Fort Drum 911 dispatchers, MP help woman deliver baby in bathtub
February 11, 2010
- Fort Drum 911 dispatchers, MP help woman deliver baby in bathtub
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - On a snowy night last month in the Crescent Woods area of Fort Drum, a baby boy received a police escort into this world.
With the calm voice of Fort Drum 911 dispatcher George A. Turner in her ear, military policewoman Spc. Tara Shvetzov, a traffic accident investigator for U.S. Army Garrison, rushed down an icy Chapel Drive, climbed the stairs of a stranger's house and found a woman lying in a tub.
At 5:04 a.m., Shvetzov threw out her hands.
"She pushed, and out popped this head. One more push and out pops (the baby) into my hands. I pretty much just caught him," said Shvetzov of her first such experience.
It turns out the newborn's mother, Courtney Rafferty, whose husband is deployed to Iraq with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, was not too surprised by the impromptu birth of her son, Deaglan.
"I had a fast one with my 13-month-old and just barely made it to the hospital," Rafferty said. "So I knew this one was going to be even faster. But I wasn't expecting 10 minutes."
Turner said the call with "blood-curdling screams" came in to Fort Drum's 911 call center around 4:55 a.m. Jan. 4.
He said at first, he feared a case of domestic violence. But once Rafferty returned to the telephone and said she was in labor, he tapped Shvetzov, the mother of a 4-year-old girl, to respond to the emergency.
"He tells me a woman's in labor and the baby is crowning and I'm like, 'You are so joking. You have to be joking,'" said Shvetzov, who began her shift that day at 4:30 a.m. and was cleaning the snow off her truck.
Shvetzov said when she arrived at the Crescent Woods home, the front door was unlocked. She yelled her name and rank up the quiet staircase and said she did not hear any sounds.
As she entered the master bedroom, she said she felt unusually composed.
"I don't know what happened. I don't know if it's instinct or what," she said. "But the second I got in there, everything felt quiet and calm, and I felt like I had done this a thousand times.
"All this (adrenaline)," she added, "it was like a calming effect, and I was ready to get down to business."
Shvetzov discovered Rafferty in the master bathroom. After taking her pulse and asking how close her contractions were, Shvetzov said Rafferty's "entire stomach was sucked down" as she suddenly began pushing.
Once the wet and slippery newborn was in her arms and she realized the reality of the situation, Shvetzov said she shook uncontrollably. She said she handed the newborn off to a firefighter, who arrived seconds later, and then ran down the stairs to take in the cold morning air.
"I come to work and I'm prepared for traffic accidents, injuries, crazy deer accidents, domestics," she said. "Never once has 'baby' popped into my head - ever."
"What amazed me was that when I deployed to Iraq, I saw some gory stuff," she added. "But this was so different, because it's like 'Oh my God, a little life. Don't break it. Don't hurt it. Let's make this work.'"
Fort Drum firefighter John Smith said he arrived on the scene just as Shvetzov caught and quickly handed him the baby, who appeared to be in distress.
After giving the baby two quick breaths, Smith said he rode with the newborn in the ambulance, where the baby "pinkened up" and "wiggled around" after more oxygen was administered.
"He never did cry," Smith said. "But at least his eyes were wide open."
A second ambulance was called for Rafferty, who was stabilizing.
For the 911 dispatchers who took the call that morning, the event that left Shvetzov and others spinning with adrenaline was not so out of the ordinary.
Turner, who assisted with the birth of twins in a hospital but never over the phone, said he had the help of his fellow 911 dispatcher, Brenda George, who helped deliver a baby over the phone once before.
George said she yelled out questions for Turner to ask as she scrambled to dispatch the ambulance and fire truck.
Turner said the dramatic call lasted about 10 minutes. Between contractions, he said Rafferty told him the baby was full-term, that she had two other boys, and that her husband was deployed.
"I was concerned about her safety and the baby's safety, and that was it," Turner said. "I didn't care who got there. I just thought Tara because 'female - baby - experience.'
"We have some young MPs out there who are 18 or 19 years old. A mom having a baby is going to be more comfortable with a woman (at her side)."
Turner said everyone breathed a sigh of relief when they heard the newborn and mother were healthy before either one reached the hospital.
Kevin Fuhrken, director of the 911 call center on Fort Drum, said the incident was the first time any of his 15 dispatchers talked a woman and police officer through a delivery in the nearly four years that he has been in charge.
"Dispatcher Turner did an excellent job," Fuhrken said. "With his training and his background, I wouldn't expect anything less."
Fuhrken added that his dispatchers face demanding emergencies on a daily basis.
"If this baby had been born in an ambulance, you probably wouldn't have ever heard of it," he said.
For their outstanding performances, Shvetzov was recommended for the Army Commendation Medal, while Turner and George were both recommended for the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service.
Officials with the Fort Drum Directorate of Emergency Services invited Rafferty to the Military Police Station on Tuesday morning to meet those involved with the birth and to present her with a gift of baby items.
"Every day, these guys do this kind of stuff," Joseph Margrey, director of emergency services, said of the men and women gathered on Tuesday. "They do it without any type of reward or accolades.
"As a director, I really appreciate everything they do, every day," he said.
Six days after his son was born, Sgt. Shawn Rafferty returned to Fort Drum on two weeks of leave to spend time with his Family.