WOOSTER, Ohio — In their collective 44 years with the Wooster (Ohio) Division of Fire, none of the three emergency workers had started a squad run with one patient and completed it with two … until Feb. 13.
For the first time in some 20 years, members of the department’s squad helped to deliver a baby en route to the hospital.
The call came in as a woman in a vehicle in labor, and after some brief confusion that led the squad out of the city, east on U.S. Route 30, they finally found the woman, her husband, a midwife and their driver near Apple Creek Road, said firefighter/paramedic Mike Berry.
Following a brief assessment, including discussions with and examination of the expectant mother, Berry said he knew a delivery was imminent.
“We all know it’s going to happen, and suspect it could happen before the hospital,” said Berry of the moment, noting that while it is not uncommon for the squad to transport a laboring woman to the hospital, “99 percent of the time we usually can get to the hospital in enough time they can be delivered at the hospital.”
The woman, already the mother of eight, was quick to tell emergency workers she had a history of speedy deliveries, said Berry, who along with firefighter/paramedic John Cutlip, climbed into the back of the squad with the woman.
And, within a matter of minutes and a single push “out pops a little head,” said Berry.
They suctioned the newborn’s mouth and nose and she “almost immediately started crying and was looking right at me,” he said, adding the little girl was “perfect — pink, warm, moving, crying.”
“It was a sigh of relief to hear the baby cry immediately,” Berry said, never expecting to make eye contact with the newborn, noting “to have her look at me was something special.”
“I got to tell (the mother) it was a little girl. That was really special. She didn’t know. I told her, “You got a little girl”a and she said, “That’s what I wanted.”
Berry, the father of two boys, both delivered by Cesarean section, has assisted with other births as a hospital scrub technician, but the emergency delivery in the squad was something he said, “ranks up there with a true emergency.”
Compared to other squad runs, “On this one, all three of us were on an emotional high,” said Cutlip adding a majority of their squad calls involve people in cardiac or respiratory distress. “Delivering a baby is something that doesn’t happen all the time.”
“You don’t get to see that kind of outcome often,” he said, adding, “It’s one of those moments that stick with you.
“It’s one of those highs, a great outcome and hopefully one that sticks with me for my career.”
And, even though emergency responders train for emergency deliveries, “We don’t get to use the knowledge on a daily basis and it’s scary. Not everything always goes as planned, even under the best of circumstances.”
As the only basic EMT on the squad, Lt. Bill Whitmore gave up his spot in the back of the squad to drive.
“I hated to give up my position, but it was very obvious she was going to give birth,” he said, adding, “In 30 years, I’ve never had this happen. It’s not rocket science, but if anything out of the ordinary happened, I wanted the two medics to be in the back of the squad.
“It only made sense to have the higher level of care in the back, and I knew it was the right thing to do,” said Whitmore.
Whitmore, who concentrated on avoiding bumps, learned the baby arrived only after the father, sitting shotgun, said, “It’s here.”
“It was neat. We were more excited than they were. They were more used to it than we were,” said Whitmore, adding, Berry and Cutlip “did a great job.”
“It happens all the time. A lot of people in the county deliver, but it was my first time, and I was pretty excited,” said the 30- year department veteran, adding, “I’m glad to be involved in it before I retire in a couple of months. It was neat.”
Whitmore said he came to the department as a 22-year-old recruit, who had visions of pulling people out of burning buildings. Since then, the department’s focus has settled on squad calls and newcomers are arriving as paramedics.
“You come in with these grand ideas of what you’re going to do or what you might do, and you find out the job is taking care of the trucks, mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms, and you get disillusioned with that at first, but then you come to accept it’s part of the job and it’s just as important as going out and fighting fire.
“There have been a few occasions we get there and have not been able to find pulse, and we’ve brought some people back, but the percentage is not very good,” said Whitmore, adding the recent delivery was “a very nice change with all the nasty stuff throughout the years I’ve seen.
“Of all the people in 30 years — people who didn’t make it — this was really cool to bring a life in rather than losing one. You see the worst of stuff a lot of times, and this was a refreshing change,” he said.Reporter Christine L. Pratt can be reached at 330-287-1643 or e- mail [email protected]