Like his Biblical namesake, little Noah Markham owes his life to a boat—and the volunteers who rescued more than 1,400 frozen embryos after floodwaters damaged a New Orleans hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. On January 16, he came into this world as the 8 lb. 6½ oz. son of Glen and Rebekah Markham. “I heard him cry and then I started crying too,” says Rebekah, 32. “It was just so beautiful, a miracle really.”
The amazing journey began when Glen, 42, a police detective, and Rebekah, a physical therapist, conceived multiple embryos via in vitro fertilization at the Fertility Institute in New Orleans in 2003. She gave birth to their first child, Witt, in 2004; the clinic kept the remaining embryos in secure tanks filled with super-cold liquid nitrogen at Lakeland Hospital. But when Katrina flooded the facility, backup generators failed and temperatures rose. “It was a very unsafe environment,” says Dr. Sissy Sartor, a fertility specialist at the clinic.
Sartor asked state officials to assemble a rescue party of police and National Guard personnel. On Sept. 11, 2005, the team navigated flooded streets with flat-bottomed boats—not exactly arks, but big enough to do the job—and eventually loaded four 35-liter embryo canisters aboard. “We knew that these embryos were extremely valuable to the families,” says Lt. Eric Bumgarner, who was part of the rescue mission.
Rebekah was implanted last March. (Another, anonymous, woman gave birth to twins from rescued embryos last month; eight others are currently pregnant.) She gave birth at St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington, La., and quickly accepted her sister-in-law’s idea to name the child Noah. “We think it’s just the perfect name for this boy,” says his dad. Adds his mother: “We made it through Katrina, and in the end we get a little baby to love.”