By Audrey Fraizer
Maybe it was all for the better that no one stopped to ask why the Lincoln Navigator was parked on the side of the road during rush hour at the gates of Fort Bragg military base on Feb. 6, or that no one bothered to call 9-1-1 to report a guy who was leaning suspiciously over his front-seat passenger.
Maybe it was lucky that the SUV did not attract undue attention, with a line of cars stacked along the road with curious onlookers peering into the windows.
It was bad enough that this was a first for the driver, and his attention most carefully focused on the modesty—or perhaps the discomfort—of his wife’s pending situation. He didn’t need anyone else complicating his second child’s birth, it was already complicated enough.
“The first thing we heard (when answering the 9-1-1 call) was a guy saying, ‘I don’t think my wife’s going to make it,’” said EMD Kerrie Ruppert, Fayetteville (N.C.) 911 Communication Center. “No way did we think it was going to be a baby delivery.”
But a baby almost on board it was. Although the caller was hesitant to take the necessary first step of checking the delivery’s status—which is where the discomfort part comes in particular—he relented, following a fervent apology to his wife.
“I see the hair, the head is out,” he told Ruppert.
As Ruppert said, she swept into “baby mode,” taking over the call from her trainee of two days, switching to the ProQA baby delivery Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs), and getting the baby on board at about the same time firefighters arrived on scene in rush hour traffic.
Despite fleeting reservations, the delivery went very well, maybe better than anticipated if there had been time to anticipate anything at all. Mom wasn’t saying much—at least nothing Ruppert could understand—and dad, a civilian contractor at the base, was calmly and responsively following Ruppert’s every instruction. Their other child was sitting buckled into a carrier in the backseat, crying on pitch to her mother’s clear expression of pain.
Ruppert kept her cool.
“I must have said ‘okay’ to the dad a thousand times,” Ruppert said, based on the audio of the call she listened to later. “But that’s okay because it was reassuring to him. It made it so we walked through everything easily.”
Eight minutes later on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 6, mom and baby were on board the ambulance and on their way to the hospital, and none too soon according to a dad apprehensive of delivery steps beyond tying off the umbilical cord with his shoelace. He heard the sirens approaching and that was the end of the call. Their infant daughter was wrapped in a sweater that as a probable keepsake will never make the donation boxes.
The call made the day for the Fayetteville communication center.
“We were all excited, especially when we heard the baby take her first breath,” Ruppert said, referring to the team of four dispatchers and four calltakers on the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. “This was the first time in my years at the center that we’ve used ProQA to deliver a baby. We are a team. We did this together.”
Ruppert started in dispatch 13 years ago when a robbery at the gas station where she was working convinced her to pursue other career options. Since both her parents have career military backgrounds, and her mom is a crime prevention specialist in the Fayetteville Police Department, they convinced their only daughter to submit an application for an opening in emergency communications.
For Ruppert, there’s no going back.
“I love this,” she said. “We’re truly the first ones there giving help, and if sometimes it’s just people wanting someone to talk to because they’re scared, I’m okay with that too.”
As far as another baby delivery? Ruppert said she’s okay if that doesn’t happen for awhile, although her introductory call to baby delivery is one that she doesn’t hesitate to talk about.
“This was awesome,” she said. “I’m really proud of what we did.”
The Fayetteville 911 Communication Center is responsible for dispatching police and fire within the city’s limits and the Cumberland County Emergency Operations Center is responsible for dispatching for the sheriff’s office, as well as Hope Mills and Spring Lake police, ambulance service, and volunteer fire departments. The center has been using MPDS since June 1, 2011.