March 15, 2023 at 10:36 p.m.
Three EMTs to receive Stork Award
When there is a life-threatening incident, odds are an emergency medical technician will soon be on the way to help – but other times, the incident is not so much life-threatening as it is life-welcoming. Such was the case for Sauk Centre Ambulance Service EMTs Richard White, Quint Swedenburg and Brian Zales, who will soon be receiving their Stork Award pins for assisting with an unexpected home birth in town.
“It’s the first time for the Sauk Centre Ambulance Service, in general, as far as Kathy (Struffert, SCAS director,) can remember,” Swedenburg said.
The three EMTs will be presented with a Stork Award pin at an upcoming Sauk Centre City Council meeting. Various SCAS crew members have received pins before, but these are usually given for saves, people who eventually walk out of the hospital and go home after the emergency.
“One of our other crew members told me there’s EMS personnel who will go their entire career, however long they do it for, without ever delivering a child,” White said. “That’s an added thing for us, knowing we’re part of a very small group overall.”
The call came in around 2 a.m., Feb. 25. The EMTs met at the ambulance garage and confirmed they were being dispatched to a Sauk Centre home where a pregnant mother was 35 weeks along, about to give birth and feeling like she had to push. They collected their equipment, including a monitor to check the mother’s heart rate and oxygen level and an obstetrics kit with a diaper, scalpel, clamps and other items. The obstetrics kit is required gear for ambulance departments, but it often expires before it can be used.
White drove Zales and Swedenburg in the ambulance to the scene. They were met by the Sauk Centre Police Department who had provided early medical treatment and were able to introduce the EMTs to the family and the situation.
Swedenburg was the first one through the door. The mother was in a tub of water, and although the EMTs tried to persuade her, she was not willing to go to the hospital and wanted to have the baby there.
“This isn’t really how this works. Typically, we’ll package you up, put you on the cot and take you in, and you have the baby at the hospital,” Swedenburg said he told the mother.
The contractions continued, so White started timing. It was the mother’s fifth child, so they were expecting a quick delivery. Sure enough, after about five minutes, the top of the baby’s head appeared. Minutes after that, the baby boy was on his mother’s chest, and the EMTs were able to cut the umbilical cord.
“I took the baby then; he was my patient at that point,” Swedenburg said. “Mom had held the baby for a while … I showed the baby to the family and was getting a pulse. The baby was very active, crying from time to time – not overly crying but making his presence known in the world.”
At that point, the mother and baby were looking healthy, and the EMTs got them transported to the hospital to get checked out.
“It’s about as textbook as you can get with it being out in the field,” White said. “Any further textbook would be you’re with the OB team at the hospital.”
Not only is the Stork Award a first for the SCAS, but it is a first for the EMTs as well – each in his own way.
“It was the first time for me being around a birth in general,” White said. “It was a totally different kind of adrenaline rush than I’m used to getting on my calls, but it was exciting. Not being a father, not being around any births before – other than animals – it was pretty cool to actually see it, to be a part of it and be able to share something like that with people.”
For Swedenburg, it was the first time he had assisted with a birth while on call.
“I delivered my daughter in the birthing room, but I also helped a neighbor deliver her baby in a room prior to that,” he said.
Zales, formerly from Colorado, has been a paramedic for eight years and has assisted with births before while on calls, but this incident still was something new for him.
“I’ve been a part of two other ones, but this is the first time I’ve actually caught the baby,” he said.
For the EMTs, being part of a birth is one of the most exciting and beautiful things they can be a part of while on call, much different than the majority of calls where they have to bring someone back to life or keep them alive.
“I do it to be able to help people in the community who need help,” White said. “For me, that’s more than the pay or any type of recognition we get, just knowing we can help people when they’re at their lowest point … People like us are able to be there, to help.”
While the recognition for their actions is appreciated, the main reward for the EMTs is when their actions sustain a life – or, in this case, welcome one into the world.
“We go out there, do what we do and go home,” Zales said.