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La. woman to give birth after embryo retrieval

Post-Katrina effort saved about 1,400

Rebekah and Glen Markham, with son Glen Jr., last month in the backyard of their home in Covington, La. Rebekah and Glen Markham, with son Glen Jr., last month in the backyard of their home in Covington, La. (Judi Bottoni/Associated Press)

NEW ORLEANS -- The baby album for Rebekah Markham's soon-to-be-born child could include something extra special: photos of officers using flat-bottomed boats to rescue the youngster's frozen embryo from a sweltering hospital in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Markham is about to give birth via caesarean section, nine months after being implanted with an embryo that nearly thawed when the flooded hospital lost electricity.

"It's going to be exciting for the little baby, once he gets old enough to realize what it went through," said Markham, a 32-year-old physical therapist whose husband, Glen, 42, is a New Orleans police officer. "Katrina's history. A big part of history."

The baby will be one of the first children to be born from the more than 1,400 embryos that were rescued from Lakeland Hospital in New Orleans two weeks after the storm.

And it isn't just the Markhams who are tickled.

"That is great! I'm going to call all our officers and tell them. They'll be pretty excited," said Lieutenant Eric Bumgarner, one of seven Illinois Conservation Police officers and three Louisiana state troopers who sloshed through flood waters to remove the embryos. Bumgarner said he has often wondered what happened to the embryos: "One of these embryos could be the next president," he said.

The C-section is set for Jan. 16.

Embryos from the Markhams, along with those belonging to hundreds of other couples, were kept at the Fertility Institute's laboratory at the hospital. Two days before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, the clinic took steps to protect the embryos by topping off all its tanks with liquid nitrogen and moving them to the third floor.

But Katrina's 8 feet of water knocked out the electricity, and the temperature climbed.

Fearing the embryos would be ruined, an institute doctor contacted a state lawmaker, who called Governor Kathleen Blanco, and officers managed to retrieve them.

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