A B.C. Interior woman delivered her baby in the front seat of a minivan while a BCEHS dispatch operator in Vancouver provided childbirth directions over speaker phone to her and her mom.
“Luckily we pulled over in a spot on the Likely Road that had cell phone coverage and called,” said the newborn’s mom, Brittany Lee of Likely, B.C.
“We put the phone on the dash and the guy on the phone walked us through it.”
Brittany was expecting her baby on March 16, but on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 28, she started getting contractions.
“It happened really fast. I thought I had more time. But probably from the first time I felt a contraction-contraction they were 20 minutes apart.”
By the time she and her mom, Angie Lee, set out to make the one-hour drive to Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Williams Lake, the contractions were coming every five minutes.
Soon after they passed the Big Lake store, Brittany told her mom to pull over because she felt the urge to push.
“At first she said to me, ‘did your water break? I said, ‘well, for my first two babies my water never broke,’ and then 30 seconds later my water broke.”
Her mom pulled over, they called 9-1-1, and within minutes the baby was born, weighing five pounds, nine ounces.
“I basically pushed twice and my mom caught him.”
Wrapped up in a blanket and some coats, Brittany held her newborn on her chest and waited until Big Lake Fire and Rescue and BC Emergency Health Services arrived.
She was then transported by ambulance to CMH where she and the baby stayed for two nights.
“Everyone was so great - the firefighters, the ambulance attendants, the nurses,” she said.
BC Emergency Health Services confirmed the call came in at 9:23 p.m. and it was an emergency medical call taker (EMCT) who provided birth instructions and the baby was born at 9:30 p.m.
When BCEHS passed on a thank you from Brittany to the call taker, he responded, “Awe that is so excellent to hear!”
“It was probably my favourite call [most memorable in a good way] that I have ever taken,” he noted in an emailed response. “It is a honour and a privilege to be part of that child and mother’s story, it is by far the very best part of this job. As I said to the grandma and mom, ‘boy, will you have a story to tell!’”
Communications officer Cindy Leong said BCEHS call takers, dispatchers and paramedics are emergency medical professionals, trained to provide childbirth directions and assistance, whether by coaching over the phone or once paramedics arrive on scene.
“A long-standing tradition at BCEHS is that staff are awarded special “stork pins” after helping deliver a baby. These pins are a true point of pride amongst our staff,” Leong said.
Out-of-hospital births - unplanned or early — in ambulance and side-of-the-road deliveries - are quite common in B.C, she added, noting
BCEHS responds to an average of 1,450 pregnancy and childbirth-related calls each year.
Leong said in 2022, a total of 53 stork pins were given out to BCEHS emergency medical call takers for helping with the birth of 25 boys and 28 girls.
As of Monday, March 6 Lee had not named the baby yet.
“I thought I had a couple more weeks,” she said, chuckling. Brittany’s newborn is a baby brother to her five-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter.
The children’s dad, Leo Cabalfin, works in Langley, but drove up the night the baby was born.
“He is here for the month now so that will really help,” Brittany said.
Last August they moved to Likely where her mom moved two years ago.
So far it is turning out to be a great place to raise children, she added.