I don’t often share much about my personal life through this blog, but I am elated to share with you, my readers, that my wife and I are expecting our first child, a boy, due in January 2018! Admittedly, this is a very happy, hectic, exciting time in our lives, and I can’t help but think back on some of the times that I had the opportunity to share in the beginning of a new life in my EMS career.
I’ve had the privilege of assisting with the delivery of 4 babies in my career. I know plenty of medics who go their entire careers without a single field delivery. I guess I’m just lucky? I do feel that it’s a privilege. Very few calls are so high-acuity, with the potential for SO many things to go wrong, as a childbirth. At the same time, very few calls can be SO thrilling and amazing and emotional when everything goes right and you end up with a healthy baby to hand over to Mom. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, doctors are much better at predicting due dates and monitoring pregnancies as they progress, so field deliveries have become much less common than they were in decades past. However, sometimes things catch you by surprise, sometimes mothers (for some reason) elect to forgo prenatal care, and sometimes it’s just chance that a mother winds up delivering a baby at home or in an ambulance. For the record, if I never have another field delivery in my career, I’d be OK with that. It’s a stressful, messy, high-acuity call, and having been a part of 4 of them, I can say that I truly do appreciate the miracle of life.
The first baby I helped bring into this world was a surprise to everyone, including the mother! I was about as green as you can get as an EMS provider. I was taking my EMT-Basic class at the University of Cincinnati, and I was on my first ride-out shift, observing on a ALS medic unit with the Cincinnati Fire Department. The call was for a female patient with abdominal pain. I was new to EMS, and new to riding in an ambulance, and so with everything going on around me, I barely had time to think about the nature of the call, let alone the possible underlying pathologies (what little I had learned in class at that point, at least). We arrived on-scene to find a rather large, very sweaty, woman in a mumu, shuffling around in front of an apartment building. In my excitement to be on my first, actual EMS scene call, I practically fell out of the ambulance as I tailed my preceptor out of the unit and over to the patient. I tried to take in everything he said and did as he introduced himself, asked the patient some initial questions about the type, location, and severity of the pain, as well as when it started and if anything made it worse or better. Hearing his words forming the primary patient survey I had read and studied in class was already starting to make things click in my sponge of a brain. I heard him ask the patient “is there any chance you could be pregnant?” and thought to myself, at the time, that this was a very forward question to ask a woman with whom one is not at least on a first-name basis yet. (I now know that it’s not only appropriate, but necessary to ask this question of basically any female patient of child-bearing age). The patient denied this possibility, stating that it had been “years and years” since she last had “relations” with any man. Well, needless to say, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, because as the two crew from the ambulance were loading the stretcher into the ambulance, the patient screamed in pain and then said “I think I pooped on myself!” The medic, with all the professionalism he could muster, lifted the patient’s mumu to discover that not only had she NOT pooped on herself, the sensation that she was experiencing was that of a BABY starting to CROWN. (This means that the head is visible at the vaginal opening, for those not aware).
I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
So there I am, Mr. Brand New EMT Student, trying to keep up with two salty, experienced EMS providers, as I learned how to properly assess and treat a patient, on my first ride-out shift, and the run has just taken a crazy turn from the normal to the extreme, as we discovered that not only is this patient unknowingly pregnant, SHE IS IN THE MIDST OF CHILD-BIRTH AND DIDN’T KNOW IT. So, basically, to make a long story slightly less long, I assisted the two CFD medics with delivering a healthy baby boy in the back of the ambulance, which besides the delivery being a miracle in and of itself, the baby being healthy with no prenatal care whatsoever is astounding. Looking back, knowing what I know now, it’s a wonder that any number of things didn’t go horribly, horribly wrong during that delivery, given the completely unprepared and unexpected situation we found ourselves in.
Since that fateful, stressful, interesting day, I have also delivered a baby in a living room, in the back of an ambulance on the side of a highway, and in the backseat of a Dodge Durango. Three of the four patients never followed up with me or my department, but one of them, the parents named their son’s middle name David, after me, for assisting with the delivery of their child. THAT is quite the honor. I have delivered babies as a student, as an EMT, and as a Paramedic. Each situation brought with it a new set of challenges and questions, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that each time I have been in that situation, it has had a positive outcome. I think that’s why we call it the “miracle” of life, because so much can go wrong, and it’s so amazing when everything goes right.
With any luck, my wife and I will welcome our son into this world in the clean, calm environment of a delivery suite at a hospital, with nary an ambulance or Paramedic in sight. (Except, of course, yours truly, acting in a completely NON-paramedic role that day!)