This is a guest post written by a firemedic and father of a young man I met this year in Arizona who reads this blog.
I am a retired captain for the Tucson Fire Department but before this I was a paramedic. It was during this time that I worked one of the most memorable and life changing moments of my career. The incident was on Friday, Sept. 21, 1990. Being my 29th birthday, I’ll never forget the most unusual gift I have ever received from The Lord who truly works in mysterious ways.
That Friday I arrived to work at Station 10 in the late afternoon. Our shift are 24 hours long but being my birthday I took the first half off to be with family. Once at work, I loaded my gear on Medic 10 and not a minute later a call came in for Engine 10 and Medic 10 to a house in the Vistas. The call was for a women screaming in pain. On the way we heard that the call came in from the mother of the patient. She said that her daughter locked herself in the bedroom and was screaming in pain. We didn’t know what to expect since the patient wouldn’t tell her mother what was wrong. I looked to my senior partner Keith for direction and with a shrug he said, “Well, let’s see what we get.”
We got to the house and immediately the mother ran to tell us, “She told me that she wasn’t pregnant but then she just had the baby.” Bewildered, I ran into the other room while telling a Firefighter on the Engine, “Bobby go get the OB Kit, and Joe get another medic for the mom.” The OB kit is what we take in with us on labor calls. Joe was the Captain on the Engine.
Coming into the room we found the patient, a 24 year old African-American women on a bed with a newborn baby still attached to her umbilical cord. On the floor next to the bed Keith saw a coat hanger. It was flattened out straight with fluid and other blood still dripping from the side. He said, “Look, I think she was trying to abort the baby.” The baby was not moving or crying at this time. Keith said, “Looks like she got what she wanted—this baby is dead.”
The mother was laying in the bed saying, “It’s not my baby, it’s not my baby.” She was saying this with her unmoving baby outside her who was attached to the umbilical cord still inside her.
Amidst her protestations I went to assess the boy. He was not breathing or moving, with no traumatic injuries on the head or body. Feeling his chest, I felt a weak heart beat. Startled, I shouted: “Quiet everybody!” I listened for heart tones and was able to detect some. They were weak and muffled but I knew he was still alive. Without thinking twice, I knelt down next to the baby and began to give him mouth-to-mouth. The first breath didn’t go very far, so the second time I took the deepest breath I could muster and blew hard and fast into his chest. This time I felt his chest expand like a balloon and could feel his lungs move in sync with my breath. I felt like we were making progress but we needed to get moving, unfortunately Bobby couldn’t find the OB kit, so without a minute to waste I improvised. I took out my hemostat, clamped the umbilical cord close to the baby I got another hemostat from Keith. Once the cord was clamped on both sides I could use my trauma shears to cut the cord. Totally out of procedure but just right in the nick of time.
I now picked the boy up and started for the truck, doing mouth to mouth as along the way. Saying, “Joe, check on the mother and tell Paramedic 14 we took the baby to Kino and we’re taking Bobby to drive us in.” Up to this point we had not assessed the mother at all. Joe said, “Sure, take off, we got this.”
En-route to Kino hospital we intubated the child and his airway was secured. He started to move some but was still not trying to breath. Thankfully at the hospital he improved and we later found out that he did ok and was transferred to UMC be with his mom who still denied having a baby at all.
The following shift, which would have been a Sunday, my immediate supervisor Capt. Dan had heard about the call. He came from Station 01 to talk to us and had some questions. His questions related to why formal procedures where not followed. Why was mouth-to-mouth done, why was the OB kit not with the crew and where was the airway bag? He stated that medics are supposed to take these items with them on labor calls. He was questioning mostly me, since I was the one leading the call and doing the procedures not followed.
Capt. Joe then stated, “That equipment was not brought in because the call came in as a sick person. Did you go over the call yet and find out that it was not a woman in labor?” Dan stated that he had not. Then Capt. Joe said, “Your here trying to bring Pena down, for doing mouth to mouth or not using the OB kit to cut the cord. Let me tell you if he had waited for the right equipment that baby would have died. I think Chris did the right thing and that little boy is alive because he did. He should be given a thumbs up not a kick in the ass.”
Capt. Dan understood and had no more questions for us, but told me that since I did mouth to mouth I’ll need to be tested for HIV and that the mother and baby would be tested as well. This is a procedure that was done whenever direct skin contact was made, we all tested negative.
This was a memorable call for me because it was a life or death call. While procedures and all other sorts of man made customs can have their place they should never take second place to my obligation to save the patient no matter his size, and no matter my personal risk. God be the glory since it was he who directed me and gave the right calls when I needed them the most. Every day at work I would start by asking God for guidance. But I’ll never forget that fateful day when He guided me to the best of birthday gifts, to participate in the immeasurable gift of life.
Non Nobis Domine