It doesn’t happen every day.
And it’s not something Escalon Community Ambulance Paramedics Vanessa Herrero and Leah Robinson are going to forget anytime soon.
Now, in addition to the long list of medical calls and auto accidents they have responded to, the two paramedics can add the experience of delivering a baby to their résumé.
On duty one recent Sunday morning, a call came in about 7:30 a.m., regarding a woman heading to the Farmington firehouse, with a baby on the way.
“The mom, Lorena Gomez, was visiting family in Farmington when this happened,” explained Escalon Community Ambulance Chief Mike Pitassi. “She was on her way to the hospital but they went to the fire station instead.”
Because it wasn’t the mom’s first child, she knew that she likely would not make it to the hospital before the birth. So Herrero and Robinson headed out to Farmington, where they were able to rendezvous with EMT Jessica Phillips, who was coming in to start an 8 a.m. shift.
They met up at the fire station, with Phillips then taking over as driver of the rig while Herrero and Robinson tended to the expectant mother in the back of the ambulance.
“We actually kind of were (expecting the baby before arriving at the hospital), we were definitely prepared for that baby to come,” Herrero admitted. “It was her third child, she was aware that baby was coming, mom knows best the third time around.”
Herrero, a mother herself, said the expectant mom was a good patient, especially considering the unusual circumstances. And it wasn’t a run-of-the-mill delivery, either.
“I don’t want to call it a complication, but she didn’t have her water break at any time,” Herrero said of the unanticipated turn in the delivery. “It can definitely happen. He (the baby) also had the cord wrapped around his neck, once we got those things under control, the baby was healthy, he had good color, they were both stable. We didn’t have too much longer to go to get to the hospital when he finally came out and joined us.”
Robinson added that Farmington Fire Department personnel were on scene and updated the ECA crew on the situation before sending them on their way to Doctor’s in Modesto. But little Nicholas decided not to wait and Robinson got to participate in the delivery as well, with driver Phillips pulling the ambulance over to a safe spot out of traffic for the actual birth.
“Vanessa has more of the formal Lamaze training, being a mom, so she did more of the calming,” Robinson said, noting that Herrero stayed at mom’s side.
“I was at the receiving end of that ordeal,” Robinson added, chuckling. “Once the baby came out, I was there and as soon as I had opened the amniotic sac and got the cord, Vanessa clamped the cord and I cut it. We were definitely like one, we can work very succinctly.”
It was the first time either of the paramedics had delivered a baby, their youngest patient ever.
“It was just a miracle,” said Robinson. “You go from having one patient to having two, knowing that Ness and I were the first people to engage with this human being … it was really neat.”
Admitting to shedding a few tears afterward, just from the enormity of helping bring a new life into the world, Robinson said there was renewed excitement when mom and child returned later to visit at the ambulance station.
Baby Nicholas weighed in at just a little over seven pounds, though he came a few weeks early. Mother and child both were given a clean bill of health, discharged after a short stay at Doctor’s.
“It’s really nice to see your patients later – we don’t always get the follow up on patients,” Herrero added. “Live births in the ambulance, those are few and far between. Mom was a really good patient and everybody got there in stable condition, we were hoping we would be able to see them again.”
Considering everything that could have gone wrong, Robinson said they were blessed with having things go their way.
“It was not a scary thing, but it was definitely a different experience, especially from the normal call that we run to,” she said. “But with Ness’s experience, her mentorship and guidance, the way we worked as one together, it really went very smoothly.”
The call came in at 7:31 a.m.; mother and newborn were delivered to the care of the hospital at 8:14 a.m.
“The baby was delivered still in the amniotic sac, it wasn’t a normal birth, the medics broke the sac, now the baby is perfectly normal, doing well,” Pitassi said, proud of the work his paramedics did. “They pulled over and delivered the baby, cut the cord, wrapped the baby for warmth, stimulated the baby; he had a great Apgar score.
“So often everything we do can be so dark; it’s nice to have an occasional bright spot in the darkness. This is such a refreshing moment, to have a good story in our line of work, to have one to tell the community about.”
Herrero, who started out as an Explorer, has been with Escalon Community Ambulance for 18 years and is the lead paramedic on the ‘B’ shift. Robinson, also working the ‘B’ shift, has been with ECA for five years.
Herrero said getting the chance to visit with mom and hold baby Nicholas – who returned to the area from their home in Southern California – helped bring it all full circle.
“It’s one of those things you’ll always remember, birthing a baby in an ambulance,” Herrero said. “Incredible to see something of that magnitude happen in front of you.”