Everyday Heroes: Honoring Those Who Also Serve (Part II: Emergency Medical Services)
“It was snowing so heavily, we had to get right next to each mailbox in order to see the house number. We finally made it and found a woman in labor…”
Last week, this column focused on National Police Week, the Police Unity Tour and a memorable rescue of a teenage girl.
This week, focus shifts to the 38th annual National Emergency Medical Services Week and one particularly poignant rescue by our own South Brunswick EMS volunteers. Both events occur at the same time – May 15-21 – and are worthy of public attention.
Honoring Extraordinary Service
National EMS Week is organized by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and, in their words, it “brings together local communities and medical personnel to publicize safety and honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine’s “front line.”
The National EMS Week theme for 2011 is “Everyday Heroes” and celebrates the day-to-day services provided by EMS personnel that often take place under very challenging situations.
One such event involved the birth of a baby in blizzard conditions 30 years ago and was contributed by Alfred Low-Beer of the Kendall Park First Aid and Rescue Squad.
A Special Delivery
“While I have been on many interesting calls, the most memorable was on the Friday night of President’s Day back in 1982. A blizzard had started about noon, and by 6 p.m. the Kendall Park First Aid and Rescue Squad (KPFARS) had mobilized a crew to stay at the squad building overnight.
“About 9 p.m. we got a call for a woman in labor. It was snowing heavily at the time, and we responded very cautiously. The crew was Pat O’Brien, Tom Kuster, Ralph Cusano, and me.
“The address was in Griggstown. New Road and Bunker Hill Road were okay, but the side roads were not plowed and had about two feet of snow on them.
“Ralph was driving, and we were doing okay until we reached a T-intersection. When Ralph tried to turn, only the back end of the ambulance moved, and it took down a mailbox. Pat and I grabbed all the gear we might need and went to find the house, leaving Ralph and Tom to get the ambulance unstuck.
“It was snowing so heavily, we had to get right next to each mailbox in order to see the house number. We finally made it and found a woman in labor. When she started having contractions, her husband drove her and their child to a friend’s house, thinking they would then drive to the hospital.
“Unfortunately, when they got back to their car it was stuck in the snow. They went back inside [the friend’s house], and shortly after, her membranes broke and contractions came faster. She had been sitting on their friend’s convertible sofa when it happened, so we opened it to make the woman more comfortable and saw that the baby was crowning.
“We did not even have an ambulance at this point so we knew we would be delivering the baby right there. Even though Pat and I were both EMT’s [emergency medical technicians], neither of us had ever delivered a baby (I now have delivered eight).
“I was in my mid-twenties and Pat was a couple of years younger. We followed our training, and the baby boy was born without event. I do not remember if we had the father cut the cord or if we did.
“We called Middlesex General Hospital (which is now Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital) to inform them of the birth and that we would eventually get there. We then called South Brunswick Police and told them we needed a snow plow ASAP and we did not care what town it came from.
“We then delivered the placenta and as we were finishing, we saw the flashing lights of our ambulance. Apparently the owner of the mailbox heard us hit it and came out to investigate. When he realized what was going on, he brought a couple of pieces of carpet remnant to put under the rear ambulance tires to get traction. I do not think he was ever reimbursed for his mailbox post, but he was a big help.
“With the ambulance there, we were able to put the mother and newborn on the cot. At that point a Franklin Township Police officer arrived, who said the roads were really bad. The South Brunswick township plow came soon after.
“Our crew and the police officer loaded the mother and infant into the ambulance along with the father and off we went to the hospital with the plow in front of us. When we turned down the side street leading to the emergency entrance, we saw it had not been plowed and was blocked by stuck cars.
“We removed the stretcher from our rig and carried it through knee-high snow for a block. Mom, dad and newborn son arrived in perfect health and were very grateful. On the way back to Kendall Park, we transported a couple of nurses who lived off Route 27 home, because they had been working 24 hours and could not get their cars out of the snowed-in hospital parking lot.
“About 10 years ago, one of our squad members told me that he had been at a Community Unity Day township celebration and met a mother and her 18-year-old son, who she said was delivered in a snow storm by the squad.
“I told him I remembered that call and had been there.”
South Brunswick is fortunate to have three volunteer squads who give up their free time to help township residents who are injured or sick.
There is also a paid paramedic service station in the municipal complex. Although these paramedics are salaried, their expertise is priceless.
There are many ways to say thank you to these everyday heroes. If you have ever been taken to a hospital in an ambulance, write out a note card and mail it to the squad or the paramedics.
And for sure, when you receive an envelope in the mail from each of our local first-aid squads, take a moment to read it and — if you are able — please make a donation.
You can learn more about each township squad at:
Kendall Park First Aid and Rescue Squad: http://www.kpfars.org
Kingston First Aid Squad: http://kfars.org
Monmouth Junction First Aid Squad: http://mjfas.org