When Esther Nielsen delivered her first child at home two years ago, she was in labor for 13 hours, which gave the midwife driving to Gillette from Rapid City, South Dakota, plenty of time to arrive.
So when she went into labor with her second child Oct. 24, she wasn’t worried — until this baby started coming much quicker than expected. That compounded with bad weather meant the midwife wasn’t going to make it on time for the delivery.
“It was a stormy night and really foggy, so she had to drive slower to get here,” Nielsen said. “I was on the phone with her the whole time, and she suggested to play it safe, I should have some kind of medical assistance here if something were to happen.”
Nielsen and husband Jerry Steed made the call and emergency services were quickly on site, making sure the planned home birth went smoothly.
Rushing To The Scene
Campbell County sheriff’s deputy Jeremy Hatcher was just a short distance away when the call came in and was the first on scene, which is a short distance outside Gillette city limits.
“I thought the best thing I could do is find the house and keep my lights on so EMS and fire could find the house because it was kind of hard to find,” he said. “Luckily, about two or three minutes later they got there because I wouldn't have been able to handle (a birth) myself.”
Next on the scene were Rob Dickey, Matthew Gray and Sam Newton from Campbell County Fire’s Station 3 B-Shift. The firefighters assessed the scene before EMS arrived. Dickey said Gray and his wife had recently delivered a baby at home as well and knew what to expect.
When paramedic Lisa Gunyan and EMT Duane Barker arrived, they grabbed all the equipment they could carry and headed into the house. A midwife assistant was on scene and gave them an update on Nielsen’s progress. While Gunyan assessed her condition, Barker ran back out to grab more equipment, including the neonatal resuscitation box.
“I have previously delivered one baby in the back of an ambulance,” Gunyan said. “And then going through paramedic school we had to do shifts on OB and assist with deliveries there as well.”
A Baby Is Born
Nielsen said it felt like she had a big audience during her delivery, but she “didn’t really care at that point.”
“I obviously knew that they were all there and was glad to have them there,” she said. “They were really professional and stood by in case something happened.”
It was about 40 minutes later that a healthy baby girl entered the world, about two hours after her labor began.
“It was a good delivery, and we really didn't have to intervene much at all,” Gunyan said.
Barker said hearing the baby cry was a relief.
“As medical personnel, we’ve got to prepare for the worst,” he said. “But the baby came out, and within a minute or two she had gained her color and she was screaming.”
Dickey and the firefighters also were relieved when the baby arrived. He said he’d been involved in another home birth that wasn’t intentional and it was a much more tense situation.
“This was all planned and everything seemed to be going smoothly,” he said. “When the birth happens and you hear the baby cry, you can somewhat take a breath.”
The midwife arrived shortly after the baby girl made her entry into the world and took over Nielsen’s care from there.
“It was kind of funny because I'd asked her if she had missed any births being that far out and she was like, ‘Nope, I still haven't missed any births in Gillette,’” Nielsen said. “Then it happened. She told me she had really wanted to be there to catch my baby, but now we at least have a good story to tell.”
For their efforts, a sheriff’s deputy, three firefighters and two EMTs were recently presented with STORK Awards by the Wyoming Office of Emergency Medical Services.
The Wyoming Field Delivery Recognition Program, aka STORK, is designed to recognize people who helped bring a new life into the world. They received a pin featuring a gold stork on a silver Star of Life, a certificate and a signature numbered coin.
“What really excited me was that we got to include the fire guys and Jeremy as well,” Barker said. “I think everybody had a very important role. And to be perfectly honest, I don't think that scene could have run any smoother than what it did. So everybody deserved recognition.”