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The day a little miracle arrived during a 000 call

Selene Garton went into labour at home on January 6 this year. Normally, that's okay. Most women still have time to get to the hospital. Selene didn't. The safe arrival of her son now depended on 000. 

IMAGINE you're about to become a mother for the first time.

It's 8.30am on a Wednesday four weeks before your due date, and you think you might be in labour.

Your partner Brendan times the contractions. If it's real, he says, the baby is on his way. Brendan dials 000 and a calm man in an operations centre on the Gold Coast takes the call.

"What's the town or suburb of the emergency?" he says.

"Hey, how's it going?" Brendan says. "My girlfriend is nine months pregnant and she's getting really bad pains."

"Are you with her now?"

"Yeah."

"And she's nine months pregnant?"

"Uh, 35...36 weeks."

The calm man, a 51-year-old emergency medical dispatcher named Terry, immediately tasks a crew of nearby paramedics. He watches their progress, going lights and sirens, on a digital map.

Now imagine it's all happening too fast. Your water has broken. Your home in Regency Downs is 40 minutes away from Ipswich hospital and it's becoming clear your baby has no intention of waiting that long.

Both Brendan and Terry sound calm, even though both are anxious.

"I'm going to tell you how to deliver the baby... just in case," Terry says.

And then Brendan sees a foot.

A second foot follows. The tiny little toes are blue and purple and as Brendan describes it, Terry recognises it's a foot-first breech birth. The risk of complications in a footling breech is higher for both mum and baby. Were you in the hospital, a team of medical staff would likely recommend a caesarean section.

But there are no midwives or nurses here.

It's just you, Brendan and an EMD named Terry. 

On the morning of January 6, Selene Garton and Brendan Winter settle back into home life after a camping trip.

The weather is hot and Selene has been in pain since 8am, but she isn't worried. Pain comes and goes during pregnancy and she suspects it's just Braxton Hicks.

The young couple are a month away from welcoming their little boy and they've had the name Izaya chosen for months. Just in case the ultrasound turns out to be wrong, they've also chosen the girl's name, Nirvanalee, in honour of the band.

By 8.30am the pain starts to get bad. An hour later, it's still there. Selene and Brendan start timing the contractions and decide Izaya might not wait another month. He might just be planning to take his first breath today.

At 9.33am, Brendan phones 000.

 

Baby Izaya with a teddy bear gifted by the Queensland Ambulance Service.
Baby Izaya with a teddy bear gifted by the Queensland Ambulance Service. Rob Williams

Terry doesn't get a lot of labours over the phone. He guides a lot of people through performing CPR, but he's only ever responded to one labour before. It was near the end of his first ever shift as an EMD nearly two years ago, and he still had a mentor to help him through.

When he takes Brendan's call on Wednesday morning, there is no mentor around to help. Terry makes sure he gets Brendan and Selene's address before he asks them what the emergency is.

"Stay on the line and I'll tell you exactly what to do next," Terry says.

He notes how remote they are and how quickly the labour is progressing.

Terry keeps watching the map. As fast as they're going, paramedics Jennifer Lake and Damian Roche may not get there in time.

"You're doing really well, what's your name?" Terry says.

"Brendan."

"Okay Brendan, we're gonna do this in case the paramedics don't get there, alright."

Then the feet appear. Everything becomes more urgent.

Terry asks a nearby paramedic in the centre for advice on breech birth. He's following a script prepared for emergencies like these, but there's only so much it can say after "push".

Minutes pass. The baby's arms appear, then its head.

"Is the baby crying or breathing?" Terry asks.

At first, Brendan thinks the baby isn't breathing. More minutes pass and finally Brendan decides Izaya is breathing.

"It's trying to cry, it's trying to cry," Brendan says.

The new dad asks a nearby friend to fetch towels to wrap the baby in.

Terry instructs Brendan to wrap the baby boy, check the umbilical cord is not wrapped around the neck and place him on Selene's chest.

"The ambulance is in your street now okay," Terry says.

"You've done really good there Brendan...and your partner's done exceptionally well, she's done great. Now how's that baby, is the baby breathing?"

Brendan says his new baby boy is trying to make noises.

The paramedics arrive, one minute after Izaya does. Terry leaves Selene and her new son in the hands of Jennifer and Damian. It's the first shift the two Ipswich paramedics have ever worked together. As Brendan says thank you, Terry says goodbye.

Then he has to get up from his desk, leaves the building and goes for a quick walk to calm down.

From beginning to end, the phone call lasts less than 17 minutes.

Read how Terry got to meet the little boy he helped deliver over the phone. 

Topics:  editors picks, ipswich, triple 0



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