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Fire department crew delivers baby in ambulance

Posted: June 24, 2012 - 12:09am

A Capital City Fire and Rescue ambulance crew delivered a baby — who arrived four weeks early — in the back of an ambulance while en route to the hospital earlier this week.

The crew had just returned to headquarters at Glacier Station Tuesday evening after checking out a fire alarm at the university when they received a report of a woman in labor.

“We just got back to quarters, and we just jumped back into the ambulance,” Jason Tarver, the ambulance driver, said.

Tarver, Fire Captain Chad Cameron, firefighters/paramedics Lance Lawhorne and Paul Kelly and volunteer firefighter/EMT Panah Mehrabad drove to the woman’s house on Amalga Street off Mendenhall Loop Road at about 5:30 p.m.

They found her curled up in the fetal position near the upstairs bathroom hall with her significant other, her mother and two children.

“She was screaming in pain,” Cameron said. “They said then the contractions were about four minutes apart, but just kind of eyeballing it, I was guessing two minutes, maybe less.”

The crew cleared the staircase and lifted the woman downstairs in a special “stair chair.” They carried her all the way to the ambulance where she was placed on a gurney.

That took about eight to 10 minutes, and by that time, another 911 call came in to help a person with a broken hip off a charter boat.

Cameron and Mehrabad responded to that call as Tarver, Lawhorne and Kelly drove the woman to the hospital, which was about 15 minutes away.

“We went way ‘emergent,’ a little bit above the speed limit,” Tarver chuckled, saying the ride lasted about eight to 12 minutes long.

In the back of the ambulance, Lawhorne was encouraging the woman not to push as he got his gown and goggles on.

When he was ready, he told the woman “You gotta push,” Tarver remembered.

“He said, you can push now if you want,” Cameron said.

“That’s what it was, yeah, something about pushing. And then Boom! A baby,” Tarver said.

“She broke water and the head came out all in one fell swoosh, which is kind of atypical,” Cameron added.

Lawhorne, who was not available for an interview this week, clamped the umbilical cord and Kelly cut it. The baby was born as the ambulance was passing Twin Lakes.

The mom was initially concerned because the baby was born premature, but the baby was perfectly healthy.

“She was awesome, she did all the work,” Tarver said of the mom, whose name was not released due to privacy laws. “I mean, the mom was a champ.”

The O.B. Kit, which is in the back of every ambulance, had a baby hat inside, which they placed on the baby.

At the hospital, the mother was doing great, they said.

“Mom was doing good, Mom was very appreciative,” Tarver said.

Dad met them at the hospital, and “was excited as can be,” Tarver said.

The baby was medevaced to Anchorage along with the father, which is standard for babies who are born premature as a precautionary measure.

As the mom waited for the helicopter, she thanked the nurses, medevac team and the firefighters for their help.

“Everybody stood in line and Mom went from person to person hugging and thanking, hugging and thanking,” Tarver said.

CCFR has delivered babies at homes before, but never in the back of an ambulance, Cameron said. In fact, they’re really not supposed to deliver in ambulances, he said.

“What’s funny is a month ago, we just had training on O.B., recurrent training, and the big push was we don’t have babies in the backs of ambulances. We have them on scene or at the hospital,” Cameron said.

“It’s a gamble,” Tarver explained, “It’s small. It’s confined space. You’re moving, you’re going — it’s just a lot more hazards, a lot more risk involved. So we prefer on scene or definitely a sterile environment like the hospital.”

This was Tarver’s second delivery in Juneau. The first one was about two or three years ago when a mom delivered at home.

“It’s an amazing thing to see a baby being born. It’s life, nothing medical,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see life like that.”

Cameron has actually been on scene for seven deliveries, but none in Juneau. Those were all in Denver.

“Typically, delivering a baby is a once-in-a-career thing,” Cameron added.

This was Hawthorne’s first delivery, they said.

Tarver recalled, “Lance said afterward ‘This is the best call of my career.’”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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