ring. Her daughter didn’t have a pierced nose.Medicine Crane questioned the worker about the nose ring. “He just looked at me and said, ‘Oh, it could have been while the vehicle was rolling around and, like, got stuck in her nose.’”“That was what his answer was. And I was just trying to make sense of it.”The two mothers would struggle with more questions following the crash near Standoff on the Blood Reserve on July 31, 2005. After three days, it would be discovered that the girls, close friends who belonged to the same youth group, had been mistaken for each other.Littlewolf’s daughter, 15-year-old Chantal Many Grey Horses, was not the girl in the hospital bed. She had died in the crash.And Medicine Crane’s daughter, 17-year-old Misty Medicine Crane, was not in the funeral home. She was the one in hospital.It was a mix-up similar to one last month when two junior hockey players from the Humboldt Broncos were misidentified after a fatal crash between the team’s bus and a semi-truck.Two days later, it was discovered that a player believed to be dead was actually alive in hospital, while a player thought to have been injured was dead in a morgue.Littlewolf, of the Piikani Nation, says the uneasiness she felt about the girl in the hospital bed turned to certainty when she asked the nurses if she could help wash the body.Littlewolf and Chantal would often hang out at home and massage each other’s feet.“I was standing at the foot of her bed,” she recalls. “Just when I ran my thumb up her foot — I felt the texture. I knew that was (the other girl) Misty right then and there.”At the same time, a nurse told Littlewolf she had the same eyes as the girl in the bed. The mother ran out into the hall and prayed and cried. She told people the girl wasn’t her daughter, but they didn’t believe her.“Everyone was telling me I was in shock.”Medicine Crane, who lives in Lethbridge, Alta., says that as she and the family sat in a restaurant, she continued to voice concerns about the girl they were planning to bury. A niece asked if anyone had checked for a tattoo.Medicine Crane had forgotten about the skin design. A month before the crash, for Misty’s birthday, the pair had gone together to get inked. Medicine Crane got a small heart with a zebra on her ankle.Misty had the words “life” and “death” put on the back of her left shoulder.Medicine Crane raced back to the funeral home. After arguing with staff, she finally got to see the girl’s body.She had no tattoo.There were frantic phone calls and the two families switched places at the funeral home and the hospital.Medicine Crane said her daughter was alive but already gone. When doctors showed her an image of Misty’s brain and explained that she had suffered more than 200 strokes, she agreed to have her taken off life support.She and her family then went back to the same funeral home and continued with the burial plans.Blood Tribe police said at the time that they had relied on other passengers in the car to identify the girls.Medicine Crane says one of the witnesses had just met her daughter the day of the crash. And most of them had been drinking and were likely to have been unreliable.She also doesn’t understand why no one asked the families about identifying features such as piercings and tattoos.Both mothers say they were angry but have since accepted the mistake and moved on.“I’m sad that it had to be that way,” says Medicine Crane, who adds she would have liked to have had more time with her daughter in the hospital.“But I can deal with it now. I can be stronger about it.”Littlewolf says she’s glad she had the time in the hospital, even though her girl was never there. She’s sure her daughter’s spirit heard her talking and whispering “I love you.”“That’s what got me through it without putting blame on people,” she says.“If I kept that anger, I’d never be able to move on.”
VANCOUVER – British Columbia has announced it will pay for the so-called abortion pill starting Jan. 15, becoming the sixth province to provide free access to the drug.Mifegymiso, also known as RU-486, can be used to terminate a pregnancy in the first nine weeks, the government said in a news release Tuesday.It said the current cost of the drug is $300, and removing it will ensure women can access a safe, legal option to end a pregnancy.Patients wanting a prescription must visit a doctor or nurse practitioner to get an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy is not ectopic, or outside the uterus.Health Canada approved Mifegymiso in 2015, and it’s the brand name for a combination of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, which are taken separately to prompt an abortion.New Brunswick was the first province to provide universal access to the pill last July, and Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia have also made it accessible for free.Dr. Dorothy Shaw, vice-president of medical affairs for BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in Vancouver, said health-care professionals, including family doctors, obstetrician-gynecologists, midwives and nurse practitioners are encouraged to complete an online education program about how the combination drug works and how to counsel women on what to expect after they’ve taken the medication.“The earlier that we give medication for an abortion, or the earlier that we do a surgical abortion, the safer it is,” Shaw said.Darrah Teitel, spokeswoman for the group Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, said coverage of the pill means more equitable access to abortion in rural and remote parts of Canada where surgical options don’t exist.While the abortion pill is available throughout the country, the cost can exceed $400, she said.“With cost coverage, we also urge the provinces to do a lot of work in terms of spreading awareness, not only to pharmacists but also to health practitioners and to the public at large to let them know that this pill is available,” Teitel said.Stephanie Fennelly, spokeswoman for the Edmonton-based Wilberforce Project, which opposes abortion, said the drug shouldn’t be promoted in rural areas, where women need better health care in general.Women in crisis pregnancies also need financial resources and help parenting, Fennelly said.“A lot of people are selecting abortion not because it’s their first choice, but their last resort.”Fennelly called Mifegymiso dangerous, saying a Quebec woman died from taking it during a research trial in 2001.However, Shaw said a subsequent investigation showed no link to the drug, and the woman’s death was caused by an unrelated infection.— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.