It was so close. He could see the hospital.

Just a few more blocks.

A few more . . . Nope.

This baby wasn’t willing to wait.

Jay Bradshaw was working as a paramedic for Delta Ambulance when he got the call to shuttle a laboring mom-to-be from the Albion health center to Waterville 15 miles away.

“The child was born within sight of the hospital,” Bradshaw said. They finished delivery as the ambulance rolled up to the patient off-load ramp.

Now behind a desk, Bradshaw is director of Maine Emergency Medical Services. One of his duties: Sending pink or blue stork pins to emergency medical technicians and paramedics who deliver on the job.

In more than 20 years, he’s storked hundreds.

“It’s a big deal, in a good way,” Bradshaw said.

(A second tradition, stork decals, has gone by the wayside: “Ambulances can cost $150,000; People are a lot more protective about what they’re going to slap on there.”)

In 2009, Maine had 237,000 ambulance and first-responder calls. Twenty-one of those ended with a baby born en route.

So far this year, the tally is 151,000 calls, eight deliveries.

Maine has 5,200 licensed EMTs and paramedics. Bradshaw said odds are long, but not too long, in having at least one baby on board in a career.

For Labor Day, the Sun Journal asked local paramedics to share stories about their special deliveries.

***

Dave Florin has no trouble remembering the date: Aug. 31, 2007.

“It was my first day, my first call,” he said.

A paramedic new to Med-Care Ambulance in Mexico, he was out with two other staffers learning the route to the hospital when it came in: A Peru woman in labor.

“The father of the baby was standing on the corner jumping and up and down, waving his arms,” Florin said, desperate to make sure the ambulance got the right house.

Mom was in the living room. Baby was starting to crown.

“Once we got there, in two or three minutes, the baby was born,” he said. “It’s one of those things, it’s happening so fast you don’t have time to think or react or get nervous.”

Florin dried the baby off, checked his breathing. The team cut the cord.

When the ambulance finally arrived at the hospital, “The whole emergency room staff was outside waiting for us. As soon as we got there, they were cheering. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

A nice bonus: On baby’s first birthday, mom brought him to Med-Care headquarters for a visit.

“It was awesome,” Florin said.

***

Michael Joyce, a paramedic at United Ambulance Service for 20-plus years, thinks he has maybe four deliveries under his belt. He’s lost count.

“As you get older, the more years you have on the job, they just add up,” he said.

The last was more than a year ago in Lewiston. The call came in for a woman with labor pains. An ambulance responded and Joyce, supervisor of the day, decided to follow.

“After you do the job for a while, you get a sixth sense how the call seems to be going,” he said.

He helped load the woman into the ambulance and was about to take off when a paramedic told Joyce to hold up. The baby was coming. Deliveries are all about the team effort, he said.

“It’s a beautiful thing, it’s great, but there’s always the realization and the potential that things could go bad and you’re 5 to 10 minutes from the hospital.”

***

It was the day that wouldn’t quit.

Since the start of that 7 a.m. shift in August 2004, Mike Senecal and partner Judi Wills at NorthStar Emergency Medical Services had attended three bad motorcycle wrecks. Two serious medical calls. And at 3 a.m.: A woman in labor, 50 miles out from Franklin Memorial Hospital.

“It was at one of the best shifts in my career,” Senecal said.

When they arrived at the woman’s house, another ambulance was on scene, but they offered to help. It was mom’s second baby.

“We were doing good with her breathing, she was nice and calm,” he said. “About eight miles out, the little guy decides to come.  . . . Judi and I were back there to play catch.

“All of a sudden she stated, ‘I really feel like I need to push.’ Within two pushes, we had a nice baby boy.”

Senecal, now operations manager, said training and real-life experience — five kids of his own — helped.

“It was just one of those perfect (days). And of course, delivering a baby is awesome,” Senecal said. “Just to end the shift like that, man, you couldn’t script that.”

***

Arlene Greenleaf recently retired after nearly 40 years in the field, working for Med-Care then Bethel Rescue. She had one delivery, one assist.

The first started as a call for a Dixfield woman in labor. Once she was inside, the driver turned the ambulance toward Farmington.

“Three minutes on the road, I said, ‘Pull over, David,’” Greenleaf said.

The baby girl arrived, no problem.

“I heard from the grandmother; she thanked me,” Greenleaf said. “It was one of the good experiences in my career.”

Another time she arrived at a scene driving the ambulance, behind another paramedic, just a little too late.

“He actually delivered in the front of a pickup before we got there,” she said.

***

Joe LaHood’s goal, pulling up to the Lewiston home around 2 a.m.: Not to deliver this baby in an ambulance.

A lot of times, said LaHood, operations manager for United, they’ll arrive at a call and find a first-time mom with contractions five minutes apart. No rush. Not this time.

It was the mother’s third child, and she was going quick.

“Contractions were really close together; we didn’t waste time,” he said. “Prior to the hospital, we noticed the head was showing.”

After mom and the healthy baby boy were settled into the hospital, the ambulance crew stopped to check in on them — “the best reward,” he said.

LaHood’s happy to have done it. He’ll also be happy if it never happens again.

“There’s times when there’s bad deliveries. You hear stories,” he said. “If I can retire in a few years just having this one very, very successful delivery, that would be awesome.”

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