LANDSTUHL, Germany - On a cool April evening, Tammy Abell, had just finished her shift at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center when an unexpected emergent patient made her work overtime, outside the hospital.
Following her shift, Abell had picked up her son from his job and they were driving home discussing how she had to get some rest to prepare for the following work day.
“I had just gotten in bed and was falling asleep when I heard my dogs start barking and my son yell, ‘Mom, Mom,’ so I got up and then heard my German neighbor say ‘Please hurry’,” recollects Abell, who serves as chief of Nursing Supervision at LRMC. “All I heard was the urgency in his voice. I grabbed a pair of mermaid pajamas and ran out the door,” disregarding the viral threat of COVID-19."
As Abell raced to assist, her first thoughts were something had happened to one of the neighbor’s children. Abell was shocked when she learned what the emergency was.
“When I got to the door, it was open but there was nobody there,” said Abell. “The lights were on and I yelled, ‘Hello?’. There were no children around, there was nobody and I asked myself, ‘what is going on?’.”
She then heard her neighbor call and began following the voice to the upstairs bathroom where the scene unfolded as she neared the doorway.
“I saw (the neighbor’s wife) in the tub, just rocking and he was standing there, saying ‘Baby is coming, baby is coming! I didn't even know his wife was pregnant because I didn't really see her much,” explains Abell.
Abell immediately went into flight nurse mode and began assigning tasks to the frantic husband, who was overcome with uncertainty, while assessing mom’s condition. All the while, Abell continued to speak in a calming, supportive manner.
“That's one of the skills I’ve learned during (situations like this): you got to be very calm,” explains Abell.
As the husband began calling the ambulance, the baby was delivered.
While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Abell says she examined and wiped off the baby, wrapped it in a blanket. She also continued to care for the mother, ensuring there weren’t any complications during the birth, while continuing to task the husband.
Once paramedics arrived, Abell noticed they were in full personnel protective equipment, reminding her of the ongoing global pandemic.
“I gave the doctor from the ambulance a full report and he had a (dubious look) on his face because the baby was wrapped, cord was clamped, I did everything I could,” said Abell. “I told him I used to be a flight nurse, and then he realized why I had done so much. He then said ‘good job’.”
Although Abell thought her “job” was done, she soon found out it wasn’t.
Because mom had yet to deliver the placenta and was still bleeding, the medical staff feared postpartum hemorrhaging so they rushed her away in the ambulance, leaving the newborn behind with Abell and her neighbor until another ambulance would come by to pick him up.
“She (the mom) was fairly sick but turned around the next day and was good. She came home on Easter morning,” recalls Abell.
Following the second ambulance’s arrival, Abell gave another report to the medical staff and they took the healthy baby to the nearby Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for observation. Finally, Abell was truly off her shift and went back home.
“I went home thinking that was the strangest thing,” said Abell.
Abell’s interest in nursing came after witnessing the empathy and kindness the occupation required; acts she witnessed during the care for her cancer-ridden mother.
“When she was in the hospital, the nurse taking care of her was compassionate. This nurse didn't treat my mom like she was going to die; she treated her like a person,” said Abell, an emergency medical technician at the time. “I remember thinking that's how I want to treat people, and that's what I want to do. So I decided I would become a nurse.”
Throughout her medical career, Abell has worked various positions to include as a critical care flight nurse, treating various cases from bear and moose attacks to emergency pediatric.
“I did like to work around children and used to transport sick children who were diagnosed with cancer,” said Abell. “I always treated them like people and not like a diagnosis and that’s always been my goal as a nurse.”
Additionally, Abell’s own experiences with her children have added to her empathetic work ethic.
“My son has cerebral palsy and it's been a long struggle in his life. When he was young, we were told he was going to die but he's had surgery upon surgery and he's thriving. He's done a great job,” said Abell, a mother of four, whose son recently graduated from high school.
While Abell has now moved to a new house, her former neighbors still invite the family over for activities and state they miss having her as a neighbor and believe she was meant to be their neighbor and meant to be there to help deliver the baby.
Although not a Labor and Delivery nurse by trade, Abell’s latest delivery marks the third baby she’s delivered outside a hospital and the eighth overall.
“I couldn't ask for better neighbors but that was a shock that night for sure,” said Abell. “I'm glad that I was home.”