Quick thinking guard helps deliver baby at JBLM gate
April 4, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- She was born Sophia Hope Hernandez. But for the first couple days of life, she was known simply as the "gate baby."
The baby girl made an early debut -- four days to be exact -- at JBLM's Madigan Army Medical Center gate March 27.
Dionne Hernandez, an Army spouse stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, was at her mother's house in Spanaway, Wash. when her water broke. Yvonne Chisa rushed her daughter to Madigan, but Sophia just couldn't wait. With the quick thinking and assistance of a 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Soldier and a civilian gate guard, Sophia Hope was born at about 9:30 p.m. in the front seat of Chisa's van.
"They took charge of the situation," Chisa said. "It was so much of a relief to know, even though they said they'd never had a baby birth before, they totally took charge. They made us feel reassured that we didn't have to worry anymore. They can handle emergencies of all kinds."
Hernandez's first pregnancy was an easy one. She didn't experience morning sickness or swelling, and her first contractions began March 27 -- Sophia's birth day. Hernandez was getting out of the shower that evening when her water broke. As Chisa drove Hernandez to the hospital, the mom-to-be could feel the baby crowning as they approached the gate.
Chisa explained to the gate guard her daughter was in labor and parked the van by the guard house while a guard called in a medical emergency. Chisa described the next 20 minutes as mayhem.
Officer William Britton had an hour left on his shift and Pvt. Marvin Frisby was on break from guard duty when the van pulled in. Frisby, a Soldier with the 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., is a certified emergency medical technician, but never worked as one.
"I learned what I was supposed to do, but I had never done it," Frisby said.
The Soldier and Britton ran outside to the van and began directing Hernandez to the back seat of the van where she would be more comfortable, but as Hernandez turned to move, Sophia entered the world. Hernandez caught her in a pajama pant leg and held her there while Britton and Frisby unwound the umbilical cord wrapped around Sophia's neck.
"It went by really fast," Frisby said. "I was just trying to fall back on what the next step was."
The young Soldier had barely served a year before delivering a baby while on duty. He said the experience validated his aspiration to become a nurse. Hernandez and Chisa said they are grateful for his initiative during the delivery.
"We have a really good outcome because he did all the right steps," Chisa said. "If he didn't act quickly, it could have been another situation."
Britton has been a civilian gate guard for about five years, and said the experience is a unique first for him.
"This was one time I went home after work and felt really good about what had transpired that day," he said.
Just minutes after Sophia was delivered, Capt. Aaron Birch, a Madigan emergency room doctor, was entering the gate to start his night shift. He pulled over and assisted Hernandez and Sophia until the ambulance arrived. Once they were settled in at Madigan, word quickly spread about the baby born at the gate.
"When I would check in they would say, 'Oh, you're here to see the gate baby,'" Chisa said.
Hernandez's husband, Kevin Hernandez, is deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. The couple planned for Dionne to send Kevin an emergency Red Cross message when her water broke and another message once the baby was born.
"I figured I'd have more time, but she just came so fast I didn't have time to tell anyone," she said.
After Sophia was born, Dionne notified her husband through a Facebook message, where she also posted a photo of their 5 pound, 15 ounce newborn.
"She looks like her daddy," Chisa said.
Dionne moved up to Spanaway to stay with her Family and await the baby's birth during the deployment. Once the Hernandez Family is reunited, the three will return to Texas and then move on to Alaska.