Baby born in ambulance during snowstorm celebrates first birthday

Parents, emergency responders recount the frantic night of her birth

KINGSTON — Eleanor Rogers celebrated her first birthday Feb. 6 with the emergency responders who brought her into the world during a snowstorm one year earlier.

Eleanor is by all accounts a healthy, happy baby. She squirms in her mother Lakeisha Rogers’ arms and takes off her headband to examine the sparkly, golden bow sewn to it.

Eleanor’s parents and emergency responders recounted the frantic night of her birth.

It was shortly after midnight when the crew at North Kitsap Fire & Rescue Station 81 in Kingston got the call. Lakeisha Rogers was going into labor with her third child at her home in Little Boston. And the baby was coming fast.

Rogers had gone to the hospital earlier that day after experiencing what she thought were contractions. She was sent home after doctors told her she wasn’t ready to deliver Eleanor yet.

“They checked and they checked and they were like, ‘You’re at a two [centimeters dilated]. You’re not going anywhere, it’s gonna be a while,’ ” Rogers said.

Around 10 p.m., Rogers told her husband, Ronald, that she thought she was beginning contractions.

“He was like, ‘It’s OK, go lay down, try to get some rest,’ and I kept telling him, ‘This is not a rest thing.’ ”

Lakeisha was right. Shortly thereafter, her water broke and Ronald called 911.

“The lady on the phone was walking him through how to deliver on the living room floor,” Lakeisha recalled.

Responders arrived and quickly took over, sparing Ronald from having to deliver his daughter in their living room.

“I don’t think I would’ve kept that carpet,” Lakeisha joked.

Normally, the trip to Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale would be no problem with Lt. Mark Cooney at the wheel of Medic 81. But the arrival of a February snowstorm slowed the ambulance’s normally quick trip to a near crawl. In the back tending to Rogers were firefighter-paramedic Craig Barnard, firefighter Tony Reichmuth and firefighter Brandon Davidson.

“I thought we could make it to the hospital in a normal amount of time, but with the snow storm, much slower,” Barnard said. “We made it half way.”

At the time, Davidson was a rookie volunteer firefighter with a little more than a month of experience under his belt.

“This was a very, very intense call for a new guy,” Davidson said. “This was the real deal.”

As Medic 81 approached the intersection of highways 305 and 307, it became clear that Eleanor wasn’t going to be kept waiting.

“I wasn’t sure it was going to happen,” Davidson said. “We had been driving 20 minutes and I was like, ‘I think we’re gonna make it to the hospital, it’s not that far of a drive.’ Sure enough, Craig said, ‘This is happening.’ ”

Barnard recalled, “Right when I saw that it was going to be imminent, we stopped right in the middle of the road. There’s no traffic, it’s 12:30 in the morning in a snowstorm, there’s no cars on the road.”

It was there, in the back of an ambulance on that snow-covered road beside Valley Nursery in Poulsbo that Eleanor Rogers came into the world.

“I was pretty nervous, I ain’t gonna lie,” Barnard said. It was he who delivered Eleanor, and the firefighter said it’s not an experience he will soon forget.

“I delivered a few on-scene or in the back of the ambulance, stopped but never en route,” Barnard said. “This was in the middle of the road in a snowstorm, there was eight or nine inches of snow on the road and it was a pretty crazy deal. [It’s] something you hear in stories or something like that. It’ll make a good story for Eleanor.”

As for the delivery itself, Barnard said Rogers couldn’t have been in better shape.

“It was a routine delivery, no complications whatsoever. She was very stable from the get-go,” he said. “It was a very good day.”

There are paramedics who go their entire careers without participating in a delivery, Barnard said, adding that he’ll never forget the moment. Neither will his colleagues.

“Once she cried, we all just started crying and laughing and screaming with joy,” Davidson said. “I’ll never forget that.”

— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com.

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