The specific circumstance is rare for the Martinsville Rescue Squad, but on the evening of Sept. 12, the company got one of those calls that led to a miracle—they delivered a baby.
According to Martinsville Rescue Squad Chief John Cowley, they received a call that evening for a female in active labor, and they showed up on the scene, ready to help.
“The mother was in active labor on the couch, and we had asked if anyone saw if it was imminent,” he said. “You look for something called crowning, and no one had seen that, so we thought we could get to Somerset Medical Center.”
Unfortunately, Cowley said, the baby had other plans.
Cowley said they brought the woman into the ambulance, with the Bridgewater Township Police providing an escort on the way to the medical center.
“That was an outstanding idea after the situation, thinking back on it,” he said.
Cowley said they began the drive to Somerset Medical Center, but once they hit Country Club Road and Route 22, they began to see the baby’s head crowning.
“We were in the back caring for the patient, and the mother proceeded to continue through the process of labor,” he said. “With each contraction, we could see more and more of the head.”
“It became apparent to me that the baby was not going to wait,” he added.
Cowley said he realized they would not make it to the hospital, so they pulled over on the side of Route 22 East, with the accompanying police officer giving them a cushion with the traffic to keep cars away.
“It was a fairly straight forward event, a lot of that is luck because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m not an obstetrician, but I assume most deliveries are straight forward, and thank God this was.”
Not long after they pulled the ambulance over, Cowley said, the mother delivered a baby boy.
“We got the baby cleaned up and crying so we knew the baby was breathing,” he said. “We got him moving around, his lungs working.”
“We cleaned him up well, made sure the mom was OK and delivered her to the hospital,” he added.
Cowley said these calls for active labor are actually fairly rare.
“There is a member on the squad, a first lieutenant who has been on the squad for 30 years, and never delivered a baby,” he said. “This is my second delivery and I’ve been on the squad for six years.”
“And one of the crew members has been on the squad for 15 years, and she’s had one delivery,” he added. “It’s pretty rare is the bottom line.”
But learning how to handle a delivery is part of the training all EMTs go through, Cowley said. When they join the squad, he said, they go through professional training with state certified instructors.
“It is a pretty rigorous program, and then they do a state exam,” he said. “We try as best we can, and we try to do drills and talk about what we would do in situations.”
“But there is an awful lot of different stuff that happens,” he added.
Once people are certified as EMTs, Cowley said, they have to be re-certified after certain amounts of time.
Still, Cowley said, it is great to go on calls that end positively. He said calls usually range between trauma and medical.
The latter, Cowley said, are usually for elderly people who have fallen and can’t get up, or other similar situations.
As for this call, Cowley said they were entirely focused on the mother and baby at the time, and didn’t really have an opportunity to think about anything else.
“I was just thinking that someone needs help, and at that moment I didn’t think about us being on the side of the road,” he said. “We were pretty focused, and it was not until afterwards, I found I had really been working and my brain was in overdrive.”
This was unlike other trauma calls, Cowley said, because at least he had some control over the situation.
“I have been on calls where I stood on the side of the road in a snow storm and was there for hours waiting for a patient to get cut out of a vehicle,” he said. “That was more stressful because there was less control.”
“But when you go on a delivery, it’s incredible,” he added. “The mother asked me how I knew what to do, and one is training and the other is I’m of the age where I did go into the delivery room when my kids were born. It isn’t new, but it is a miracle.”