Reflecting back on amazing birth stories seems appropriate as we approach the day we celebrate the most amazing birth ever. Here is the first of 6 of these stories-
It was 1991. I had been a doctor for 15 months, only 3 months of which I had spent delivering babies. I had delivered about 50 babies and been involved in 30 or so C-sections. Not exactly a long and glowing resume.
Nevertheless, I was the resident physician covering the labor and delivery unit. There were experienced Obstetricians on call who were less than 30 minutes away and occasionally in the hospital, but if and when an emergency happened I was the designated first responder.
Although I was inexperienced, I had worked hard learning protocols for emergencies in childbirth. I was determined- If there ever was a bad outcome, it would not be because I wasn't ready.
It was mid afternoon when the call came from the emergency room. The charge nurse answered the call, her face quickly turning serious.
“Bart,” she said, “We have a 27 weeker coming in by ambulance with a prolapsed cord.”
I headed for the elevator that would take me to the emergency room on the first floor. In the 3 minutes it took me to descend I reviewed what I knew. A cord prolapse meant that the amniotic membrane (Bag of waters) had ruptured, and that as the fluid flowed out it had carried the umbilical cord with it outside of the vagina. If the head descended (as it does in labor) the cord would be pinched and the blood supply cut off. The baby could die. The woman was also 27 weeks pregnant, 3 months early, only a few weeks past the age of development where babies can survive outside the womb. If we could save the baby, it would have a difficult road ahead of it.
The elevator door opened and I hurried into the ER, past the nurses station and into Trauma Room 1, where an ER doctor, several nurses and EMTs scurried around the patient, measuring vital signs. The ER doctor saw me come in, “I didn't feel a pulse in the umbilical cord,” he said, implying that the baby may already be gone. (Only later did I consider how frightening those words must have been to the mother).
I was the youngest and least experienced person in the room, but I called to a nurse- “Get me a doppler!” (the ultrasound device for listening to a baby's heart beat.) The nurse applied the device to the mother's abdomen, and the rapid sounds of a heart beat were audible above the commotion.
“Heart rate 140!” the nurse called in my direction. I barked out another order, “What is the mom's pulse?” I wanted to make sure it was not 140 as it would be a grave error to perform an emergency C-section only to discover that the baby was gone and the pulse we heard was the mother's.
“Mom's pulse is 90!” replied the nurse.
“Let's go- now!” I said and grabbed the rail on the gurney. The ER doctor watched as I took over, more than a little surprised at me taking charge. A few nurses joined me and we headed for the elevator to the OB floor. When we arrived on the floor the charge nurse was waiting for us. She had grabbed an OB as he was walking by the nurse's station and then called for an anesthesiologist. They were standing at the door of the operating room, ready. We wheeled the mom straight into the OR and started the C-section in minutes. The baby was delivered just 17 minutes from the time the mother had first arrived in the emergency room. The neonatologist (high risk baby doctor) was on the scene and the baby was stabilized. Both mom and baby were okay.
Two days later the mom was visited by the director of my Family Practice residency program. He learned that she worked at UCLA Medical Center in a specialty department and did not have a high regard for Family doctors, for one of her first questions was, “How did a second year Family Practice resident know what to do like that?”
In her mind, experts in handling OB emergencies had to have a certain pedigree and experience. She knew what their resumes looked like, and they didn't look like mine. She could not believe that the doctor who had acted quickly to save her baby was a mere family practice resident.
This episode reminds me of the greatest birth story ever- so many people had decided in their minds that the Messiah would come in a certain way, with fanfare and glory. They didn't expect a poor young virgin to give birth in a stable, and as a result they missed it. Isn't that how God works? In unexpected ways and through unexpected people?
If you like this story- share it! If you don't want to miss any of these stories, you can subscribe to the blog and get them all in your inbox. Just check the link on the right of the home page, or at the bottom of your mobile screen. This post was previously posted in 2013.