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Chicago Firefighters, Medics Praised For Blizzard Baby Rescue

As the blizzard raged outside, Julia Johnson woke up about midnight in her Northwest Side home only to find her power was out and she was experiencing strong labor pains. Things went downhill from there.

Her husband, Andrew, tried to dig out their car, but couldn't move it out of their snow-filled parking lot. As Julia Johnson's pains grew more intense, her husband called his father and another relative for help, but they were snowbound as well. Finally the couple called 911, and Chicago firefighters and paramedics quickly arrived to help get the couple to a hospital.

Julia Johnson, 29, still had to walk about a half-block through the snow and dark because that was as close as the ambulance could get to their Logan Square home without getting stuck. She even had to stop once when a contraction struck.

"I thought 'what a perfect backdrop for a bad contraction - a pitch-black street,'" she said Wednesday. "I could see the ambulance- - that's what kept me going." The paramedics rushed the couple to Swedish Covenant Hospital, where their daughter, Vada, was born less than an hour later.

"I almost can't believe it happened," Julia Johnson said as she recovered at the hospital. "It was a pretty harrowing experience."

As the snowstorm approached, Johnson, an accountant, said she and her husband briefly thought about checking into a downtown hotel so they'd be close to the hospital if she went into labor. They didn't, though, at least partly because she hadn't any labor pains yet, though the due date for the couple's first child was Sunday.

"It came on very quickly. It definitely caught us by surprise," said Andrew Johnson, 30, a project manager for a general contractor. In fact, when Julia Johnson first awoke after the power went out, she wasn't sure the discomfort she was experiencing were labor pains. "I thought maybe it was still pre-labor pains," she said. Her doctor eventually advised her to head for the hospital, but that's when Johnson and her husband discovered they were marooned by the snow.

"By the time we called 911, we were pretty desperate," she said.

They praised the Chicago firefighters and paramedics who came to their aid within about 10 minutes of being called and, despite the storm, got them to the hospital just in time.

She delivered Vada about 5:20 a.m., less than an hour after arriving at the hospital.

The 7-pound, 12-ounce baby was in good health Wednesday, despite the precarious circumstances surrounding her arrival. She spent most of her first day resting. "She's been sleeping mostly," her dad said. "I think it's because she had quite the ordeal coming out."

Vada Johnson is warm and comfortable Wednesday.

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