Palo Alto paramedics deliver baby on University

Mom in a vehicle has a newborn daughter in 11 minutes

Palo Alto firefighters and paramedics rushed to University Avenue Monday evening to help a patient who was impatient to get her first glimpse of the world.

Members of Palo Alto Fire Station 1 at 301 Alma St. arrived at University Avenue, 100 yards east of Middlefield Road, at 6:23 p.m. to find the woman on her hands and knees in the passenger seat of the family Chevrolet Suburban.

Family members were supporting the woman, who had gone into labor on Sunday night and whose water had broken 15 minutes before the units arrived, fire Battalion Chief Niles Broussard said Wednesday. The family was driving the woman to the hospital when they realized the birth was imminent, so they called for help, Broussard said.

Paramedics Sunny Johnson-Gutter and Stephen Lindsey and fire-engine personnel Jorge Salazar, James Henrickson and Ryan Stoddard saw the baby's head poking out and set up a makeshift delivery room on the scene, Broussard said. The baby girl was born at 6:34 p.m.

Mother and newborn were taken to Stanford Hospital. The baby was delivered without any complications and both were reportedly doing fine, he said.

The birth was Johnson-Gutter's and Lindsey's first deliveries, they said. Johnson-Gutter, who delivered the baby, said police and his colleagues set everything up and made his job easy. It didn't hurt that Lindsey and Salazar, his teachers and mentors, were there, he said.

"It was amazing. I saw her taking her first breath. The whole next day I was beaming, and all day long I was calling everyone I knew," Johnson-Gutter, 34, said.

Delivering a baby on the streets is much different from the clinical or hospital setting, where equipment is set up in advance, Johnson-Gutter and Lindsey said.

"We had three minutes before the baby's head came out. It was great having all hands on deck," Johnson-Gutter said of his colleagues.

He let the father cut the umbilical cord.

"The mom was as calm as can be. She was definitely a trooper," he said.

Johnson-Gutter said he decided six or seven years ago to become a paramedic. He was working as a substitute teacher when a school principal asked him what he wanted to do. He didn't really know.

The principal told him that a representative from the fire service had been talking to the children and an informational meeting on firefighting was coming up. Johnson-Gutter attended.

He signed up as a federal wildland firefighter. A high school classmate with whom he reunited advised him about becoming a firefighter. The classmate told Johnson-Gutter to get as much experience as he could in many aspects of firefighting and that he would be a shoo-in, he said.

The most rewarding part of his job is being a public servant and directly affecting people's lives, he said.

Lindsey, 28, has been a firefighter-paramedic for 4.5 years, but it's something he has always wanted to do since he entered college, he said.

"Since childhood I always wanted to help people. I was active in community service. I ended up studying government, political science and public administration, but I decided something was missing," he said.

The baby's birth "was pretty powerful. It's the first time I did a live birth in the field. In our job you don't often get to watch somebody come into the world," he said.

His favorite part of work is helping people, he said.

"There's no greater job. You get thrown a problem: helping someone get out of a crumpled car, or saving a life by administering CPR, or solving somebody's problem when their house is flooded and they are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. It's a pretty cool feeling when you help somebody -- when you make a difference in somebody's life."

Both men said the girl's birth was a tremendous boost to morale in a job that can be filled with tragedy, pain and the unknown.

"One of the toughest things about being a paramedic is you get very little information about the outcome of the patient. We deal a lot with the ugly side of things. It's nice to get something positive," Johnson-Gutter said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Paramedic
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Good story, congrats to the mother and father, as well as the crew. More credit to the mom though, as field personnel in a health delivery we just play catcher, moms do all the work!

Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Great job PAFD!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 24, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Paramedics and firefighters probably don't always hear the gratitude they deserve because people are usually freaking out when they are at work. They probably have to know inside themselves that people really do appreciate the work that they do.

Like this comment
Posted by thankful
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I feel thankful for his efforts and work.

Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 25, 2011 at 10:25 am

Very cool!

Like this comment
Posted by Friend
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

What a wonderful story!!! Thanks for covering it!!!

Like this comment
Posted by jani
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm

So is place of birth listed as in route? Great job, PAPD

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Wonderful work, Palo Alto firefighters and paramedics!

Like this comment
Posted by PAltan
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I hope Stanford doesn't charge the full rate LOL

Impressed at how fast the firefighters got there and got set up.

Impressed out how the mom and family acted cooly and did what was needed when.

Welcome to the world, baby girl! May you always have such help and love when you need it.

Like this comment
Posted by T. C. Bognar
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2011 at 9:07 am

Loved the story. Great reporting. Congrats to reporter.
Great job, Palo Alto paramedics. Welcome to our world, Baby Girl. You have a great mom!

Like this comment
Posted by S.Coen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2011 at 10:46 am

Great job Palo Alto Firefighters. Thanks for being their for the citizens. True professionals. This is the Palo Alto way. Stay the course through the rough times. We ( the majority) do support you.
Hey Mr. Carpenter.....whats up. Nothing nice to say about your neighboring Fire Dept. doing their job? Hmmm.

Like this comment
Posted by Midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

It's great that the paramedics got there in time, but I agree with the very first Paramedic's comments that it's the *mom* who does most of the work.

To say that anyone other than the mother delivers the baby is somewhat of an overstatement. (I say this as a mom who delivered two 9-lb babies myself without drugs.) Congrats to this mom and her family for keeping calm and helping this baby girl into the nose-breathing world relatively peacefully.

I read this whole story wanting to hear more about the mom--whether this was her first baby or her third, how old she is, etc.--but this information was curiously missing. This story reads as if the baby wouldn't have been born if the paramedics weren't there, but if that were the case there'd be a lot fewer humans in the world.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Wow mom...those are some pretty tough comments. I think the paramedic was being modest with his comment. Let's all keep in mind that things can and do go wrong during childbirth, especially for those who may not have had prenatal care. Our paramedics are specifically trained to handle abnormal childbirth situations... when they do they make a HUGE difference in the lives of the child and the mother. Let's compromise and say we are glad they were there to reassure those involved that everything was going well and that if something went wrong they were there to make a diffenence...

Like this comment
Posted by Almost to Alma
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Did they name her Ramona?

Like this comment
Posted by Paramedic
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Moms comments are not "tough" at all, the public has this bizarre view and opinion about EMS and their own personal health. We are not miracle workers, and the majority of our calls are for things that do not require our level of expertise. Not to say a field delivery does not warrant a medic, and not to say that its "unstressful" as the location and the spontaneous nature of a field delivery inherently makes the job more difficult. First and foremost Paramedics are cardiac experts, and in a good system with highly qualified and educated Paramedics that is where we really come into play and make the difference. Child birth, Trauma (other then surgical procedures if allowed and if trained- on the national scope and in California the standards are surprisingly low. Then again the statistics for patients requiring these infrequent procedures is grim, so excluding them is understandable to an "extent", but that is a totally different topic) and many other medical "emergencies" are rather basic in the big picture. While we will always respond and while it is understood that while it "shouldn't" be your emergency small or big (from the perspective of an emergency service worker) to the caller the emergency is real and big or small we need to accept that and help the situation.

Child birth is just one of those things though where we don't do nearly half the work, and newborns are amazing things, other then securing an airway, and giving them a helping hand, if a newborn has a real issue which is statistically low as a whole, and its congenital (relating to heart and lungs), generally speaking there is very little not only medics can do, but most major hospitals (other then specialized centers)

A bit of an essay I know, but I hope this sheds some light on the topic, to the crew you guys were awesome, as a colleague I say congrats and wish I could have been with you on what sounds to be a great run. To the mother and father once again congratulations and to the mother specifically good job!

Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm

What a great story!! Thanks!! Congrats to the new mom and dad and baby!!!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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