LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Sgt. David DiElmo was still nervous, despite having helped deliver a baby while on duty once before and having three children of his own.
At around 8 a.m. Monday, DiElmo and Patrolmen Thomas McAnney and Eric Nelson were a few hours into their shift when they responded to a home on Lake Crystalbrook Drive and found a woman who was going into labor.
“When we got to the house and met up with her she said she was supposed to be induced this week. She said the baby is coming and the head started to crown and I was like, all right here we go,” McAnney said.
The mother, who police did not identify, and son are well, but the officers had to react quickly when the child was born with the the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.
When the officers walked into the home Monday in the Mystic Islands section of the township, the woman was already experiencing contractions. Ten minutes may have passed while the officers were the home before the birth started, said DiElmo, who in 1994 delivered a baby in the township along with now retired Officer Wayne Walker.
“She was in a lot of pain you could tell with her contractions that were happening. The big thing I was trying to do was relax her because she was nervous without her doctor being there,” DiElmo said.
He said he pulled his experience from the birth of his own children and helped her with breathing exercises.
“The delivery itself wasn’t very long. She pushed once and the baby’s head was coming out and I remember telling her she had to give me one big, hard push and when she did the rest of the baby came out,” DiElmo said.
As the baby began to emerge, McAnney said he saw the umbilical cord around the child’s neck. He said that he knew he and the other two officers were probably just as nervous as the mother.
“You’re there hoping that everything works out and everything goes as planned, but you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
McAnney removed the umbilical cord from the baby’s neck and when EMTs arrived they clamped the cord, DiElmo said.
“The mom really did all of the work. After he came out, we handed him to mom. It was just really neat to be a part of it and it was a cool experience. It was just another day on the job and you never really know what you’re going to encounter,” McAnney said.
The mother was very proud of herself and said she couldn’t believe she gave birth without medication, DiElmo said.
DiElmo said that so many times as a police officer, responding to first aid calls you see the end of someone’s life, so it is refreshing to witness the beginning of a life.
“When he came out, we wrapped him in towel and handed him to his mom. He had a full head of hair. By the time we were bringing his mom out of the house, he was opening his eyes and just starting to cry softly,” he said.
Emergency medical personnel from Quality Ambulance Service attended to mother and son and then transported the mother and son to Southern Ocean Medical Center.
On Tuesday, township Police Chief Richard Buzby issued the officers commendation performance notices from the department, applauding their service during the child’s birth.
“We think they did a tremendous job and their actions were fast and saved this child’s life,” Buzby said.
The commendation states that when the child was delivered the officers found that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and they took further action to remove this threat to the child’s life.
“A call for emergency medical assistance is significant, but a child birth is even more significant and it happens maybe once in a career or — in Sgt. DiElmo’s case — twice in a career,” he said.
In general, the officers have training in first aid on how to proceed with medical calls like a child birth, but not specifically no and call like this could have been a challenge for a doctor trained in obstetrics, said Buzby.
“This child could have perished if they (the policemen) had not acted as they did. They saved that baby’s life,” he said.
Dr. Todd Liu, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Southern Ocean Medical Center said that child births in this fashion do not happen often, but a baby with an umbilical cord wrapped around its neck can create a challenging situation.
Police officers usually carry a burden kit in their vehicles that have clamps used to cut an umbilical cord, Liu said. Previously, officers were faced with using what they had available, including shoe strings to tie off the cord and then cut it.
“We’ve had people deliver babies on the Garden State Parkway. In my 11 years doing this I have never had one problem with a bad outcome of a baby delivered in an emergency situation,” Liu said.
That is partially due to the fact that when a baby comes fast in a delivery and the mother cannot deliver at a hospital it is typically the safest kind of delivery, he said. A woman who experiences a longer labor is more likely to experience more complications during delivery, he added.
“There’s a saying that there are some women who are made to have babies and when Mother Nature throws you into labor and it goes that fast and efficiently it’s usually a very safe thing,” he said.
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