It started as just another OB call -- "woman in labor" -- for Paramedic/Lieutenant Dan Arkin and his partner, Paramedic/Firefighter David Gordon from Littleton Fire Rescue in Littleton, Colo. But in a matter of a few short mile markers along highway C470 south of Denver, the incident quickly deteriorated as they began transporting an expectant mother with her first child.
Kathryn Ulibarri, full-term and scheduled to have a caesarian section, was being driven to Sky Ridge Hospital by her mother, Pat Ulibarri, after having contractions all afternoon. By the time they left from their west side home for the hospital on the east side of the Denver metro area, the evening rush hour was in full swing, and traffic was at a standstill. Pat knew that her daughter, this being her first pregnancy, might not make it to the hospital, so she pulled off the highway and called 9-1-1. "I was just not going to take a chance," she said. "I had too much precious cargo in my car. I did not want to lose my daughter, and I didn't want to lose my grandson."
Within eight minutes of that cell phone call to Littleton's Communication Center, Ladder 16 maneuvered through rush hour traffic from the south, and Littleton's Medic 11, entering the off ramp in the wrong direction, reached the car from the north. The two teams quickly loaded Kathryn into the ambulance, taking firefighter Joy Hall off Ladder 16 to support the paramedics in the event of delivery. They headed toward Sky Ridge Hospital with lights and sirens. The firefighter/paramedics thought they had a little more time before delivery because this was Kathryn's first child, but that didn't turn out to be the case.
As Medic 11 weaved through traffic, events unfolded rapidly. Lt. Arkin visualized the delivery area and saw that the baby's buttocks and umbilical cord were already protruding, indicating imminent delivery. After 30 more seconds of contractions, baby Kaleb made his grand entrance into the world as the ambulance carefully wove through traffic toward the closest hospitalƒSky Ridge was abandoned in favor of Littleton Adventist Hospital, which was just miles away.
During transport, Kaleb was given mild stimulation and blow-by oxygen, and he was suctioned, cleaned and dried. Upon arrival at the hospital, the Littleton Fire Rescue crew was met in the ambulance bay by the hospital staff expecting a possible breech birth. What the doctors discovered was the healthy seven-pound, 13-ounce baby boy who had been delivered five minutes earlier in the moving ambulance.
Kaleb's parents and grandparents were so thankful for the great outcome that they called a press conference to meet and thank the dispatchers and firefighters who delivered their new addition. "There aren't words to express our thanks for these wonderful men and women of Littleton Fire Rescue," said Pat. "They saved my daughter and grandson from a possible bad outcome."
"We deal with all sorts of calls -- the good, the bad and the ugly," said Paramedic David Gordon. "But this is by far the best!"
Wayne M. Zygowicz,BA, EMT-P, is the EMS chief for Littleton (Colo.) Fire Rescue. He has been involved in EMS and the fire service for 27 years and is a JEMS editorial board member.