The new mother praised Christensen’s calm nature, professionalism and “for choosing to serve your community in such a selfless way.” It allowed her family “to create a memory we would have never anticipated.”
The top of the BC Emergency Health Services patient record says “Pregnancy Imminent.” It’s inaccurate. The pregnancy had been obvious and imminent for months. What was imminent was the baby. The time between the 9-1-1 call and the baby’s arrival was less than nine minutes.
BCEHS dispatcher Ryan Christensen got the call at 4:44 a.m. on January 1, 2018. He was near the end of a busy shift spent dealing with New Year’s revellers.
On the other end of the line was Rob Tuit, who was cradling the phone on his shoulder while trying to console his two and a half-year-old daughter and somehow help his screaming wife, Elaine.
Christensen could hear Elaine’s screams. The 33-year-old was about five days past her due date for her second child.
Christensen began to calmly walk Rob through what was going to happen next. The first hurdle was convincing Elaine to lie down. At the time of the 9-1-1 call, she was clutching the bathroom sink and trying to breathe through the sudden pain. She’d woken at 3 a.m. with what she described as an upset stomach and had come downstairs so as not to disturb her husband and daughter. At first, the feeling was “sporadic and uncomfortable, but not painful,” she said. But by 4:30, it was bad enough to wake her husband.
Her husband came downstairs to say Elaine’s mom was on the way over to look after their daughter, and that he was going to take a quick shower. “No way!” said Elaine. Then her water broke. “And that’s when my body literally took over and I had to push—had to,” she said. “I had zero control over my body.”
That’s how she came to be standing in the bathroom next to the laundry room “hanging onto the sink for dear life.”
Rob, a firefighter, relied on some of his training to get Elaine down on the floor. Christensen said his instructions were, “Baby is coming. Get mom on the floor,” but he then added quickly, “She’s mom. This is her show.” It wasn’t Christensen’s first delivery call. He’s worked for BCEHS for 10 years and has handled a few deliveries, but nothing quite like this, he said.
The Victoria dispatch centre, where Christensen works, handles about 75 “imminent pregnancy” calls a year.
Elaine says that while her body was taking over, she was thinking, “There’s no way I’m having this baby in our brand new car on a 20-minute drive to the hospital.” She also didn’t want a mess on her new carpet upstairs. She laughs as she recalls it now, several months later.
With Elaine wrapped in blankets and lying on the floor, Rob asked their daughter to sit next to her mom’s head. Elaine pushed just once—and Hallie was born. Christensen got to hear the child’s first cry. He remembers breathing a sigh of relief and thinking “OK, good.”
At 4:53:19 a.m. he typed into the dispatch log: “BABY GIRL.”
But then there was the matter of the umbilical cord. It was two and a half-year-old Jorie who got a shoelace from one of Rob’s old runners and gave it to her dad to tie off the cord.
Rob said he went from “No, this isn’t actually happening to—it just happened. I had no time to freak out. I was still in my boxer shorts, kneeling on the floor next to my new daughter.”
Christensen says that when he’s giving instructions, it makes a big difference when the person on the receiving end stays calm. “Rob did an amazing job.”
When paramedics took the family to the hospital, they learned Christensen and Rob had just helped deliver Victoria’s first baby of the year. Hallie was the New Year’s baby.
Rob recalls the day as “a fun family experience.” Elaine sees it a little differently. “It was pretty crazy. My husband delivered our daughter while my other daughter watched!”
For Christensen, though, it was a beautiful call. “It feels nice. I was able to help someone. ”He ended his shift with a smile.