ALBANY — A rookie Albany County 911 operator walked a Ravena woman through the premature birth of one of her twins in the aftermath of Wednesday’s storm, Sheriff Craig Apple said on Friday.
The mother survived a harrowing birthing experience, including an accident with a tractor-trailer on the Thruway on her way to an Albany hospital to deliver the second child.
Dispatcher Meghan Vinehout, 24, was two hours in to her 12-hour overnight shift on Wednesday when the call came around 9 p.m. The dispatch center had been flooded with calls after a powerful storm came through the area, uprooting trees and knocking out power to thousands.
“When the call came in, the caller was kind of freaked out and its our job to keep them calm,” she said.
Vinehout fell back on her training and set to work. The first baby had already arrived so she asked the caller to ensure that both the mother and child were conscious and breathing. Then she walked them through how to tie off the infant’s umbilical cord and how to prepare for the afterbirth.
Shortly after that, an Albany County deputy arrived to help the caller and mother, followed by county paramedics. The mother still wasn’t having contractions for the second child so they loaded her in to a Ravena Rescue ambulance and took off.
But the ride wasn’t a straightforward one. Both routes 9W and 144 were cut off due to storm damage so the ambulance was forced to divert and drive through a crash gate, special entrances on to the Thruway for emergencies like this.
The ambulance, carrying a driver and two paramedics as well as a mother in labor clutching an infant, drove on to the southbound lane and made a U-turn to head north. Apple said the paramedics swore they didn’t see any headlights but as they completed the turn, a tractor-trailer slammed in to the rear of the ambulance.
“I guess when they came out … all of a sudden, bam, they got hit in the back,” he said.
One paramedic, while caring for the mother, was thrown in to the front of the vehicle, injuring his shoulder. The other paramedic was bounced around but otherwise unharmed, Apple said.
After State Police arrived, they quickly sent the ambulance on its way.
As of Friday morning, the mother and both infants were doing well at St. Peter’s Hospital, Apple said. Both paramedics finished their shifts.
As for Vinehout,while the call was exciting, she only had a few minutes to reflect on it before the next emergency came in. But her co-workers impressed upon her the significance of what she had done.
“Everyone in the room was excited because not everyone gets to help someone deliver a baby,” she said. “The one thing that made the call special for me was I could hear the caller say, ‘Oh my god, the baby opened their eyes’.”
Apple said they had listened back to her call and praised Vinehout’s work as an example of how a dispatcher should operate.
“She was under stress but she handled it great,” he said. “Her training really paid off.”
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