NY Dispatcher Coaches Couple as Baby is Born in Parking Lot

Photo/National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Maki Becker

The Buffalo News, N.Y.

(MCT)

The husband sounded nervous.

“My wife’s in labor. I think she’s actually going to have… just deliver… right now.”

Calling 911 from an empty parking lot near Buffalo Niagara International Airport, he could tell that his wife, Cassandra, wasn’t going to make it to the hospital.

The Cheektowaga public safety dispatcher sounded steady and reassuring.

Dispatcher Jennifer Mazgajewski would help the couple make it through the next eight harrowing minutes — an exchange captured on an audio recording of the 911 call and shared Wednesday by the Cheektowaga Police Department.

It was 1:51 p.m. last Friday, a day past Cassandra’s due date, when she started having contractions. The contractions came about 10 minutes apart when she called her doctor, and Steven and Cassandra, who asked that their last names not be publicized, started heading from their home in Clarence to Sisters Hospital in Buffalo.

Cassandra texted her mom that they were on their way to the hospital, asking her to pick up their son from day care.

As they drove, Cassandra’s contractions rapidly grew closer together and more powerful.

“Then my water broke in the car,” Cassandra recounted to The Buffalo News in a phone interview.

“Are we going to make it to the hospital?” she recalled her husband asking her.

“I said, ‘I hope so,'” Cassandra said.

They were stopped at a red light when the next contraction came and, this being their second baby, Cassandra knew.

“This is it. We’re not going to make it,” she said.

Steven pulled into the lot and ran around to the passenger side of their Toyota Corolla. As Cassandra dialed 911, Steven pulled out the infant car seat strapped behind the passenger seat so Cassandra could recline.

The call was switched over to Mazgajewski, who’s trained in emergency medical dispatch. Fellow dispatchers alerted ambulance and crews.

“How far along is she?” Mazgajewski asked.

“The head’s coming out right now,” Steven said, talking toward the cellphone placed on the dashboard.

“OK. OK. I have the fire department ambulance responding right now. They’re coming in hot,” Mazgajewski said.

The dispatcher wanted to make sure the dad was ready, just in case the paramedics couldn’t make it in time.

“Take a deep breath, OK. I have help on the way. I’m gonna give you some instructions,” she said.

First, she asked him to find a towel or blanket.

She then instructed: “Tell her not to push if she can hold off for a second.”

And again, she assured them: “Help is on the way.”

A few seconds went by. Some of the recording of the 911 call was redacted to protect the family’s privacy. The dispatcher established that Steven had a dry T-shirt ready. Cassandra later explained that he had been wearing it under a sweater.

“Do you have a string or shoelace available to tie, in case the baby comes out, if we have to tie off the umbilical cord?” Mazgajewski asked.

Steven told her he did and pulled out one of his laces.

“Just let me know what she’s doing right now,” the dispatcher asked.

“She’s just holding on,” Steven said.

“If she delivers the baby before help gets there I want you to make sure you hold on to the head and shoulders and firmly hold the baby. And remember, it’s going to be slippery, so do not drop it… You want to have that out — your T-shirt,” Mazgajewski said.

The dispatcher asked Steven to check on his wife again.

“If she has a contraction and starts pushing, let me know,” she said. “I’m going to stay on the phone with you. Take a deep breath. You’re doing really good.”

Cassandra let out a yell. There are a few moments of redacted silence.

“Her head’s out. Her head’s out,” Steven said.

“Her head’s completely out?” the dispatcher said.

“The baby’s out,” Steven announced.

“Is the baby breathing?” the dispatcher asked.

“The baby’s breathing,” Steven said.

Mazgajewski then told Steven to wrap the baby with his T-shirt and gently wipe the baby’s mouth and nose. She started giving him instructions on using the shoelace on the umbilical cord when paramedics arrived.

Then, a little cry can be heard.

“I can hear the baby crying,” the dispatcher said. “Is it a boy or girl? Do we know yet?”

“It’s a girl,” Steven replied.

The baby’s cries grew stronger.

“Oh, well … congratulations,” the dispatcher said.

Steven thanked her and the recording ended.

The paramedics tended to Cassandra and the baby. Together with Steven, they rode in the ambulance to Sisters Hospital.

The baby is just fine, weighing in at 8 pounds 6 ounces and measuring 21.5 inches long, her parents reported.

They named her Alexandra.

On the way to the hospital, Cassandra said she texted her mom: “Didn’t make it to the hospital. Delivered on the side of the road. In the ambulance now. Call you later.”

Her mom texted back immediately.

“Are you kidding me?” her mom wrote.

“No,” Cassandra wrote. “We’re not kidding.”

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