EMS providers in Des Plaines, Illinois, dealt with tragedy -- then, minutes later, joy -- when they rushed from the scene of a fatal railroad-crossing incident to help a pregnant woman stuck in traffic give birth in the back seat of her car.
Waitress Alondra Garcia, 22, and her cook boyfriend, David Lima, 26, were on their way to Lutheran General Hospital to give birth when they got caught in an unmoving traffic jam caused by a 51-year-old man who apparently tried to drive his car around crossing gates at River Road and was struck and killed by a Metra train shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"I was telling her, 'Please, please, hold it in!' " said Lima, who said he had hit "every red light" on an increasingly frantic drive to the hospital from the couple's Palatine home.
With no chance of making it in time, Lima pulled into a parking lot and dialed 9-1-1 at 8:45 a.m. as Garcia began to give birth.
"I just felt the urge to push," she said. "The first time I pushed, her head came out."
Paramedics Nick Mardirosian and Eric Zack -- who had been helping fight a fire at the railroad crossing less than half a mile away -- arrived to find the baby halfway out and "dad looking a little worse than mom."
They helped complete the delivery, cut the umbilical cord and rushed the family to Lutheran General, where all were in good health Wednesday afternoon.
"I didn't want any medication, so I guess everything worked out perfect," said a glowing Garcia as she held oblivious, 8-pound, 1-ounce, 19-inch Gabriella.
Proud Lima said he had found time to post a Facebook message saying "My daughter was born in the road!" during the ambulance ride. "Nobody believed it," he said.
Mardirosian said a firefighter's job takes in "all kinds of extreme situations."
But, he added, the emotional impact of dealing with life and death in such short order "will probably take a few days before it hits."