The delivery of a beautiful baby boy was perfect timing for Suffolk County Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services EMD Justin Russo.
Not only was the baby his first delivery over the phone but the baby was born on Russo’s first wedding anniversary. Call the birth on May 31 a sign or a coincidence, but it certainly heralded a resounding bright moment in a part of the country slowly coming out of a coronavirus shutdown.
The baby’s father, however, was not so enamored by the moment. At least initially.
“He was in complete panic,” said Russo, who was working his regular overnight shift when the call came in at about 2:40 a.m. Russo started PAIs, and eight minutes later, the mom was holding the baby and reminding the dad to make sure EMS knew they lived in a basement apartment.
The mom’s pragmatism provided Russo with welcomed respite following tense moments of silence on the other end of the line. Worst case scenarios gripped Russo. Thoughts were running through his head. What could have happened?
Then came the sound eagerly anticipated. He heard the baby’s piercing cry over his headset.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “Music to my ears.”
Police pulled up and before Russo could disconnect, the father thanked him repeatedly. Their gratitude spilled over to a larger audience through Facebook.
A picture of a beautiful baby boy swaddled in a white blanket that was sent from the new mom is posted on Jessica Russo’s Facebook page. The mom’s message reads, in part: I was screaming. My husband was nervous and your husband calmed my husband down and got us through this crazy experience.
Jessica replied with a congratulatory note, and the mom once again thanked Justin with the message: We will forever be grateful.
Justin Russo makes it a point to stay completely calm. It’s his way of keeping the situation under control so that the people on the other side of the call stay focused and do exactly what he says. In the baby call, he instructed the dad to lay his wife on her back on the floor. The baby delivered and Russo was about to give instructions to “tie the cord with a string” when help arrived on scene.
The entire event—from the second he picked up the call to the Facebook message—could not have come at a better time, Russo said.
“It was incredible to get such a positive call with all the dark gloomy times going on in the country and world,” he said.
The ironic part, he said, was initially asking for the day off to celebrate his and Jessica’s first anniversary. Due to call volume, however, his request was turned down. But no matter. The baby’s birth changed the day’s dynamics, and he went home after the night shift feeling refreshed.
“That’s what I really like about dispatch,” he said. “You’re helping people tremendously in the moment by keeping them calm and giving them the best instructions.”
Like in many parts the state, the coronavirus hit Suffolk County hard. Welcome relief came in mid-June when Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported 47 new COVID-19 cases and zero new COVID-19 deaths—a milestone for a county that so far had lost 1,945 people to the virus.1
“We’re just coming down now from the virus,” Russo said. “It’s been tough. So many calls and a lot of people who might not make it. It’s great we’re getting past all that.”
Russo has been a certified EMD for over four years and is a lieutenant with the Farmingville Volunteer Fire Department, Farmingville, New York. This was his first baby delivery. Suffolk County Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services serves the 1.6 million residents of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York (USA).
1 Rajamani M. “Suffolk County goes 24 hours without a COVID-19 death: Bellone.” 1010 Wins. Radio.com. 2020; June 12. https://1010wins.radio.com/articles/suffolk-county-goes-24-hours-without-a-covid-19-death (accessed June 15, 2020).
Audrey Fraizer is Managing Editor of the Journal.