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Chicago Dispatcher Guides Father Through Delivery of Baby in Car

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. -- James Kohl expects to graduate this spring from DePaul University, where Layne Morsch is an assistant chemistry professor. The two never met on campus, but they sure know each other now.

Kohl, 23, a dispatcher for the Rolling Meadows Police and Fire Departments, was the calm voice on the cell phone Tuesday night when Morsch and his pregnant wife, TC, delivered their daughter in the front seat of their Nissan Altima.

"You've got to call," TC Morsch, 37, recalled telling her husband as he sped from their Lake Zurich home to Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

She could feel their third child being born when they were still 2 miles from the emergency room.

With his wife grabbing at his coat sleeve in pain, Morsch pulled to the side of Algonquin Road, just east of Illinois Highway 53 in Rolling Meadows. He turned on the emergency flashers, then dialed 911.

"He said his wife's giving birth and the baby is halfway out," said Kohl, who got the call at 9:29 p.m.

During 2 1/2 years as a part-time dispatcher, he handled two emergency delivery calls, he said, but never one this far along.

The couple's first child, Jonah, 5, kept the couple waiting at home through 14 hours of labor before meriting a trip to the hospital. Their second, Eli, 3, was born after 36 hours.

After those two experiences, TC Morsch figured she had time when she started feeling contractions at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. She did laundry. She kept her 4 p.m. hair appointment. And with the contractions still ranging from 4 to 15 minutes apart, she guessed the baby might come early Thursday.

But by the time she spoke with her doctor around 9 p.m., she realized this baby was different. The pain was so severe that as they drove, she pleaded with her husband to speed, run red lights, do whatever they had to do to get there faster.

She clenched the handle over the passenger seat window as he prayed aloud that they would reach the hospital in time. But when Morsch finally stopped the car, he knew it was time to pray for something else.

Taking the 911 call, Kohl asked for the details he needed to send help: What was their exact location? What kind of car were they driving? What color?

Then he pulled out an emergency medical card with step-by-step instructions for childbirth to guide them by phone.

Kohl told Morsch to encourage his wife to take a deep breath and push. When that didn't work, he suggested she use her hands to pull her knees closer to her chest, take a deep breath and push again.

That time, the 7-pound, 5-ounce baby girl was born.

"She came out and she started to cry," a wonderful sound, TC Morsch said Wednesday afternoon from her hospital bed.

Kohl told dad how to clean the baby's nose and mouth and then wrap her with clean towels they had brought.

Paramedics arrived in time to cut the umbilical cord and found mom, dad and the baby girl doing well.

The couple picked what they considered the most unique of the four names they considered for their daughter -- Meegan -- "because she certainly had a unique entrance into this world," her mom said.

Rolling Meadows Fire Battalion Chief Steve Klein was at the delivery scene.

"You're going to smile when a baby is born, whether you are a father, a grandfather or just to shake the guy's hand," he said.

On Wednesday, another handshake was in order when Kohl paid the family a visit at the hospital.

The dispatcher reminded Morsch that his sister once took an organic chemistry class with him. But after Tuesday night's experience, the two likely have a much closer bond.

vortiz@tribune.com

tshah@tribune.com

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