Craig Cotton: "Our Close Family Got Closer."
Hurricane Ivan was the worst storm ever to hit the Alabama Gulf Coast and it came on the night that Joshua Craig Cotton was born at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center. According to Joshua Craig's Dad, Craig, the hurricane brought more than
raging winds and rain to SBRMC that night. "Our close family got closer," Craig said as he described the experience of his son's birth during a hurricane.
The Cotton family— Craig, his wife and Joshua's mother Deana, son C. J. (Craig, Jr.), age three and a half, Craig's parents Ricky and Jeanie Cotton of Orange Beach, and his sister, Nikki, a teacher at Orange Beach Elementary School— spent the entire night of Ivan at the hospital. Joshua, called J.C. by his family now, was born by Caesarean section just before the worst of the storm came ashore in Gulf Shores.
"It is very unusual for a hospital to be flexible enough to accommodate a family like ours in the middle of a major storm," Craig said, "but that is exactly what South Baldwin did. Everyone was so nice, and (SBRMC CEO) Stephen Pennington is a
really good guy. He was working so hard to meet the needs of all the patients. When the power went off around 10 p.m., he found generators and he was constantly checking on all of us."
The Cotton's story actually began on the Tuesday before Ivan struck early Thursday morning, Sept. 16. Deana had been given a due date of Sept. 17 and she knew her baby would be delivered by C-section. She and Craig also knew that Hurricane Ivan would hit the Gulf Coast somewhere. That night, Deana felt some pressure, but she wasn't concerned because the storm had not yet turned toward the Alabama Coast.
On Wednesday morning, Deana's contractions were about 20 minutes apart, and Craig decided "we needed to do something."
So he put his wife, his young son and his Mom in the car and told them to go to the hospital. Then he and his Dad set about boarding up their homes and their rental houses in Elberta and Orange Beach. They talked to Dr. James West, Deana's
obstetrician, who said they were doing the right thing.
"I knew the women and the children were safe because they were with Stephen at the hospital," Craig said, and the later it got the more the hurricane started steering itself toward us." Craig said that he remembered that the birth of his first son, C.J., also by C-section, went rapidly. J.C.'s birth also went rapidly. Craig's Mom called him and asked, "Where are you?" Two minutes later, she called again and asked, "What do you want me to do?"
As it turned out, Craig's Mom was with Deana when J.C. was born, and Craig got to the hospital just as nurses walked out of the operating room with J.C. Then, the whole family settled in to spend the night at the hospital because as Craig put it, "there is no separating us—if one goes, we all go. "They moved us to the Outpatient Services waiting room for safety later and let us take our pillows and blankets and crash there," Craig said. "I passed Stephen several times going in and out of the Emergency Room while he was looking after people. "
When Deana and Craig returned home, they found holes in the roof. no sewer, water on the floor and no electricity. Craig, who is Construction Manager for the City of Foley, hooked up two generators and put Deana, C.J. and J.C. in one bedroom where they stayed until the power came on nine days later. "I know a little bit about a lot of things, but not a lot about one thing, so I figured out how to hook up a generator to the sewer grinder pump enough to empty the tank. It was integrity-building time," Craig said.
In spite of their birthing experience during Ivan, Craig and Deana plan to have more children at SBRMC. "In the last few years, that hospital has been turned around," Craig said. "It still gets a bad rap from some people because of long-past experiences, but it shouldn't because it is just an excellent hospital now, and Stephen Pennington is a true leader. I don't know how we can every repay them for the way they helped us on that night."