MAE JULIAN

I loved nightfall on the city.‑ There are those who, over and over, marvel at the sight of sunrise, and the coming of a new day. For me, it was never the marvel of a new day. It was the marvel of a new night. Once the sun went down, and the lights of the city came up, and I was driving into headquarters, my pulse quickened, and it gave me a warm feeling. The anticipation of events sure to come always filled me with eagerness.‑ I was dressed for the nighttime. It felt just like Superman must have felt when he stripped off his suit, threw his glasses aside, and came out of his “ordinary” to his “extraordinary” self. Well, if I had to put it into words (as I just have), that is how I would describe street life at night. There is a heightened sense of excitement when spotlights illuminate your world and sirens splitting the night herald your coming.‑ This particular winter night‑brought new circumstances, many which neither we, nor the city, were prepared for. It was my intent to find out what year that big snowfall hit Louisville, but since I didn’t, take my word for it, it was the mother of all snowfalls in Louisville.‑ It was snowing by the time I hit the barn and it was nothing but waterfalls of fat, wonderful, exciting snowflakes, which we greeted with relish. But, by the time we were a few hours into our shift, it became apparent that things were bad, getting worse, and that we would soon be in the worst crisis of our careers, in good ole Louisville. I probably need not go into the ill-preparedness of the city, itself. Snowplows were few, and reaction was late. Snowbound became a reality as time deepened into the night and the snow didn’t let up. I will tell you of one run that stands out in my mind to this day, although I could regale you with many tales of that night. Janner and I were working together, and she, being southern-born, was a bit intimidated as the night wore on, but I was from the Fort, and I knew what healthy snowfalls were. After all,‑I played outside in the winter snowfalls with all the Stark kids, the Cahoon kids, Vince Backs, Butch Monn, Nancy Lee, Marilyn DeLancy, the Kendricks, John Churchward, Jim Springer, Dave Burnaugh, and the Miller kids, plus a few I haven’t named, I’m sure.‑ Heck, we could build a fort and fight the toughest kids anywhere around. I knew snow. I did not know snow in Louisville.

Janner was white-knuckled as we went down an avalanche of an incline and the ambulance slid sideways. I was driving and said not a word. Just concentrated on what I had to do, which was slide and gently pump the brakes. We finally came to a stop and Janner was about to puke. It was a fairly steep incline, to be sure. But, I could tell it renewed her confidence in me.‑ Anyway, Tick was at the Master Wheel, as always, and was dispatching runs as quickly as they came in. Units were radioing in that they were stuck in the snow, and unable to take runs. Wreckers were out trying to free up the ambulances. I was proud of myself, because we were still in good running order. I made a decision by about 4 A.M. that we would park our unit on the street, and carry our equipment in,‑however far it had to be carried, because going into a side street would be foolhardy.‑ Tick radioed, “Med 33?‑”‑‑ I picked up the mike and radioed him back, “Med 33 still in commission.” (I had to smile to myself for that one).‑ Mick radioed back, amused, but with some relief that he had at least a couple of units still not snowbound. He said,‑”Med 33 make 1402‑ Heyburn on a 10-62. Make your run code 3.”‑ “10-4,” I said, with more confidence than I felt.‑ I knew we would have to pack to go in. I was feeling a flutter at the pit of my stomach at the thought of a 10-62.‑ I had seen demonstrations on tape, and I had received instructions, but NEVER, and I mean NEVER, had I had to deliver a baby. I looked over at Janner and said, “shit.”‑ I seldom let her see me with insecurity and I knew I had to brace up fast. I went over in my mind that my grandmother had delivered me one cold January in front of a wood stove, without a doctor. I told myself that people have accidental deliveries all the time, when they don’t make it to the hospital; I told myself that, of course, I would know what to do. But the inside of me started to feel real mushy. I couldn’t call a back up…maybe this was a false alarm on the part of the mother. And besides that, there was no backup. I thought that Mick and Boom were still rolling and I tucked that away in my mind as a safety, should I need it.

I pulled the ambulance to the side of the road, as best I could, and left the overheads on, so no one meandering out would run into it. We loaded up the jump kits, the maternity kit, and waded‑in snow over our knees,‑to the house. I was quite sure I would be okay and figured that we probably got called at the first sign of a labor pain. When we got up on the porch and knocked on the door, a man and a whole paschal of kids and dogs met the door. He was sweating bullets and ushered us in. The pregnant woman was sitting on a chair just to the right of the door. When she saw us she screamed, ” I have to POOOOOOP”.‑‑ Oh, shit, I thought. Janner and I got her to the couch with the whole entourage of husband, kids and dogs accompanying us. I asked the dad to take the kids and dogs to the other room, please, which he did…for all of one minute. I got the woman on the couch, brought her knees apart, and the baby’s head was crowning. If I had any blood in my face it had surely left. I had to fake it, and I had to do it convincingly.‑ “Ma’am, just take a deep breath. I’ve delivered more babies than I can count, so you’re in good hands. Not a thing to worry about.” I saw Janner, then, out of the corner of my eye, and shot her a look to close her mouth,‑as it was hanging open in disbelief.‑ She knew, as well as I, that I had never in my life delivered a baby. Janner‑opened the OB kit.‑We put on gloves, and spread out a paper towel of some size below the woman’s hips. I had the clamp laying to the side of me,‑without a clue as to what to do next, but all those kids’ heads couldn’t have been closer…they were watching every move. ‑I could even hear and smell the dogs. Good God!‑ I had no idea what to do. I strained to remember what I had been taught, but could not remember anything. I just watched that bulging head coming. Then I remembered I had to put my hand on the baby’s head so it wouldn’t explode out. So, I did that. Then the head delivered. It was covered with cheesy vernix and was quite bluish looking. But…the worst part was…it didn’t cry!! OH MY GOD! Now what?‑ I watched that little limp head, and willed it to open its mouth and cry…and it didn’t. Now what?‑ Should I put my mouth down there in the middle of it all, and give it mouth-to-mouth?‑ I glanced up at Janner and she looked somewhere between paralyzed and panicked.‑ It was one of those horrible moments that live forever frozen in time, like just before you hit a truck head-on. Then, miracle of miracles, the woman gave out another scream and pushed, and the baby’s chest was delivered. With that he took a breath. OH, THANK YOU GOD!! THANK YOU GOD!!!‑ It had never occurred to me that the baby could not cry until its chest was delivered so that the lungs could expand. I slipped the baby into the waiting receiving blanket and wrapped it up, whilst I took the bulb syringe and suctioned its mouth and nose. I clamped the cord, cut it, and handed the baby over to Janner. All the kids standing around started squealing and laughing, and the dogs joined in the joviality. The dad was as happy as if he’d done it all himself.‑ But all of them combined could not match the relief and gratitude that was washing over me. I felt like the hand of God, Himself, had reached down and delivered me from an awful fate. We wrapped the mother in multiple‑blankets and put her on an upside-down metal garbage can lid, with the dog’s rope tied to it, and slid her to the ambulance. The husband obliged in pulling her, with Janner alongside, whilst I high-stepped through the snow with the bundled baby. When everyone was settled in the ambulance, Jan slid behind the wheel, I started an IV on the woman, after having laid the baby in her arms. Jan got the ambulance going at a snail’s pace, and, as the snow crunched under the laborious wheels our lights continued to flash, reflecting off everything that reflected, ‑through the snow, as our siren announced the coming of the “new baby.”

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